28 January 2013

Two DC-area Conferences You Should Know About (and crash)

So apparently, the intersections of critical disability theory (and crip theory) and queer theory are actually this major lovechild of a large number of folks in the academic and activist communities around the country this year, so, I discovered these two epicly awesome conferences coming soon in the Washington Metro area soon, one of them at my own school! (Unfortunate that no one actually from my school has bothered to contact me about this, and I actually found out from someone at the University of Virginia instead, but, hey, I found out about it, evidently!)

As far as I can tell, anyone who wants to go can go to both for free, as they're open to the public. (Readers in the DC area -- make it a point to go!)

The first one is coming up at Georgetown University (my home!) on Saturday 9 February 2013 -- 

SPACES & SILENCES
February 9, 2013

Keynote Speaker: Dr. Robert McRuer
"Queer Austerity and Excess: Cripping the Crisis; or, the Rise of Disability Capitalism"

9:30 to 10:00 am | Breakfast
10:00 to 11:00 am | Shaping Spaces: Blurred Lines and Boundaries
11:15 to 12:15 pm | Dividing Silences: Fissures within Genre
12:15 to 1:00 pm | Lunch
1:05 to 2:00 pm | Keynote Speaker
2:00 to 2:15 pm | Coffee Break
2:15 to 3:30 pm Multiplying Identities: Tensions and Trauma
2:15 to 3:30 pm | Re-presenting history: Marginal Narratives

The Conference will be held in 311 New North, Georgetown Campus

The second is coming up in April at the University of Maryland, College Park on Friday 5 April 2013. They're actually accepting presentation proposals in a call for papers right now, with the deadline for February 8th.

Debilitating Queerness

The Sixth Annual DC Queer Studies Symposium
University of Maryland, College Park
Friday, April 5, 2013

Deadline for submission of materials: February 8, 2013

    DC Queer Studies invites proposals for presentations at DEBILITATING QUEERNESS, the 6th Annual DC Queer Studies Symposium at the University of Maryland. The symposium will be a daylong series of conversations in critical queer, gender, and disability studies focused on the recent turn toward questions of bodily capacity, debility, disability, precarity, and populations. Events will include paper sessions featuring faculty and graduate students. There will also be a buffet lunch and evening reception. The day will culminate with a keynote address by Jasbir Puar, associate professor of women’s and gender studies at Rutgers University. Puar is the author of Terrorist Assemblages: Homonationalism in Queer Times and of articles in Gender, Place, and Culture; Social Text; Radical History Review; Antipode: A Radical Journal of Geography; and Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society. She has edited or co-edited special issues of GLQ, Social Text, and Society and Space.

    In recognition of the multifaceted influence of disability theory on queer studies scholarship, we invite papers that explore the matrix formed by queerness and disability. We also encourage proposals that address any of the following (or related) points of contact with this year’s theme::

        • Queering categories: reconsidering what is sexy and sexualizable; meanings and possibilities of bodily capacity and debility; defining norms of mental and physical disability

        • Medicine, science, and impairment: uneasy collaborations and tensions between the social and the scientific; disease, infection, containment; surviving homophobia in disability services; medicalization, institutionalization, and treatment of queer and disabled bodies

        • Negotiating embodiments: sex, desire, lust, and erotica; passing, pride, and in/visibility; unsettling and re-writing sexual and bodily identities; how bodies, pleasures, and identities are represented as “normal” or as abject

        • Revolutions/resistances: sexual identities in ableist and heteronormative culture; compulsory heterosexuality and able-bodiedness; actions and activism; public policy impacts on queer and disabled bodies

    Proposals for 15-minute presentations should include name, affiliation, e-mail address, title of paper, a 250-word abstract, and a 1-2 page CV. Please send materials by e-mail attachment (Word or PDF only) by February 8, 2013 to lgbts-dcqueers@umd.edu. Put “Submission for Debilitating Queerness” in the subject line of your message. For more information, contact JV Sapinoso at sapinoso@umd.edu. Selected participants will be notified by March 4, 2013.

    DC Queer Studies is a group of faculty from schools in the Consortium of Universities of the Washington Metropolitan Area formed in 2006 to discuss new works in the field and to exchange, support, and cultivate new ways of engaging with LGBT/Queer/Sexuality Studies across the disciplines and across institutions. The DC Queer Studies Symposium is hosted and sponsored by the University of Maryland and co-sponsored by American University, Georgetown University, and the George Washington University. See http://www.lgbts.umd.edu for details. All symposium events are free and open to the public.

Also, see this page for a list of lectures in a Debilitating Queerness lecture series this spring!

25 January 2013

Annoying

Note, June 20th 2013: I have closed comments on this page due to over 55 spam comments in one 24 hour period. Wow. Fuck the internet.

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Trigger warning: Use of various slurs, a lot of profanity, and violence. (Thus, probably not safe for work.)

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Over the last several months, one of the most common search strings leading to various pages on this blog is "Why are autistic people so annoying?" (Other variations include "Why are autistics so annoying?" and "Why are people with autism so annoying?") I wrote this piece in response to these searches.

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I'm annoying because I refuse to remain silent in the face of injustice.

It makes my stomach churn, my breathing go tight, my legs go weak, and my words get all stuck somewhere between mind and throat or throat and lips, struggling to slip through but somehow never quite making it out.

You see, I can't stand there quietly and laugh and smile when you make a Black joke or a Gay joke or a (god help me) cripple joke. I can't even stand there silently and pretend like I didn't hear it and if I ignore it maybe it will go away and we can go back to ordinary non-problematic conversation and no one will notice that I was the only one not laughing. You say it, it comes out of your mouth, and there. You're done. You can't take those words back, can't make them crawl back into your lips and throat until they've been erased, because sorry, there ain't no white-out for words.

You see, I can't sit around all night reading every little comment left on every little post I felt like dropping onto Facebook and spending hours typing responses to absolutely everything everyone says when there are people like me suffering out there right now. I try and do that, and I get seized by a kind of violent, sudden pain in my head and my stomach reminding me that no, there's torture happening and there's abuse happening and frankly, that's more important than anything else. If I can say something or do something or for god's sake bother at all and somehow help even one person, then yeah, that's a priority.

You see, I can't have polite conversation about society or culture or politics. When there's an epidemic of rape and a slew of murder and a culture of abuse, I can't sit around nice-like at the dinner table and talk all civil and polite with you because there's nothing civil to be said about rape and violence and abuse. I can't sit here and pretend like this shit doesn't happen, like we can turn people into headlines and statistics, like we can make human rights and global development these happy rainbow sunshine deals so we can pat ourselves on the back and say "good job, social justice," because I am not a headline or a statistic, and my rights are not just some esoteric topic for discussion only in the classroom.

