Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Autistic children in tiny, windowless rooms

Two UK sources, here and here, report the same story: a young autistic girl, Melanie-Rose Wichmann, was "shut in a tiny, windowless room for getting upset at school." She "begged to be let out." She "has suffered anxiety attacks since the incident in February last year."

A judge ruled that shutting Melanie-Rose in that "tiny, windowless room" was discrimination based on her disability. An autistic child "should not have been left, even briefly and for the best of motives, alone in a small room from which she could not get out."

Melanie-Rose's mother is quoted as saying: "I know that despite what anyone says, regardless of their disability, you don't treat children like this. I wanted to fight this no matter what. I wanted to fight for her and for all the other kids out there in similar situations."

Not so long ago, the Boston Globe reported on practices at the New England Center for Children, a school that uses ABA-based interventions with autistic individuals. The NECC is one of the most admired, most popular, most important, and most influential (in research and practice) ABA schools in the world. Here is how the Boston Globe story starts:

When a particular student acts up, Amy Giles sometimes places the girl in a tiny, windowless room and closes the door. Then Giles stands outside the closet-like chamber, waiting patiently until the child settles down.

If it were another child, it might seem cruel. But Giles, a Westborough resident, is probably that student's best chance for a quality education. Giles teaches at the New England Center for Children on Route 9 in Southborough, a school that is at the forefront of educating children with autism, a neurological disorder that dramatically inhibits the way a child learns.

"We don't want to be the biggest program for autism," said Judy Cunniff Serio, director of administration. "We want to be the best."

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Smallpox, polio, and autism

A few days ago, Canada's senators were debating a law about autism. According to Senator Wilbert J. Keon, this proposed law, Bill S-210, would establish "World Autism Awareness Day in Canada, to be celebrated each year on April 2."

Senator Keon states:

Through the passage of this bill, we are showing that we truly respect Canadians with autism.
And what is the direction and purpose of this proposed Canadian law, a law to raise autism awareness, by which our government is to show that it truly respects autistic citizens? Senator Keon explains:

We must now do the necessary research to understand what autism is; then we must eliminate it as we did with smallpox and polio.
So parliament's power will be used to spread awareness--to inform schools, families, employers, communities, landlords, governments, and so on--that autism is as frightening and harmful, as dangerous to society and the public good, as smallpox and polio. And just like smallpox and polio, autism must be eliminated--regardless of science and ethics, regardless of the wishes of autistics and/or parents of autistics. According to Senator Keon, who demands a Canada free of autistic people, this is the kind of awareness Bill S-210 is all about.