Wednesday, May 20, 2015

The Association for Behavior Analysis International officially "approves" the Judge Rotenberg Center of extremely painful Applied Behavior Analysis electric skin shock torture.

Action alert. 

Advocates against the school of painful electric skin shock "treatment," be advised.

This week in San Antonio, Texas, May 22 - May 26, 2015, at the annual convention of the “largest international network of behavior analysts,” the Judge Rotenberg Center (JRC) has a major official presence.

JRC houses autistics and other children and adults with disabilities and electroshocks them for behaviors as mild as cursing in class and popping their own pimples (See Davies, 2014, Sec. 3: Judge Rotenberg Center Today, Par. 4.) as well as for self-injury and aggression. The latter is possibly information which JRC spokespeople publicly volunteer much more often than they admit shocking children contingent upon their emissions of the long list of minor behaviors as reported by Davies.

For example, in the CBS Evening News video and text article, at 4:45 in the video and within the news text, JRC Director, Glenda Crookes, is only reported saying, “When you put that device on them, they're not hurting themselves anymore, they're not hurting other people anymore….”

In the text, CBS news journalist Amy Burkholder says, “Nancy Weiss, Director of the National Leadership Consortium on Developmental Disabilities at the University of Delaware … disputes JRC's claim shocks are only used for students with self-mutilating or life threatening behaviors.”

So in their May, 2015 convention Program Book, the Ass. for Behavior Analysis International (ABAI) shows it has officially approved the JRC. It does have a disclaimer against their official endorsement of any presenter's content (ABAI, 2015, p. 5), but JRC is a "sponsor" (2015, p. 26) and an ABAI committee has "approved" such sponsors as "being aligned with ABAI's mission" (p. 19).

Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) is the science of human and non-human behavior that uses rewards and punishments to eliminate or reduce the frequencies of behaviors the professionals deem to be "problem behaviors." They also teach skills and positively reinforce pro-social behaviors. In the past they believed they had the ability to prevent homosexuality (Dawson, 2004) which they had judged to be a "problem of social importance." (See the "social importance" term used by the Society for the Experimental Analysis of Behavior, 2015.)

Now this lucrative profession is busy judging autistics as its primary target population. In January 2016, ABAI will hold its Tenth Annual Autism Conference.

Identity-first is more preferred than person-first language among autistic people, so it’s often better to say “an autistic” than a “person with autism." Proud autistic usage is different than the person-first language preferred by many self-advocates with disabilities.

Many behavior analysts depend upon punishing stimuli much too much, often unnecessarily and unethically, according to Gary LaVigna, BCBA, (Board Certified Behavior Analyst) who promotes Positive Behavior Support (PBS) interventions instead. (See LaVigna, 2013, Affidavit, p. 25. Also read Alternatives to punishment: Solving behavior problems with non-aversive strategies, LaVigna and Donnellan, 1986.)

In 2012 the Autistic Self-Advocacy Network (ASAN) protested against the JRC at ABAI's Seattle Convention. Then the United Nations called JRC's "shock treatment" "torture" (M√©ndez, 2013, p. 84-85). Then the majority of the United States Food and Drug Administration's (FDA's) Neurological Devices Panel (2014, pp. 3-5) recommended a ban on the JRC shock devices, but the full FDA has yet to issue its decision. For the ongoing status of the JRC protest, see the Twitter hashtag: ‪#‎CloseTheJRC‬.

According to this week's Program Book, JRC is now prepared to present reports to their behavior analysis experimental and "treatment" peers who are now gathering in Texas (ABAI, 2015).

JRC is a "Bronze level sponsor" of the convention (ABAI, 2015, p. 26). The Program Book for this major, once-a-year event says, "ABAI Convention Sponsors have been approved by the Organizational Review Committee as being aligned with ABAI’s mission to contribute to the well-being of society by developing, enhancing, and supporting the growth and vitality of the science of behavior analysis through research, education, and practice (2015, p. 19)." So does this mean that with each more powerful shock device the JRC invents, the science is "growing" with new "vitality"?

In Symposium #55, JRC representatives will present a case for "Frequency Measurement of Stereotypical Behavior (ABAI, 2015, p. 87)."

