The Insidious Implications of The Judge Rotenberg Center

Filed Under (Abuse, autism, school) by Estee on 13-06-2012

When I watch parents defend the Judge Rotenberg Center, I think of children who can go on “loving” their abusive parents. Parents should be the base of not just survival, but of love. When we entrust schools to care for our children, it is disturbing to see how long Matthew Israel and others have defended the use of painful shock treatment because it’s “effective.” Sure it is. Abusers can get children to submit to anything with the infliction of pain. It’s just wrong.

Yet my version of black and white becomes perplexingly gray in the name of what’s effective for “these kids” — these “autistic/emotional challenged kids.” It leads me to wonder where the line is drawn. While The Judge Rotenberg Center is the extreme of how to “normalize” behaviour or allegedly stop self-injury, the implications of how we view autism, the meaning and communication of behaviours, and how we value autistic people become more insidious with what we see there.

As a more common example or possibility, what of the autistic child who may come out of any school who can’t speak, but may have mysterious marks on their body? There are no cameras in other autism schools that I’m aware of. Shouldn’t we, as parents and community, have the right to see what’s going on when our children can’t tell us for themselves?

I think all of us parents and teachers who love to teach, need to advocate for full transparency. We need cameras in classrooms, perhaps even webcams. Schools can protect themselves from teachers who may not be able to handle a situation well. If we believe in the value of autistic people, even with the challenges, transparency should not be an issue at all. We grow and become better with it.

For any therapist or teacher who may wonder why we autism parents fret every single day, it is because of not only stories like these at the Judge Rotenberg Center, but because our children cannot tell us how they are being treated. If we think of a typical child, they come home and tell their parents who is nice, who they don’t like, and who may be bullying them. It is their intrinsic right to express themselves. For children who have more difficulty doing so, it is their right to be protected.

I, for one, will advocate for cameras in the classroom and the stop of abuse of autistic children. I will continue to write about stopping the abuse at the Judge Rotenberg Center.


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About Me


I’m a PhD candidate at York University, Critical Disability Studies, with a multi-disciplinary background in the arts as a curator and writer. I am the Founder of The Autism Acceptance Project (, and an enamoured mother of my only son who lives with the autism label. I like to write about our journey, critical issues regarding autism in the area of human rights, law, and social justice, as well as reflexive practices in (auto)ethnographic writing about autism.