You see, I don't just disagree with someone's ableist or racist or heterosexist or ageist or cissexist or classist or binarist or sexist or otherwise privileged and oppressive bullshit. I am fundamentally, profoundly disturbed and horrified and appalled when people can say things like "minorities, stop whining so much about how oppressed you are and pull yourselves up by the bootstraps" because firstly, every marginalized and oppressed community is simply not a quantitative minority so you're not "of a different opinion," you're wrong; and secondly, how the hell are we supposed to pull ourselves up by some metaphorical bootstraps when entire societies and laws and governments have stripped away our rights and dignity and personhood? I can't just smile and nod and say "I disagree with you," because you know what? When you come from a position of structural power and privilege and feed me this "a little bit of honey goes a long way" bullshit, we're not sitting at some table on equal terms where I can actually ever do that. Because when people can say I'm not a real person or I don't know what I'm talking about because I'm too damn personally involved, they get away with it, and I'm not allowed to simply "disagree." My only choice is to be "that fucking radical" because when it comes to oppression, there's no "agree/disagree" dichotomy. There's no room for that in the real world.

You see, I'm not part of civil society.

I'm annoying because I can't turn the other cheek or look the other way or shove it under the rug or brush it off or beat around the bush (or whatever the hell the damn phrase is) when people are getting hurt.

It makes me want to sob and curl into a fetal position and hide in a corner away from people and noise and things so I can pretend none of it really exists, because after all, who really wants to face up to the realities of our sweepingly oppressive and erasing society?

You see, I'm one of Those People whose names you don't remember (after all, why bother?) but whom you know so much about, thanks to the ever-helpful, ever-present media. Except you can't see that the way I get talked about and written about has a real, direct impact on my life. I get it when strangers who used to be talking to me like I'm an adult find out I'm Autistic and suddenly start speaking s l o w e r and LOUDER and in high-pitched voices that make it sound like they're cooing to a baby or a dog instead of a nineteen year old college student. I get it when subway workers who're supposed to be helpful and pleasant suddenly decide I must be drunk because apparently my speech is unintelligible. I get it when professors who are supposed to be helpful find out I have auditory processing difficulties and start to interrogate me in that I-know-better-than-you-oh-immature-and-irresponsible-child voice over why the hell I would ever bother studying a language, much less majoring in one.

You see, I'm one of those Bad Autistics who doesn't sit down and shut up when the non-autistic parents and "experts" and researchers are talking. I don't go along with what you're saying because you're asking me to be good and play nice. I won't be your token so you get to say you included "self-advocate perspectives" when what you really mean is having me there for photo-ops or a good, long self-narrating zoo exhibit session. I'll say what needs to be said and I'll do what needs to be done, and I'll do it on my own terms, thank you very much. Because when what you want is compliance and normalcy and passing all the time just so you won't have to stare my autism in the face, to hell with that.

You see, I'm not quiet or passive or docile or pliant.

I know that everything I say and write and do and think is political, whether I want it to be or not. You get two choices in life: you can pretend it's not political and make yourself complicit in oppression, or you can embrace the power of your very act of existence and use it to deconstruct oppressive structures. And me, I won't sit down and smile or make polite conversation. I stand on desks and march on government buildings and testify at hearings and, dear god above, flap my hands in public even though I didn't as a child because I will be seen and I will be heard and I will be Autistic and disabled in public and I will not be fucking erased.





24 January 2013

Two New Articles at Georgetown

This month I've had the honor of seeing my writing published in two Georgetown University publications, with one article published in the monthly magazine The Georgetown Independent and another published in the Voices section of The Georgetown Voice, our weekly newsmagazine. Here are the links to the online articles!

The Georgetown Independent
Disabled Hoyas Suffer from Prejudice, Not Impairment 
Last month, I received a thank you note from an Autistic alumna for my writing on disability. “If I had had people like you around when I was at GU maybe my experiences wouldn’t have been so bad,” she wrote. Some might wonder whether her experiences were isolated incidents, but interviews with several disabled members of the Georgetown community suggest that neither her nor my experiences have occurred independently of an environment that encourages and permits ableism. >>Read the rest>>

The Georgetown Voice
The wrong conversation about mental health and violence
Whenever a mass shooting or other act of horrific violence occurs, the mainstream media, political pundits, and members of the public are quick to jump to one of two conclusions—the perpetrator was either autistic or had a psychiatric disability. Aside from the obvious prejudice against disabled people that underpins either assumption, both of these conclusions are not merely wrong, but incredibly irresponsible and unacceptably dangerous. The vast majority of autistic people and those with psychiatric disabilities are not only nonviolent, but much more likely than non-disabled people to be the victims of violent crime than the perpetrators of it. When autistic people or people with psychiatric disabilities do commit violent crimes, disability is rarely a factor in the commission of the crime. These insinuations place autistic people and those with psychiatric disabilities at extreme risk for further victimization. >>Read the rest>>

I've also been featured in the news twice in the last month or so, so if you'd like to learn more about the protest of the Judge Rotenberg Center that Shain and I attended, check out Fox Boston's coverage here. Mother Jones also ran an article about the conflation of autism with violence post-Newtown for which I was interviewed, and you can see that article here.

21 January 2013

Disability and Impairment: Get It Right

Here's a sentiment I loathe but hear all the time — "Everyone's a little disabled!"

It's got cutesy, warm-your-heart, inspiration porn written all over it.

"Everyone has some kind of disability. Everyone has some kind of limitation. Everyone has something that's difficult for them."

Except that this word "disability" does not mean what you seem to think it means.

You mean "impairment."

An impairment is a limitation of an ability or a lack of an ability. Not being able to hear is an impairment. Not being able to walk is an impairment.

I have astigmatism and myopia. These are visual impairments. But because I have glasses, and because society does not (currently) stigmatize wearing glasses (hey, many people even wear them to appear stereotypically intelligent these days!), astigmatism and myopia are not disabilities. Interestingly, visual impairments requiring glasses were previously disabilities, as evidenced by such sentiments from the early 1900's that it's bad form to hit someone with glasses—analogous to the sexist sentiment that it's bad form (or downright emasculating) for a man to hit a woman (but not a man?).

My friend Shain Neumeier has a cleft lip and palate, which is a facial deformity.* It's not an impairment, because it doesn't actually limit any typical physical or mental abilities. But it is a disability because of the societal stigma against physical deformities. The same concept applies to folks who are fat. (This concept has actually been explored in disability studies.) Being fat isn't generally an impairment of any kind—though it can be, sometimes, with mobility impairments—but it is a disability because of the way that society constructs fatness.

Take the Deaf community. Those who identify with Deaf culture don't generally consider themselves disabled. I've heard one Deaf man refer to Deaf folks as a linguistic minority. Yet they are considered under the Americans with Disabilities Act to be disabled (and therefore covered by its provisions) because deafness is regarded as a disability. Functionally, deafness is a disability because hearing folks are dominant and privileged in our societies writ large, and are not expected to know or understand American Sign Language (ASL) or any other manual language. Yet if everyone on the planet were deaf, while deafness would remain an impairment, it would no longer be a functional disability.

