The center said any abuse of shock devices or mistreatment of patients “is taken very seriously.” Public records show that in recent years, the center has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars lobbying in New York State, where more than half of the centre’s students come from, and in Massachusetts. He has also spent more than a quarter of a million dollars over the past decade lobbying federal entities including the FDA, White House, Senate and House of Representatives.
Shain Neumeier, a lawyer who has represented former residents and uses the pronoun “they,” said many were not able to consent to treatment themselves and parents did not always understand what it entailed. They argue that there is a difference between people who shock themselves to curb habits like smoking, which the FDA allows, and shock others – who may not be able to articulate their needs – as a behavioral punishment.
“This approach involves a lot of dehumanization, the idea that you are essentially training a dog,” they said. “Or you’re trying to get someone to do what you want, rather than following their own goals and meeting their own needs.”
But Larry Mirro, of Island Park, NY, said the treatment was life-changing for his son Billy, 39. Before being enrolled at the center in 2003, her son took many different drugs with varying side effects to treat his autism, and repeatedly abused himself, Mirro said.
Most of the establishments could not help or did not accept her son. “He smashed his head all over the place,” Mirro said.
Before agreeing to electric shock therapy for Billy, Mr Mirro said, he researched and shock tested himself – it looked like a bee sting, he said. After his son started treatment, he noticed a change within six months.
“His behavior has totally changed where he had a life,” said Mr. Mirro. “He really had a life.
After about 11 years, however, the family were forced to remove Billy from the facility because the New York Disability Services Bureau would no longer pay for the out-of-state facility, Mirro said. His son has since resumed his medication, he said, and has gone blind from self-abuse.