Tuesday, March 28, 2006
Shock therapy for kids
At first glance, the Judge Rotenberg Center in Canton, Massachusetts, looks like something out of Disneyland. It's a kind of magical place, with plush rooms and lots of games and adventures for the students. But it is also the only place in the country that uses aversion shock therapy on its students -- some of whom are as young as six years old.

The center was founded by Dr. Matthew Israel, who designed a shock device called a GED, or gradual electronic decelerator. The students, who have few options when it comes to schooling due to behavioral issues or mental disabilities, wear up to five electrodes at a time strapped to their arms and legs. The gadget itself is housed in a fanny pack worn by the student. If a student acts out or becomes violent with staff members, the student gets a two second shock to the skin.

But now, a Long Island, New York, woman is suing the state of New York because her son was shocked at the center. New York sent him to the center in Massachusetts after nobody in New York could treat him properly. Aversion shock therapy is illegal in New York but legal in Massachusetts.

She wants her son, Antwone Nicholson, who has severe attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), removed from the center. But Dr. Israel says the shock therapy was helping Antwone, just as it has thousands of others before him. Dr. Israel says Antwone's violent episodes dropped from 5,000 a week to none after he was placed on the GED device. Antwone's mom says she didn't think his behavior was too bad. But she signed the paperwork for him to get the treatment. She says she didn't think it would hurt so much.

When I went to the center to interview Dr. Israel, I tried the aversion shock device to gauge its power. I put one electrode on my arm and shocked myself using a remote control. I had been told by the center's employees that it feels like a bee sting or a pin prick. Let me tell you, it hurt far worse than that. Two seconds felt like two minutes. It was like a parade of pins stabbing me in the arm. I could see why students would alter their behavior after feeling that sensation.

What do you think? Should shocks be used as a way of controlling behavior in children? Or is it, as critics call it, inhumane?
Posted By Randi Kaye, CNN Correspondent: 9:48 PM ET
  24 Comments
Good grief, SHOCKING kids? These aren't barking dogs, they're children! What's next, invisible fence collars to keep the little ones in the yard? If these parents can't control their kids the correct way, maybe they shouldn't be parents.
Posted By Anonymous Courtney, Chagrin Falls, OH : 10:07 PM ET
As a last resort for problem students, it absolutely should be used. Traditional schooling just cannot work for some severe behavioral cases. I realize that it sounds horrible, but in all honesty, this has a proven case history behind it- shock collars for dogs. The human animal isn't that far different.

Why -shouldn't- it be used? I cannot think of a single reason. For these kids, this is a last resort. If they aren't rehabilitated by whatever means necessary, society will be forced to deal with them later- when the problem is far too set it. Take care of the problem, however you can, while they are young. Fix the problem now, before these kids are out of control 20 year olds, or 30 year olds, committing real crimes.

Behavior modification is a positive thing, not a negative one.
Posted By Anonymous Helen E., New York, NY : 10:12 PM ET
Inhumane? More like barbaric! I can see the future news headline: PATIENT ZAPPED TO DEATH BY IMPATIENT STAFF MEMBER

If these people have the right to strap these electrodes to kids, why can't we do the same for repeat criminals like pedophiles and sex offenders? Okay, strapping them with the electrodes is silly...they should implant them!
Posted By Anonymous Brenda, richmond hill, ontario : 10:19 PM ET
that is absurd how could you hurt us (im 13) like that, and besides in my opinon punishment doesnt work period. no matter what the surcumstance , electric shock treatment is one of the most inhumane and barbaric this a person could to to us
Posted By Anonymous julian hernandez miami florida : 10:20 PM ET
Bottom line. You can either send your kid there or not. If you think it's wrong, don't send YOUR kid, too easy!

My personal opinion? Good. Better to treat them with something that works, other than drugs. Most people automaticly stick their kid on some sort of mind altering drug at the first sign on any "mental disorder"....then the kid turns 18 and they get yanked off a drug that they have become dependant to. And people want to know why they lash out and go crazy! Point blank, if anyone says that these drugs don't alter the mind and body in some way, they are lying!

Nice to see someone is using this method for succuesful treatment. Too bad the "paddle method" is going out of style, and people want to know what's wrong with kids these days.
Posted By Anonymous Jim, Afganistan : 10:26 PM ET
I thought we determined this was cruel and inhumane when used on dogs. Does this mean it is ok for our children? If this type of "therapy" is ok for our children but not for our dogs, we've lost something in our priorities here.

What's up people???
Posted By Anonymous Marisol, Aurora Colorado : 10:26 PM ET
I think it is a good idea as long as it works. We all can hear the good testimonies from the parents and the kids themselves.
It is good for the parents who can't control their children. I think I'd rather seeing bad kids getting zapped now and becoming good ones than becoming thugs 10 years from now.
Posted By Anonymous TY, baton rouge, LA : 10:46 AM ET
This treatment is not inhumane. It stops an out of control, aggressive, dangerous child from either hurting themselves, or others. Some children, no matter how hard you try, do not respond the way "normal" children do. There is far too much dependence on psychotropic medications to keep these children calm and in a zombie-like state. These drugs don't help them learn how to control themselves. They mask any emotions and cause numerous physical problems, only one of which is diabetes.
The G.E.D. is used as a behavior modification tool, and is only used when all else has failed. It's easy to say that a more passive approach will work, until you have a child who can't be reached by any other means. Anybody who has not had first-hand experience with these at-risk children can't imagine the heartache, fear and desperation that we parents have been through. This is NOT like the electric shock treatment that delivers a debilitating jolt to the brain. It is a much lower dosage and is more humane than beating a child, which is what ends up happening when parents are at their wits end when dealing with children like these. Walk a mile in any of these parents shoes before you judge them.
Posted By Anonymous Linda Burke, Staten Island, New York : 10:51 AM ET
Behavior modification. That terms eems to cover a lot of ground when those in-charge don't know what else to do. There are certain instances where it is appropriate I'm sure. My child had ADHD and there were times that I thought I would lose it. But parents need to stay with them and not give up.She got through school, got her degree in psychology and still has ADD. I would never think of having her zapped to "keep her inline." BARBARIC!!!!!
Posted By Anonymous Louise Rogers, Baltimore, MD : 11:00 AM ET
I think shocking children is a barbaric and horrific way to modify their behavior. There are other ways to improve a child's behavioral issues. Torment is not the solution.
Posted By Anonymous Roxanne Lo Re, Miami Fl. : 11:02 AM ET
This is wonderful news, finally maybe they have found something that actually works. So it hurts a little or a lot, so does prisons. That is the next step for most of these troubled children. If it works, do it, for the LOVE of the child.
Posted By Anonymous Deborah Wiley : 11:03 AM ET
I think it's outragous. Sounds like something the church would have used during the inquisition, had it been available, instead of the rack.
Posted By Anonymous Anonymous : 11:04 AM ET
If it works and it's an aversion therapy, then it is definitely worth a try.