Similarly, if everyone were paraplegic, the idea of stairs or multi-story buildings would be entirely anathema, because these concepts would simply not exist. They would not be feasible constructions. Paraplegia would continue to be an impairment, but it would not be a disability.

Disability is not merely a noun. It is properly understood as a verbal noun—that is, as an act. People are disabled. That's the passive voice on the verb there, for grammar-philes. People are disabled by societal, attitudinal, and legal barriers to equal opportunity, access, and inclusion for anyone whose physical or mental appearance, presentation, form, or function diverges from the norm.

Everyone has impairments of some kind. Some are more noticeable than others. Some have names, labels, or diagnoses. But not all impairments are disabilities, and not all disabilities are the result of impairments. There is an important distinction that is frequently missed. So yes, everyone has impairments of some kind. But not everyone who has some kind of impairment is also disabled! And not everyone who is disabled is disabled because of an impairment!

To claim that "everyone" is disabled is not merely inaccurate but erasing. It's a statement born of ignorance or privilege or both, and it minimizes and de-legitimizes the lived disabled experience of those of us who are, in fact, disabled by the societies in which we live.




* Shain has had some reconstructive surgery done, but visually appears to have a cleft lip and palate while also having unimpaired and typical physical functioning.

16 January 2013

Letter from Former Teacher at Torture Center

Trigger Warning: Extremely detailed descriptions of abuse and torture of disabled people.

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Before reading this letter, please read the letter from an autistic survivor of the torture at the Judge Rotenberg Center first

The letter on this page was sent from Gregory J. Miller, a former teacher at the Judge Rotenberg Center who left after repeatedly witnessing the torture and abuse of disabled students. It was directed to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in response to the FDA's warning to the JRC about using un-approved devices -- the electric shock devices. This letter is published with Greg's permission.

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To:
Muthar S. Shamsi, FDA District Director
Karen Archdeacon, FDA Compliance Officer

From:
Gregory J. Miller, JRC Teacher’s Assistant, 2003 – 2006

Subject: From Former JRC Staff: Please do not approve any GED devices, and please DO investigate and prosecute false claims of FDA approval of GED-4 devices

Dear Captain Muthar Shamsi and Officer Karen Archdeacon,

I worked at the Judge Rotenberg Center (JRC) as a Teacher’s Assistant from January, 2003, through March, 2006, when I quit and left on my own will.  I was absolutely shocked and deeply troubled this past summer in 2012 to learn from CNN news (Anderson Cooper 360) that the GED-4 was never FDA-approved.  I had always faithfully followed student plans at the JRC and I have shocked many students at the lower end of the autism spectrum many times with both the GED-1 and the GED-4 devices.  JRC intentionally misled me (and other staff) for years to believe that the GED-4 was FDA approved, and due to this great deception, I am guilty of carrying out some of the most terrible torturous crimes against helpless and nonverbal students.  The nonverbal students cannot speak of the horrors to which they are subjected at JRC by well-meaning staff like me, or tell of their nightmares from watching their classmates get shocked.

Please do NOT overlook the seriousness of JRC’s deception, because the difference between having FDA approval and not having FDA approval for the GED-4 matters greatly in determining whether the use of the devices is “torture” or a “treatment”, dangerous or harmful but justifiable, and whether staff are willing to participate in such inhumane acts and violations of human rights.  I would have NEVER used a GED device on my students had I not been told repeatedly that the devices were FDA approved!
Please do NOT approve the use of any of the GED devices on students, including my former students, at the JRC.  And PLEASE investigate to determine whether judges were also misled.  Were the judges who gave court orders for staff to shock students with the GED-4 devices told that the GED-4 instrument was FDA approved?  The JRC must be held accountable for misleading me and others for their false claims of FDA approval. 

I believe the JRC’s deception runs very deep, and that this deception is what has enabled the JRC to torture students for so many years.  Having worked as a staff at the JRC for over three years, I can expose many of JRC’s falsehoods. 

1. I can testify that I was told by the JRC during training and by administrative staff that the GED-4 devices were FDA approved.  I would not have shocked my students had I known that the GED-4 devices were not FDA approved.  Learning the truth has been traumatic for me as a former staff who diligently followed student programs under JRC’s false information, believing back then that I was saving these students’ lives by trusting JRC’s treatment plans and the FDA’s judgment of safety.

2. I can testify to seeing bloody and crusty scabs all over student arms, legs, and torso, on numerous students, caused mostly by the GED-4, which was most evident when helping certain nonverbal students to sponge-bathe at school, called “self-care”.  A number of the nonverbal students with whom I worked received 30 shocks in a day, including while tied to a restraint chair.  Recent videos aired on television show Andre Mc Collins getting shocked and restrained for refusing to take off his coat.  His Recording Sheets show that Andre was subsequently shocked 19 times while on the board for “full body tense up” and 8 times for yelling and screaming while tied to a restraint board. (I am attaching his Recording Sheets for that day, obtained from the Massachusetts authorities, and with permission from his mother.)   What happened to Andre Mc Collins was NOT an exception or more excessive than the manner in which a number of lower functioning students were treated.  I will attach photos of Andre Mc Collins’ injuries, which are characteristic of many of the injuries that I saw on my students.  Andre Mc Collin’s injuries that you can see were caused by the FDA approved GED-1 (weaker) device, as evident on his recording sheets. 

3. I can testify with a variety of examples about spontaneous firings of the GED devices thereby causing students to be shocked repeatedly and rapidly by the devices.  Staff at JRC must learn to quickly open backpacks to unplug devices when they spontaneously start firing.

4. I can testify that staff were required to keep a medical log of a student’s seizures who was diagnosed with epilepsy, and that two out of three times he was shocked his arms, legs, and full body would go stiff, his eyes would roll back, he would drool, we would have to hold him up or help him to the floor if he was standing, and then we were required to record the time of day and the length in seconds of the seizure.  The log did NOT ask us to record whether the seizure took place immediately after receiving a GED application.  We were told that the seizures were less harmful than the student’s behaviors, but I kept thinking of many other ways that we could have addressed the student’s behaviors if we were permitted to do so.  Employing other behavioral strategies or redirection other than shocking the student with the GED was called “avoiding student behaviors” and “failure to follow a student’s plan” which resulted in staff being suspended for days from work without pay the first time it happened, or fired.

5. I can testify that a student was shocked, as part of his behavioral plan, for “closing eyes for more than 15 seconds while sitting at (desk).”  I can offer much detail on this student, his Case Manager/Program Director, and his program.  Like so many of JRC’s false claims, JRC may likely deny that this happened.  The only way to get the truth out of the JRC is to put them on the witness stand under oath.

6. I can testify with many examples of new students being provoked to exhibit behaviors during the data-gathering stage prior to students getting GED approval.  Student behavioral charts show the number of behaviors students have within five major behavioral categories (Aggression, Health Dangerous Behaviors, Destruction, Major Disruptions, and Noncompliance) and two minor behavior categories (Educational and Social behaviors, and Inappropriate Verbal Behaviors), but the charts show very little to do with specific behaviors.  The charts do not show which behaviors were provoked.  That data is primarily what the judge is shown when deciding whether to approve students for GED shocks.

