[Content Warning: violence, shock use].
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On July 6, 2021, in the United States, there was a court decision to overturn an F.D.A. ban on the use of graduated electronic decelerator (GED), or shock device, on disabled people at the Judge Rotenberg Center, an institution in Massachusetts.
The Canadian Autism Spectrum Disorder Alliance (CASDA) is deeply disappointed, and disturbed, by this court decision. We unequivocally stand with the Autistic and autism communities in opposition to the use of shock devices, an abhorrent practice that is illegal in Canada.
As a society, it is our responsibility to advocate for a better quality of life for disabled people around the globe, no matter their jurisdiction.
What can we learn from this in Canada to better inform a National Autism Strategy (NAS)?
The Canadian National Autism Strategy must be developed in a manner that both supports and protects Autistic people. As such, a rights based-approach guided by the principles outlined in the Canadian Declaration on Human Rights, the Universal Declaration on Human Rights and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities is critical.
Crisis and Support Services
If you are experiencing thoughts of suicide, you are deserving of help and can call the Canada Suicide Prevention Service 24/7/365 at 1-833-456-4566.
You can also reach the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 686868 in Canada to text with a trained Crisis Responder.
If you require immediate, in-person emergency care, call 911, or go to your nearest emergency department.
What is GED?
Graduated electronic decelerator or GED, is an aversive conditioning device that is being used on students with developmental disabilities, emotional disorders and on the autism spectrum at the Judge Rotenberg Center (JRC) in Massachusetts, United States. The device inflicts a powerful electric shock to the skin to punish behaviours that the administrator deems undesirable in order to modify behaviours through pain compliance. There are three versions of the GED, with the least powerful producing a shock of 30mA for 2 seconds and the most powerful inflicting a shock of 90 mA for 2 seconds. Due to an error by the FDA and noncompliance by JRC, all three versions of the GED were used for over a decade. Note for reference that tasers produce 2 mA of current.
ABC News. Accessed July 14, 2021. https://abcnews.go.com/Nightline/shock-therapy-massachussetts-school/story?id=11047334.
“Facts about Stun Guns and Their Use in Canada | CBC News.” CBCnews. April 21, 2011. Accessed July 14, 2021. https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/facts-about-stun-guns-and-their-use-in-canada-1.810288.
Mother Jones. “Matthew Israel Interviewed by Jennifer Gonnerman.” Mother Jones. August 20, 2007. Accessed July 14, 2021. https://www.motherjones.com/politics/2007/08/matthew-israel-interviewed-jennifer-gonnerman/.
Pierson, Brendan. “D.C. Circuit Overturns FDA Ban on Shock Device for Disabled Students.”
Reuters. July 06, 2021. Accessed July 14, 2021. https://www.reuters.com/legal/litigation/dc-circuit-overturns-fda-ban-shock-device-disabled-students-2021-07-06/.
“US Bans Shock ‘treatment’ on Children with Special Needs at Boston-area School.” The Guardian. March 05, 2020. Accessed July 14, 2021. https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2020/mar/05/us-bans-electric-shock-treatment-children-boston-area.
The Canadian Autism Spectrum Disorders Alliance (CASDA) is composed of individuals and organizations across the country who have joined forces to advocate for a better quality of life for Autistic people living in Canada.