Let the children decide if it has helped them.
Posted By Anonymous Jennifer Meyer, Neola, Iowa : 11:08 AM ET
Its better than the kid growing up to be a misfit. If that number of 5000 to zero is to be believed then it means the brain is attuning itself to NOT behave violently i.e. the patient is being cured. What if the patient was dying and it was his last chance, would the pain be justified then? YES, right? So why can't it be justified to cure somebody of a condition that will impair them to function as normal human beings?

As long as the tool is in the hands of the right people and not a sadistic orderly/doctor I believe it will help the kids in the long run.
Posted By Anonymous Nikhil Prakash, Plano TX : 11:11 AM ET
THis treatment is cruel and unusual punishment. Why not whips, the rack? Where does it stop?
Posted By Anonymous Carlos Lores, Clearwater FL : 11:13 AM ET
Hmm. I don't think it should be called shock "therapy". It's abuse, plain and simple. Instead of sending your kid to get shocked, why not just pull their pants down and whip them with a belt? What's the difference? You send your kid for shock therapy, you are paying someone else to abuse your kids. In the long run, I wouldn't be surprised if these children needed therapy to recover from this ordeal.
Posted By Anonymous Stephanie, Mira Loma, California : 11:14 AM ET
this is a last resort method, and unlike adults, children will respond and learn from it.
Posted By Anonymous Gill, NY : 11:17 AM ET
This is inhumane and cruel at best. A tremendous amount of child abuse is dished out under the premise of "behavior modification". Beware! This is the same sort of 'technique' that goes on at the abusive troubled teen boot camps. It's basically paying an institution to abuse children. Would the adults consent to behavior modification of this sort to quit smoking (a bad behavior) or quit drinking?
Posted By Anonymous Anita, Foxboro, MA : 11:21 AM ET
It sounds like this shock therapy is only teaching self control and accountability for their actions.
This is something their parents should have been teaching them all along.


Hopefully this will keep them from becoming criminals later in life.
Posted By Anonymous Sonni, Los Angeles, CA : 11:23 AM ET
I think it is dusgusting and these people should be ashamed of themselves ... In my opinion, they and their fancy shock devices should be shipped to Abu Grab (I don't know how to spell it and don't care!!)
Posted By Anonymous Anonymous : 11:24 AM ET
If they're not fabricating the results, and it actually works to control kids, I think it's great. The parents have the choice to send them or not. If I misbehaved as a child, I got the stick, and I in no way hold it against my parents. Some children aren't phased by words or getting yelled, and need to feel physical consequences to get in line.
Posted By Anonymous Dan, NY, NY : 11:26 AM ET
Shocking children in an attempt to control behavior is horrific and inhumane.

I have a child with autism who is sometimes aggressive and out of control. What I see time and time again is that many of these kids have real painful biomedical problems which cause them to lash out and present with behavioral problems.

In our experience with our child, severe gastrointestinal problems contribute to negative behaviors. When his gut is healthy and he is feeling good, he is a happy, cooperative, well-behaved child.

My advice to parents and medical professionals is first and foremost to find and heal underlying biomedical problems. Many of our kids have limited expressive speech and the only way they can convey that they are in pain is to lash out.

Imagine yourself in excruciating pain, unable to communicate that to the staff and being shocked for trying to do so. Behavior is a powerful form of communication which needs to be interpreted and understood; not stifled by painful aversives.
Posted By Anonymous Cheryl Gaudino, North Attleboro MA : 1:42 PM ET
I suspect that those who have the opinion that it is somehow the fault of the parents that these children are the way they are, have never actually experienced someone with a violent mental illness. I don't think anyone here is advocating that we do this to all children, heavens no, but rather for children who have gone through the entire system of psychotherapy and this is used as a last resort. I grew up with a brother who suffers from mental illness and have a family member with severe schizphrenia, trust me when I say that neither of these people are a result of what their parents did to them, these are mental illnesses. If mild shock thereapy works for these children and does not keep them in a drug induced stupor then I say apply it where necessary by a trained professional. If you've never experienced mental illness in your family and all the pain that it entails you have no possible idea what it is like and what steps you might take to help that person.
Posted By Anonymous Lisa, St. Louis MO : 1:50 PM ET
Using electroshock on children is cruel and unusual punishment. It is a high tech way of hurting them. Pure punishment. No child should be subjected to shock treatments. It is truly unfortunate that this is the only solution; the last resort.
Posted By Anonymous Jessica, Los Angeles, CA : 1:50 PM ET
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