7. I can testify that student behavioral plans were sometimes altered three months prior to court-dates so that judges would not see many of the behaviors for which students were shocked.  I can name specific students and their Case Managers.  This may be an intentional and systematic misleading of the judge.  An investigation could look to see whether hard-copy samples were only kept of the three months leading up to court dates, or if samples of written recording sheets were destroyed altogether, especially for the lower functioning (nonverbal) students.

8. I can testify to witnessing a Case Manager break open a capsule of ammonia under the nose of a JRC student in 2003, years after these “treatments” were no longer legal in Massachusetts.  The student to whom this was done has since died of a urinary tract infection that had lasted for years.  I continue to wonder whether her health-dangerous behaviors, back when I worked with her, would have decreased and if her immunity would have improved, if she had more meaningful and purposeful experiences at JRC/BRI where she lived for most of her life.

9. I can testify of great crying, emotional distress, student behaviors stemming from anxiety, when students saw a teacher reach for the remote control devices that trigger the GED devices.  I can tell how it was very common for students to be shocked for behaviors that were reactions of fear while watching their classmates get shocked, or in reaction to a staff merely reaching for a pencil in an apron from which the remote control devices were hanging.

10. I can testify of the significant difference it makes in driving students temporarily crazy, while tied to the restraint board for receiving five shocks in a 10 minute or longer period of time, to have uneven time between each shock.  Students may tense up their bodies in anticipation of the next shock, because tensing muscles helps to reduce the pain shooting through the body.  Therefore some students were shocked for tensing up their muscles, because this diminished the pain while getting shocked.  Again, you can see on Andre Mc Collin’s Recording Sheet (attached to this email) that Andre was shocked 19 times for tensing his muscles and 8 times for screaming in one day while tied to the restraint board for hours. The videos as shown on television may be viewed on the internet.

11. I can testify to the absolute horror of Behavioral Rehearsal Lessons (BRLs) where a student, in front of his 40 classmates, was left in a restraint chair (including cuffs to his arms and legs and a strap to his waist), in a very hot and thick restraint jacket, and in a restraint helmet, altogether at the same time, all day long, so that he would be helpless to defend himself during BRL surprise-attacks that occurred three to five days per week.  A staff would rush in at various times during the school-day, yelling and screaming while entering the room and racing to the student, and place either a plastic knife or a metal spoon to the student’s mouth, and yell, “Do you want to swallow a knife?  Do you want to swallow a knife?”  The staff would hold the plastic knife to the student’s mouth in a life-threatening manner, the student would scream loudly as though it was his last breath, and another staff somewhere in the room would push a hidden remote control button to shock this student who was already physically helpless to move his body an inch in any direction while being attacked. 

Having worked extensively with this student, mostly at the school and also at the student’s residence, I can testify that a long time prior to the incident when this student swallowed a small X-acto knife blade, this student was very proud of his wooden models and knife kit that Dr. Matthew Israel had personally arranged for him to have.  This was after a long history of the student (like many other students with disabilities) swallowing sharp and inedible objects. 

I was the Teacher’s Assistant in the room, which was a large room containing 40 students, mostly nonverbal students who could not tell their parents what was happening.  Even though the GED used on the student getting attacked was an FDA-approved GED-1, there were students in the room who were receiving GED-4 shocks (not FDA approved, I learn now) for their reactions to observing the BRLs.  I can testify that as many as seven students at one time had reactions of fear to the violent BRL attacks in front of them against their classmate.  (As a staff, I personally felt sick during and after BRLs, went to my doctor with psycho-somatic symptoms, and continued to have nightmares for years over these BRLs, and I was not even wearing GED devices as were the mostly nonverbal students in the room.)  Students were shocked according to behaviors defined on their recording sheets such as dropping to the floor under the table (“out of seat without permission”, defined as Major Aggressive Behaviors), yelling or screaming (defined as Major Disruptive Behaviors), reactively throwing the tasks down onto the table in front of them (“throwing objects”, defined as Major Destructive Behaviors), holding the electrodes off their skin (shocked for “any attempt to defeat the device”), among other behaviors for which students were shocked, even though they were merely reacting to a classmate receiving the BRLs.  These students continued to react in fear and to get shocked at the sight and loud sounds of their classmate’s screams and violent attacks, day after day, and week after week, during the three months that I witnessed the BRLs.  I was moved out of the room, and the BRLs continued for a total of six months. 

I still believe that many parents did not know for what reasons their children were shocked with the GEDs, much less judges or lawmakers.  I doubt the judges ever witnessed a BRL prior to court-ordering them, and I believe that official investigation could reveal to what extent the judges gave an informed consent for BRLs.  In speaking with parents of former JRC students after quitting the JRC, I realized that the root of the deception was the assumption made by parents, judges, and lawmakers, that behaviors defined under “Major Aggression” would be major aggressive behaviors; that behaviors under “Major Disruption” would be majorly disruptive behaviors; and that behaviors that were listed under “Major Health Dangerous Behaviors” would be majorly health-dangerous.  Yet staff were told that the smallest behavior, such as tearing the edge of a used and empty paper cup or tearing a loose piece of thread was still “tearing objects”, which automatically classified the behavior as a Major Destructive Behavior for which the student had to be shocked consistently by all staff.  Dr. Israel called these smaller behaviors “antecedent behaviors”.

Finally, and very importantly, I would like to caution the FDA on the degree to which the JRC has been willing to be deceptive.  Dr. Matthew Israel has already been indicted for perjury.  In response to the New York State Education Department (NYSED) site visit and investigation in 2006, Dr. Israel wrote back a long and serious letter of flagrant misinformation to discredit the State of New York and to be used to threaten New York with lawsuit, entitled, “JRC RESPONSES TO ALLEGATIONS IN NYSED JUNE 9, 2006 REPORT.” On page 13, item 34, Dr. Israel writes:

“34. The June Report incorrectly describes the use of restraint in combination with GED as the definition of Behavior Rehearsal Lessons (BRL). (p. 9, par. 5) JRC does not restrain students when administering the BRL’s. There were no Behavioral Rehearsal Lessons conducted while the reviewers were present at JRC so they have no basis to make this false claim (p.13).”

