I’ve been trying to find out what methods and therapies that were used 30 years ago to treat people with autism were effective. I was extremely dismayed to find out that electrical shock therapy, a controversial therapy that I thought had been discontinued is still being used. One of the places where this therapy is still being used is at a residential treatment center in Massachusetts.
The May 25th episode of Nightline featured a story about the residential facility and the therapy. They interviewed the doctor who said that electrical shock therapy is the only solution for treating people with severe behavior disorders. I can’t believe that he still thinks that is the only solution.
In the 1980s, this same doctor was featured on a local morning talk show, Kelly and Company. I was then the president of the Wayne County Chapter of the Michigan Society for Autistic Citizens (now Autism Society of Michigan) and a member of the state board of directors. We decided to attend the taping of the show to make it known that parents disagreed with this treatment. We were in the audience and made a point of voicing our disapproval of this kind of therapy. 30 years later and he is still at it!
The doctor said this is the only treatment that works to stop children who would hurt themselves or others. He said he knew that it was painful, but that if it didn’t hurt, it wouldn’t be effective.
The show also interviewed a former patient of the facility who had been given the treatments. He told of the horror and the pain of the therapy. The patient is strapped to a table, restrained and shocked. Sometimes it was multiple times, according to this patient. He said that he felt that permanent damage had been done to his brain because of these treatments. He stated that other children was experiencing these treatments and it seemed that no one cared which is why he was speaking up.
Michigan was one of the more progressive states that discontinued this therapy many years ago. Thank God! Some of us desperate parents who were told that this was effective might have felt that it was our only solution. I know that because of his behavior this treatment would have been used on PJ if he were in this facility.
It gives me a spoonful of comfort to speak for someone who can’t speak for himself . I know that without me, PJ would have been one of the outcasts of society. I know the desperation that parents felt 30 years ago. We would listen to anyone who claimed to have a solution to autism.
I am hoping that with the increase in the diagnosis that there is also an increase in compassion in the doctors and other professionals who work with our children.
Until next time; May the Love of God enfold you; May the Power of God protect you; May the Peace of God strengthen you.