ASAN (2013, p. 10) describes their own autistic stereotypy as follows: "We often use repeated motions, like rocking or flapping our hands/arms, to help us handle our sensory over- or under-load. These are often called stereotypies, self-stimulation, or 'stimming.' Stimming can make it easier to calm ourselves, understand our environment, and think more clearly." However, ABA has been trying to eliminate their stereotypy since the 1960s. (See Rapp and Vollmer, 2004.)

JRC will also present item 47: "Use of Computer Software to Teach Fractions (ABAI, 2015, p. 197)" and item 100: "Checking the Retention of Skills Taught in a One-to-One Setting (p. 250)." They also have a full page ad in the Program Book (p. 207).

Therefore, please tweet your opinion about ABAI's official approval of JRC to @ABAIEvents.

Also, please join theABAI Facebook group and tell them how you feel. There have been other disabled, non-disabled, and autistic self-advocates speaking out very well in this ABAI Facebook community of over 10,000 Facebook users. It is not necessary to know the language of behavior analysis in order to tell them how you feel about the ethics behind their behavior modifications. The behavior analysts often use their scientific jargon, but don't let them intimidate you. Some of them often talk about data, evidence, and science as just about all that's needed to support their arguments, but the ethics of ABA is above and beyond all that and they often neglect sound ethics in their talk about data.

Without reporting any "functional analysis" of this blogger's Facebook behavior, a few behaviorists have called me an "attention-seeker" and an internet "troll." If you don't like how they talk to you, don't attack them personally. Stick to the arguments. It's easy to block an offensive person's Facebook profile and hopefully you won't even see their profiles in Facebook any more. Most of the vocal members do argue the issues without being personally offensive. I plan to return to this Facebook group often to back you up if you do want to get involved in this manner.

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  1. What can people do now to protest this kind of treatment? To whom should we write? Thanks!

  2. Anonymous, check the archives of this blog. There are some action alerts advised.

  3. Update. With no credible explanation and after I had been following all the group rules and always speaking very politely, I have been ostracized from both the Association for Behavior Analysis International and the Applied Behavior Analysis Facebook groups. We are working behind the scenes on professional ethics grievances, a small team of advocates and behavioral scientists. I want them to let me and other disabled peer advocates to be able to speak freely and without discrimination against us in their groups. They can resolve the grievances before appeals are made to the Behavior Analysis Certification Board. This is an unconscionable precedent and it should not be allowed. For their own benefit and for the benefit of the people they claim to help, they need to let us speak out in their groups! Applied Behavior Analysis has an awful ethics reputation among members of the general public and this action does nothing but reinforce their damaged and often well justified image. This simply looks like ABA does not want to hear the voice of the representatives of the populations they are claiming to help. This action does nothing but cause harm, both to people with disabilities and to members of the profession-at-large. A very good man, a behavior analyst has taken a stand! They can resolve the grievances before it escalates by allowing people like me back into their groups, including me, and allowing us to speak without harsh judgments against us if we should disagree on the issues of a chosen topic. They need to stop their group members from engaging in any more ad hominem character assassinations which they are prone to do as soon as I argue, "Don't do to others what you don't want done unto you." Some of them support painful electric skin shock. I suggest that their arguments would be more convincing if they voluntarily subjected themselves to the very same intensity, duration, and humiliation levels the Rotenberg Center "inflicts upon its victims." Since they can never defeat this "ace trump" argument, that is when the character assassinations may occur. They are prone to calling me an "attention seeker", a "troll," and unprofessional. One of them recently said something like, "Dave Jersey strikes again!" That was a good one and I enjoyed hearing about it. Right out in front of me they tell each other to ignore me, as though that is supposed to stop me from talking about them. Meanwhile, Google stats tells me they are reading my blog posts in droves! Isn't that amusing?


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I am an advocate for people with disabilities certified to teach special education with a Master of Arts in Teaching. I am not a Licensed Psychologist or a Board Certified Behavior Analyst. When in doubt, seek the advice of an MD, a PhD, or a BCBA. My ability to analyze the ethics of ABA stems from the fact that I am disabled and ABA interventions are often done to people like me, which I voluntarily accept, but only when I alone am the person granting consent, and not a parent, sibling, guardian, or institution.