I can name staff who directly administered the BRLs, JRC administrators directly involved, and name other staff who were present in the room at the time.  The student would arrive to school in a heavy restraint jacket, in restraint cuffs on his wrists and hands, and in a restraint helmet.  He was tied to a restraint chair with straps to his waist, wrists, and ankles, wearing also a restraint jacket and a restraint helmet, all day long.  The only exception was for (usually me) to take him to the bathroom twice in the morning, and once after lunch, and to take him to “self-care” where the grown adult male student was given a bath usually by me and another staff while the student was tied to a restraint board, laying naked, facing the camera, totally at the mercy of staff who were required to put our hands all over his body.  All the while, he was still strapped to the GED instrument.  On one day, the GED spontaneously fired during the student’s self-care, and I put my hand between the student’s arm and the electrode to take the brunt of the shock in my palm.  The student claimed that the arc of current going through my hand hurt even worse than if the electrode was directly on his skin.  There was no danger of the student swallowing another X-acto knife blade because the X-acto knife kit had been at the student’s residence and had been removed.  Other sharp objects had been removed from around school because other students at JRC, as elsewhere in special education schools, also swallow sharp objects.  So these restraints and self-care sponge baths were employed not to protect the student from swallowing another small X-acto knife blade, but to humiliate and degrade the student.  And directly tying the restraints to the student’s BRLs, directly disproving Dr. Israel’s false claim quoted above, every few weeks as part of the student’s plan the restraint straps on the restraint chair would be extended one-inch, starting after about the sixth week into the student’s BRLs.  For Dr. Israel to deny that the restraints were used in combination with the BRLs, despite all of the staff and students who can testify otherwise under oath, hopefully demonstrates to what degree there has been a very deliberate and elaborate sham and cover up of torture at the JRC.  The question remains – why would Dr. Israel be so openly dishonest about the restraints being combined with the electric shocks and BRLs?  Did JRC actually lack legal permission to leave the student in restraints all day long to surprise-attack him as part of the BRLs? And did Dr. Israel actually lack legal permission to use humiliation of the student in insisting that the fully grown male be even bathed while tied to the restraint board, naked and exposed to the camera?  Like Dr. Israel’s deceitful claims that the GED-4 was FDA approved, is Dr. Israel’s quote above is yet another example of how parents, state officials, politicians, JRC staff, and the tax-paying public, have all been duped into delivering an advanced system of heinous crimes against students with disabilities in the name of “help”, playing on the desperation of parents who are unaware that much better alternatives exist for their children?

JRC’s torturous sham has extended also into the Massachusetts Department of Mental Retardation (DMR).   

I personally reported the abusive BRLs to the DMR, which was DPPC Case # 67309.  The outcome of the investigation concluded that “the allegations of abuse / mistreatment are not substantiated” because “there is insufficient evidence to conclude that (the student) was seriously injured as the result of an act by his caretaker…, therefore abuse … is not substantiated.”  Accusations of “mistreatment” were also “not substantiated” based on primarily the fact that “JRC implemented guardian approved and court authorized Behavioral Rehearsal Lessons consistent with his Behavior Modification Treatment Plan.”  The conclusion in the investigation by the DMR was, “Neither (JRC) nor its employees committed (inappropriately) intentional, reckless or negligent actions….  The injuries were incidental to the treatment.”

So then why did Dr. Israel make such a point to deny in the quote above that restraints were combined with the BRLs if they were a part of this student’s court-approved plan?  Furthermore the investigation does not address the many students who were shocked, including with GED-4 devices that (we learn now) were never FDA approved, and the trauma that they experienced.  Did the DMR ever investigate exactly what WAS approved by the judge, or whether JRC added restraints and humiliation to the student’s plan without permission from the judge?

I reported to the DMR that another student was shocked for closing his eyes for 10 seconds while sitting at his desk.  The DMR dismissed the complaint “because it did not meet the criteria of a reportable condition….  There is no indication (JRC) is in violation of the (student’s) court approved program.”  (Case # 67306).

I reported to the DMR (Case # 67307) that one student “gets shocks for standing up, raising his hand and asking politely to use the bathroom.”  This complaint was also screened out by the DPPC, “as the allegation ‘… is not abuse’,” therefore “the allegations of abuse / mistreatment are not substantiated.”

I also reported to the DMR the GED “burns” I had witnessed on one student (Case # 67308).  The DMR deferred the investigation to the Department of Social Services.  The investigating officer waited six weeks before even visiting the school.  The officer told me afterward that his investigation included visiting the school, meeting with JRC officials, and asking to see the student’s skin, period.  But I had explained to the officer that the student’s worst severe injuries and repeated “GED vacations” (where the student was taken off the GED-4 devices for five to six weeks each time to allow his bloody, crusty, scabby skin to partially heal) had occurred months before.  His severe behaviors occurred mostly while he was on GED, caused by what appeared to me to be a split personality where one part of the student wanted the other part of the student to get hurt.  The student had very few behaviors during his GED vacations.  I had written a Therapy Note for the student, which resulted in JRC making drastic changes, not to change the student’s plan (which would reveal that the GEDs had caused the student’s behaviors), but rather to NOT FOLLOW the student’s plan.  JRC stapled a note to the front of the student’s daily Recording Sheets (student plan that we carried around with us and used to tally the major behaviors) that told staff to only shock the student if he had a behavior while entering the classroom door on one day, or only if he had a behavior while he was walking down the hallway on another day, and so on.  So the student quit getting shocked for his behaviors, and his behaviors died down drastically, almost to no behaviors at all.  But what I had asked the DMR and the DPPC officer to investigate was the many unnecessary injuries and bloody scabs and abuse of this student who had been tied to a restraint chair and shocked with the GED-4 30 times within a two-hour period of time, day after day.  Compare that to the photo of Andre Mc Collins’s injuries after a single day of 30 shocks with the less powerful GED-1 device.  It usually took about two weeks for his thick, bloody and crusty scabs to accumulate to such severity that the school’s nurse would put him on another GED vacation for five to six weeks.  A true investigation would have looked at the paperwork showing how many times the student had been placed on GED vacation, and would have requested the student’s medical records, as well as speak to nursing staff and to staff working with the student to confirm the degree of injuries.  A true investigation would have exposed that the student’s behaviors indeed had increased while on the GED, and that the student’s injuries had been severe and unnecessary.  A true investigation would have revealed that JRC’s claim that the GED-4 device used on this student was FDA approved was FALSE and would have reported the injuries and false claims to the FDA!

Sadly, when I met with the DMR investigator in person, who told me that he had been the sole person investigating claims of abuse at JRC for fifteen years, he told me that my accusation of “burns” was discredited based on the fact that I was not a medical doctor to diagnose “burns”, and that they did not have funds to hire a doctor.  The DMR investigator told me that he was very well aware of the GED injuries, that these injuries were much preferable to student self-injurious behaviors (most behaviors my students exhibited were very mild), and that the GED injuries were a “new kind of injury,” not electrical burns.  This has been the position of the JRC for many years.  We can read Dr. Israel’s own words claiming that JRC’s GED devices have never burned any student.  (See page 12, item 31, and page 31, item 78, in “JRC RESPONSES TO ALLEGATIONS IN NYSED JUNE 9, 2006 REPORT.”)  Students from JRC have been diagnosed with GED “burns”, and thanks to Cheryl Mc Collins sharing photographs of her son Andre’s injuries, the public for the first time can see the GED injury for themselves. 

