By WGBH News
May 16, 2012
BOSTON — Representatives from the Judge Rotenberg Center are defending the center against criticism over its use of shock treatment in the classroom.
Cheryl McCollins sued the center for medical malpractice after her son Andre was given electric shocks in 2002. A video depicting the scene went viral, leading to uproar. On May 9, supporters gave lawmakers a petition with over 200,000 signatures demanding the end of the practice. That night, she appeared on Greater Boston, saying, "They abuse disabled children."
But Rotenberg attorney Michael Flammia defended the use of electric shock aversion therapy. "It's a treatment that helps hundreds of people, that's helped thousands of people, and there's no alternative for some people that have these kinds of severe behavior disorders," he said.
Furthermore, Flammia said the scene captured on video was very unusual. Andre McCollins "was having an extremely difficult day that day and the staff were doing their very best to try to maintain the treatment. That's not the way the treatment normally works," he said, emphasizing, "It is not what JRC expects to happen."
Marie Washington is the mother of a man who's been at the center since 1989. Before he went to the center, "My son was totally out of control," she said. "We went to about five different facilities … no one could handle him."
Washington tested out the shock herself and said it felt like a bee sting. "I would rather for him to have a bee sting to control his behaviors — those uncontrollable, psychotic tantrums that these kind of people have — than to have the psychotropic drugs," she said. "I am very happy and pleased with the treatment."
Cheryl McCollins and the center have reached a settlement.