Sunday, January 7, 2007

Use of shock treatment and aversives on children in treatment facilities

January 7, 2007

There are two serious issues I would like to address - the use of shock therapy and the use of aversives on children. First I would like to say:

A No Consent Form, originally adapted by TASH from a letter written by Tricia and Calvin Luker of the respectAbility Law Center, has been created by The Alliance to Prevent Restraint, Aversive Interventions, and Seclusion (APRAIS) for parents to give to their child's school or facility. The form gives direct instruction to the school or facility that they do not approve of the use of aversive inteventions, restraints, or seclusion on their child. Click here for the form.

Shock therapy is being used on children at the Judge Rotenberg Center in Canton, Massachusettes. While most people oppose its use and have moved to have it banned, few parents strongly support its use for their children. One child in particular banged his head until he nearly lost his eyesight, and the use of temporary skin shock treatments, his parents say, is their only hope. But others oppose its use, saying it is inhumane and some children were shocked for very minor infractions.

For more information on shock therapy, visit:

Aversives are treatments used on children in many treatment centers. Many of the children in these centers have developmental disabilities. There are proven effective ways to help children with these issues without the use of aversives. I believe the reason they are so widespread and commonplace today is that they are a quick fix to an immediate problem. Often, facilities hire untrained, unqualified staff rather than employing people with a love for these children. Aversives include the use of:

* Restraints (many children have died in the face-down prone restraint position)
* Shock therapy
* Withholding, including food and sleep deprivation
* Spraying water on a child's face
* Squirting lemon juice in a child's face
* The use of ammonia inhalants, which ultimately led to the death of 14-year old Martin Lee Anderson
* Tabasco sauce on a child tongue
* Blindfolds placed over the child's eyes
* White Noice helmets to block out sounds
* Rubber band snaps on children's skin
* Slapping, pinching, and pulling children's hair
* The use of electric shocks on children

To learn more about aversives, visit

This month the New York State Board of Regents plans to ban the use of aversives, including shock treatments, but unfortunately this ban does not go into effect until 2009, giving schools and programs time to find better, safer, more positive programs. And it will be difficult for them to monitor their use, especially when their children are sent out of state.

Two years from now! This means that for the next two years children will continue to receive the aversive treatments mentioned above. This needs to stop because children are dying in treatment.

Another serious issue that needs to be addressed is the use of restraints, which I will address in a separate blog. But for now, I would appreciate it if you would take a moment to sign the International Petition to End Institutionalized Child Abuse at:

Also, a lifetime memorial website was created for all children who have died in treatment. Please take a moment to light a candle these children by going to: It is a support for their grieving families.

If you have information or comments you believe would help address these issues, and that would help families, please post them here.

Thank you,
Isabelle Zehnder
Founder and President
The Coalition Against Institutionalized Child Abuse (CAICA)