I have a large collection of accusations of abuse that various JRC staff have reported to the DMR over the years.  These reports represent staff who risked the many threats staff hear from JRC in order to help the students they love.  Clearly the DMR in the past has played a central role in allowing JRC to get away with torture of helpless students with disabilities.

PLEASE! Stop all abusive and torturous GED devices!  I have worked at another school with students who had equally severe behaviors who did better without the GEDs, and I have communicated with former JRC students who did much better once they got away from JRC, were treated humanely, and were taken off of the GED devices.  Clearly JRC has been dishonest with the public, with parents, and with its staff, for years, including its false claims that the GED-4 device had FDA approval.  I implore you to recognize JRC’s deep deception, that JRC cannot be trusted with the responsibility of using even the GED-1 device that the FDA has previously approved, and to discontinue the approval of the GED-1 device.  Parents who are campaigning to protect JRC have been misled, as I was misled, to believe that JRC is the only school that offers “treatment” that these students need.  But I did not see “treatment”.  I saw control through fear, torture, and humiliation.  No parents were present to watch their children shocked in response to their fear and terror while being forced to witness the Behavioral Rehearsal Lessons (BRLs).  While I have seen parents currently advocating for JRC say that what happened to Andre Mc Collins, viewed on television, “was excessive,” what these parents do not realize is how “excessive” JRC’s treatments have been to many students, especially the nonverbal students, who cannot tell their parents what happened to them.  JRC’s hell-hole has existed for far too long.  I beseech you to please remove FDA approval for the GED-1 devices, and please do investigate and prosecute JRC’s false claims of having FDA approval for non-approved devices.  Thank you.

Sincerely,
Gregory J. Miller
Former JRC Teacher's Assistant

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Dear Captain Muthar Shamsi and Officer Karen Archdeacon,

I have learned since emailing this testimony to you days ago that the "GED-1" devices that we used on students during the time I was an employee at the JRC were in fact "GED-3A" devices, as evident in that the serial numbers on the GED-1 devices all started with "3A-". You can see the five serial numbers on the top of Andre Mc Collin's Recording Sheets (that I sent you, obtained from the DPPC) on the day that he was shocked multiple times, viewed on television, all started with "3A-". I can send you additional photos of Andre's GED injuries, the photos taken by the DPPC of Andre while he was in the hospital.

The significance is that ALL shocks used on students during my time at the JRC were from devices that have NOT been approved by the FDA, including both what we were told were "GED-1" devices (actually were GED-3A devices), and the "GED-4" devices. The injuries on Andre and on many other students were from non-approved GED-3A devices.

In my testimony below, I also mention Behavioral Rehearsal Lessons in front of 40 students, that included significant restraints together with shocks and violent attacks with a plastic knife or metal spoon, contrary to the quote from Dr. Israel saying otherwise to the New York State Education Department. I said below that the student was wearing GED-1 devices, and that these were FDA approved. Not so. They were non-approved GED-3A instruments. All instrument serial numbers (that we meticulously wrote down on student Recording Sheets every day) started with "3A-", except for the more rare GED-4 instruments whose serial numbers started with "4-". I remember asking back then why GED-1 instruments had serial numbers that started with "3A-", and being told, "Don't ask!"

It's sickening to think that not even one instrument that I used on my former students at JRC were FDA approved, contrary to JRC's repeatedly telling us and advertising that the devices were "safe" because they were "FDA approved".

Please be certain to launch an investigation through appropriate authorities to determine whether Massachusetts judges who court-ordered these GED "treatments" were informed that the instruments were not FDA approved, and whether JRC misled the judges (perjury). Thank you.

Sincerely,

Gregory Miller

15 January 2013

Judge Rotenberg Center Survivor's Letter

Trigger Warning: Extremely detailed description of abuse and torture of a disabled person.

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This letter was written by an autistic survivor of the Judge Rotenberg Center. It was initially sent to Nancy Weiss, past president of TASH, and is published here in this version with the author's permission. The Judge Rotenberg Center in Canton, Massachusetts, has been torturing disabled people since 1971. My friend Shain Neumeier and I were recently at an Occupy JRC protest of the JRC last week in Silver Spring, Maryland. It is because of accounts like the one below that we are absolutely determined to see the JRC closed for good. This is unconscionable and morally abhorrent.

The Judge Rotenberg Center received a warning letter from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) last month for their use of the new graduated electronic decelerator (GED), the device that administers painful, powerful electric shocks as punishment to disabled residents. They were called to a meeting on January 9th in Maryland, which is why the protest was held. Under Commissioner Elin Howe, the Massachusetts Department of Developmental Services promulgated regulations last year prohibiting the use of the GED on any new students, but the GED is still legally allowed to be used on students admitted prior to their promulgation. The previous and current United Nations Special Rapporteurs on Torture, Manfred Nowak and Juan Mendez, have condemned the JRC's practices as torture. Yet they continue to be allowed to torture the disabled people committed to their institution. 

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Dear Ms. Weiss

Hello my name is xxx. I was told you are someone I can talk to in confidence and be safe. I would like to share with you my letter that I wrote to the FDA about life inside JRC and on the GEDs. It was torture being there. And I suffered so much. I am still tormented. Here is my letter of testimony:


    My name is xxx and I attended the Judge Rotenberg Center.  I am writing to ask you to please reconsider your approval of the GED for use on ANY human being. I was placed on the GED about 2 months after arriving.  I started out on the GED-1, and during my last few years I was placed on the GED-4.  There are so many of us that were tortured with these devices, this “treatment”. I believe the reason why more ex-students haven’t spoken out is because they are either non-verbal, afraid, or believe that no one cares about us or it will not make a difference. Parents and families that speak and rally in favor of the GED, are not the ones who have to experience it, the pain and anxiety, day after day for years on end.

    The GED IS harmful. Even the GED-1. I was burned many times, and I still have scars on my stomach from being repeatedly shocked there, by the FDA approved GED-1. The electrodes had actually burned into my skin. I experienced long term loss of sensation and numbness in my lower left leg, after getting a shock there. I felt searing pain all the way down to the bottom of my foot, and was left with no feeling in my skin from the knee down for about a year. Again, this was with the GED-1.  After complaining to JRC nursing about my leg, they told me to tell the Neurologist about it during a follow up visit for a suspected seizure.  He asked the staff what that device was on my leg, and they explained to him it was an electrode. After their explanation, the Neurologist said, “Well, I don’t know what that thing is, but it needs to come off.” JRC left the device off my leg for about a year, then decided on their own, without sending me back to a Neurologist, it was ok to put it back. I have seen students with torso electrodes accidentally placed on their spine area, get a shock there and be violently bent backwards.

     Also, I would like you to know that the devices have a tendency to malfunction and go off all by themselves. JRC refers to this as a “misapplication”. It happened to me and other students so many times I cannot count. Sometimes the GED’s will just start to go off and shock you by themselves.  Other times the staff shock one student but the remote can also set off someone else’s device at the same time.  I have also gotten accidentally shocked from staff mixing up my device with another student’s device, shocking me instead. Then there are the times when staff intentionally misuse the GED. I have had a staff who became angry with me and started pushing more than one remote at a time, shocking me several places on my body at once. I have had staff intentionally give me shocks for things I didn’t do in places like the bus where there was no camera to prove it. I have had numerous staff over my years there threaten me with a GED, antagonize me to try and get me to have a behavior they can then shock me for, merely for the sport of it. Staff can and DO use the GED to scare non-verbal students into doing what they want them to by pretending they are about to shock them.  Some even laugh when they do this.

     Many of the things I and others get shocked for at JRC were very small things. They would often shock us for things simply because staff found them annoying and they would keep writing therapy notes until our psychologist added it to our program. I got shocked for tic like body movements, for which I have no control over, and which don't hurt me or anybody else. I would be shocked for waving my hand in front of my face for more than 5 seconds, for closing my ears with my fingers, which I do when things get too loud, because I cannot tolerate too much noise. I would be shocked for wrapping my foot around the leg of my chair, for tensing up my body or my fingers, and the list goes on and on. There was a period of time where I and many of the other students were getting shocked for having 5 verbal behaviors in an hour. A verbal behavior is a minor behavior like talking to yourself, noises (such as clearing your throat), or talking without permission. Every hour would start a new block. And if you were pinpointed more than 4 times in that hour, on the 5th you would get a shock, and then for EVERY minor verbal behavior after that you would be shocked. If you talked out a 6th time, shock. If you had to go to the bathroom, and you had to go really bad, but you asked more then once, that would be nagging, which is a verbal behavior. And these were the things we were getting shocked for. My program was this way for a while. Some of my verbal behaviors I got pinpointed for were crying, talking to myself (even quietly), noises, laughing, humming, repeating myself and inappropriate tone of voice (which was based on staff's opinion of how my voice should sound).  Almost every time I spoke or answered a question, I was pinpointed with these behaviors. My reaction was to stop speaking, but they also made part of my program that if I didn't answer staff in 5 seconds, I would automatically be shocked. I was paralyzed with fear every day. No matter what I did I was doomed. I ask those who read my letter to think to themselves about how often they do some of these things while they are working. Twirl their pens, talk to yourself or think out loud, ask a question to someone nearby, hum a song that's in your head, laugh at something funny in the room. These are things humans do. And they are not harmful. Yet we were being subjected to terrible pain and fear for doing these simple things. One day, out of the blue, the case managers went through the building and scratched off this punishment from all their students recording sheets. They didn't say anything to us about it, just made it like it never happened. Although I can't say for sure, I overheard talk that one of the male students had told his lawyer and family they were shocking him for talking, and that JRC was never supposed to be allowed to do that to us. Whatever the reason, they covered it up fast. And even though they stopped, they still need to be held accountable for all of it. Because it went on for a very long time, and I suffered greatly because of it. People NEED to know these things happened.

    There was a time when I was there that I was on the portion program. This is where JRC starves you as a punishment for having a behavior. For example, my first plan was that for every time I had a minor behavior, such as talking to myself, rocking, wiggling my fingers, I would lose a part of my next meal. My meals came to the classroom cut into tiny pieces and divided into portions inside of a little plastic cup. Every time I had one of these little behaviors, I was forced to stand up and throw one cup away. There were many days I would lose most of my meals. And the hungrier I got, the more frantic and restless my body became. This caused me to have more behaviors like tics and rocking, and in turn I would lose more food. My mind clouded and I could no longer concentrate. I would often become so frustrated from this I would end up hurting myself.  At the end of the day, at 7pm, I was offered "LOP" (loss of privilege) food. This was made intentionally to be completely unappetizing. It was ice cold, and it was made up of chicken chunks, mash potato, spinach, and then doused with liver powder, then set to sit in the refrigerator for days. The smell alone made me sick. And I never once was able to eat it, no matter how hungry I got.

     It was very difficult to sleep at JRC. There are several alarms in the room and over the bed. Every time someone moved in bed it would set a loud alarm off that could be heard throughout the house. Most of us on GED's had to sleep with the devices on. That means locks and straps that get all tangled around you and make it very hard to lay down in a comfortable way. I was very anxious to close my eyes, always fearing a shock for something I might not have even known I did. My fears came true one day, and I was given a GED-4 shock while I was asleep. It was not explained to me why I got this shock. I was terrified and angry. I was crying. I kept asking why? And they kept telling me "No talking out". After a few minutes Monitoring called, and told the staff to shock me again for "Loud, repetitive, disruptive talking out."  The next day I asked the supervisor why I had gotten that GED. And she explained that staff had found a small piece of plastic in my self-care box, which contained my shampoo bottles etc, and that they considered this a hidden weapon. I could not believe it. I did not hide anything in my self-care box. I had not done anything wrong. Yet I was shocked for it, and worse off in my sleep. That piece of plastic, of which I was never shown, had  probably broken off of one of the plastic containers inside the box. And I was severely punished for this. After this incident I really stopped sleeping. Every time I closed my eyes they would jump open, anticipating that jolt somewhere in my body.

      I truly believe that the judges that approve us for the GED have no idea what it really is like.  All they have to go on is what JRC claims.  The GED does not feel like a “hard pinch” or a “bee sting.” It is a horrible pain that causes your muscles to contract very hard, leaving you sore afterward. I would often have a limp for one or two days after receiving a GED.  The devices JRC puts on us are not the same ones they show to the outside world when they let outsiders try the GED. Students wear a different electrode, a long one with 2 metal electrodes that radiate the electricity across a large area.

     Besides the physical pain, life with GEDs is a life of constant anxiety. I experienced heart palpitations daily, had a very hard time sleeping and eating, and became rather paranoid, always wondering if I was about to get shocked and constantly alert in all directions. I eventually became very depressed there and contemplated suicide every night. Now, after having been gone almost 4 years, I am still having nightmares and flashbacks during the day, especially when I hear certain noises that remind me of GEDs and JRC.

     I want to mention, similar to many other students, I was also tied to the 4-point restraint board and given multiple shocks for a single behavior. And if I screamed out in fear while on the board, I would  be shocked for that as well.  I was shocked for behaviors I had no control over, such as tensing up and tic-like body movements.  We were always having to watch others getting shocked in the room. Hearing others scream, cry, beg to not be shocked.  Students would scream “I’m sorry, No, Please!!” all day. I, like other students, would cringe and feel sick and helpless while watching others getting shocked.  I was so anxious about getting shocked that I would many times bang my head just to get it over with. The GED often was the cause of my behavior problems. The students that get shocked the most at JRC are non-verbal. So they cannot speak up. I feel that just because we were born different, we are not given the same rights to be protected from tortures like the GED.

     We are at the mercy of guardians and judges. When I was brought to court to be approved for the GED, I was not told where we were going or why. I was brought into the courtroom wearing a helmet and restraints on my wrists and ankles.  I was not questioned by the judge.  All he had to go on was my appearance in those restraints, testimony from JRC officials, and charts of provoked behaviors. These behaviors came from being forced to sit in isolation with a straight upright posture, in the center of a hard restraint board, day after day, week after week, for two months. I received no real help and no socialization. For those two months I was not allowed to sit in a chair, at the classroom or residence. I was to sit on the board. Also, JRC provoked me by not allowing me to shower during those two months. Instead of showers, I was bathed tied to a restraint board, naked, while staff washed me, putting their hands all over me. All in front of cameras, where Monitoring watched, including men.  Being tied on a restraint board, naked, with my private areas exposed to the staff in the bathroom and the cameras was the most horrible, vulnerable, frightening experience for me. I would scream out “rape, rape!” And these were recorded as major behaviors for me. When I first arrived at JRC, I was immediately subjected to humiliation and provocation by them forcing me to wear a diaper. I in NO WAY needed or have ever needed a diaper as an adult. I am completely independent in all toilet and hygiene skills. And they knew that. I had NEVER worn a diaper up until that day, except of course when I was a little baby. And that is exactly how they made me feel, like a little baby. I was embarrassed and confused and angry. I took that diaper off constantly. When I would take the diaper off they would mark that down on my chart that they would later show the judge as destructive behavior. I would often get restrained on the 4 point board for taking off the diaper and fighting staff not to make me put it back on. In these ways and more, JRC provoked many behaviors in me that were shown on a chart to the judge. There is no way the judge could know what was provoking my behaviors. JRC told the judges that their program was the only thing that could help me. That theirs is the only last resort treatment.

     I was considered a difficult case. I would like you to know that I am doing very well in a new program that is nothing like JRC. I don’t get shocked or put in restraints, and I am given help by staff and doctors that I can talk to. I am not drugged up as JRC claims I would be if I left. JRC made no attempt to understand me.  Feelings do not matter to JRC and we were specifically not allowed to express them.  I felt like an animal test subject there.  My new program does not punish me for my problems, that are the result of having Aspergers Syndrome. I have gotten so much better from getting real help instead of constant punishment and pain.

     I ask you to please investigate carefully into the GED. The ones that are actually being used on the students, not the samples JRC provides, as I have experienced them to be extremely manipulative in all things. There are no doctors overseeing us with the GED. Every few years they would drive me to a doctors office near Framingham, Ma, and not tell me why. In his office he would literally walk in, say hi how are you, and before you can answer he has signed their papers and you are shown the door.

     I have attached with this email a document I wrote called “The Board” which is about one of JRC’s worst tortures that they used on me and others.  I wrote it so that outsiders can feel what we feel, and hopefully to help others understand the agony of GED treatment. I invite you to read it, and I hope it will share a new perspective for you, the perspective of the ones that should matter the most, the human beings on which these devices are being used.

Sincerely,
xxx
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The Board
By: xxx
December 2012

     The most sickening, horrifying experience of my life was being shocked on the restraint board. What is the board? It is a large, door sized contraption made out of hard plastic, with locking restraint cuffs on each corner where your wrists and ankles get locked in. Your body becomes stretched spread eagle style, pinned tight, rendering you completely helpless, combined with an overwhelming feeling of vulnerability. It is a torture that you would expect to see in a horror movie. The kind that makes you cringe and scream while you watch. The kind you cant get out of your head even a after it’s over. Only this was happening for real, to me.

     They added the restraint board, which for me was 5 shocks over 10 minutes to my program after a few months, which means getting shocked 5 different times, over a period of 10 minutes for having just one single behavior. If you have just one of those behaviors on your sheet, which can be getting out of your seat without permission (even without doing anything violent), tensing your body, anything they decide to put in your program. A behavior is anything you do that JRC considers a problem. Anything from hitting your head, to talking to yourself, saying a swear word, rocking, even screaming from fear and pain of the shocks, is a "behavior". The staff grab you, put you in restraints, walk or drag you to where the board is kept (usually right in the middle of the classroom with all the other students watching and stepping around you), and than restrain you to the board. Arms and legs locked in. Then the terror starts. You have to wait for it. You never know when it's coming. The staff shocking you usually hides behind a door or desk so you can not see them. JRC lavishes in the element of surprise when shocking us. Then all of a sudden the searing pain and jolt in your arm or leg or stomach, or sometimes even the fingertips or thigh or even bottom of your feet.  Whichever part of the body gets shocked, it will travel throughout. If you get shocked in your arm, for example, it is not a "hard pinch" it is a radiating electricity that will travel from your bicep through to your fingertips. Your whole arm jerks against the restraints, causing added pain from your muscles being forced to contract against being tied up. The loud screech of the device goes off with it, and they say, "(name) there is no tensing up". One down, 4 to go. Your heart races immediately, and you sweat profusely. All you want to do is throw up. That ten minutes feels like hours. You try to prepare yourself for the next shock. I keep saying in my head, 4 more, 4 more. Please just finish please. Trying not to scream in fear because i will be shocked for that as well. It comes again without warning, next time maybe in your stomach, the stabbing pain runs from left to right, right to left, across your belly button area. Your stomach heaves in and you lose your breath. More sweat now. Your heart beats faster now than you can feel possible. I start to hope my heart stops. Anything to let me away from this. 3 more. But now it's even harder, I don't feel I can take any more of this torture. Besides the pain, it's the panic and fear in your mind. There were times when I peed on myself. One particular time I was put on the board for hitting my head the night before. They said because the staff did not "follow my program". They put me on the board. They shocked me repeatedly in the stomach. And when they finally got to 5, I thought "it's over". But then they didn't take me off the board. They gave me a 6th, than 7th, than 8th. They kept going. I was so filled with fear, not knowing what was happening or when they would ever stop. I went away in my head. I started floating. I had no more tears left. When they finally stopped after 10, they sent other staff in to "change my batteries". When they lifted the electrodes off of my stomach, it was stuck. They had to pull because it had burned into my skin. I still have those scars on my stomach. When they took the devices off of me to test them, I was still strapped to the board. Every time I heard the noise from the test, I cried and panicked. The staff attempted to comfort me, she whispered to me so they wouldn't hear her, because any kind of comforting is never allowed. I was shocked on the board on many separate occasions. One time for something I never even did.

    I lived this. These things happened. These things were done to me and I witnessed them done to many others.
     
    
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If you are a survivor, a family member, former staff, or otherwise have any past or present affiliation with the Judge Rotenberg Center, and you would like to talk to someone, you can contact me at lydia (at) autistichoya.com. You can also contact my friend Shain Neumeier, who is also Autistic and disabled in addition to being a disability rights attorney. Shain is a Policy Associate with the Community Alliance for the Ethical Treatment of Youth, and is part of Occupy the Judge Rotenberg Center. Shain's email address is s.m.neumeier (at) gmail.com. We may be able to help or at least offer support.

You may read more from Gregory J. Miller, a former teacher at the Judge Rotenberg Center, in his letter to the FDA about the torture there.