Every Black child is born with a burden.  From the moment of their first breathe, they are marked as second class citizens, because we live in a White supremacist world.  If said child happens to face another marginalization like disability, for instance, this burden expands, because they must deal with the twin evils of ableism and racism. The more marginalizations one has to negotiate, the harder life will be.

Andre McCollins was 18 years old on October 25th, 2002. This autistic young man was on his way to school, when a physical altercation occurred on the school bus, which led to him being shocked and restrained. When he later refused to remove his coat as instructed, he was forcibly strapped down to a bed face down, and subjected to 31 instances of electric shock at the Judge Rotenberg Center.  This torture went on for over seven hours, as McCollins cried, begged and pleaded for help.  The video is extremely disturbing.

Electric shock treatment was apparently used as aversion therapy in McCollins case, and was a part of his court-approved treatment plan.  The Christian Report claims that literature from the Judge Rotenberg Center says  electric shock “feels like a hard pinch, [have] been extensively validated in the scientific literature… [are] extremely effective, and [have] no significant adverse side effects.” Clearly, what was recorded in the video is a far cry from a mild corrective measure.  The treatment of disabled children is allegedly so extreme at the Judge Rotenberg Center that Mental Disability Rights International  made an urgent appeal to the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture in 2010.

The next day, Andre was catatonic.  Dr. Marc Whaley, who testified in court last week, on McColins behalf stated,  “Now we have an individual who’s heavily medicated, state institutionalized with no immediate prospect of any kind of independent functioning. And all of that turned on October 25, 2002 when his psychotic disorder was traumatized by the 31 or so shocks he got on that day.”

Autism occurs on a spectrum and some behaviours include but are not limited to:

  • Intense tantrums
  • Short attention span
  • Aggression towards self or others
  • A lack empathy

These behaviors may be frustrating for those interacting with an autistic person, but they are absolutely involuntary.  What autistic people, or in fact all disabled people need is acceptance and accommodations.

In this instance, there is no hard proof that Andre was subjected to electric shock treatment because of his race; however, people of colour who live with disabilities certainly find that their race generally plays a factor in how they are treated by the medical establishment.  Disability Now recently published a piece entitled “Breaking the circle: racism and mental health,” regarding the intersection of race and disability.

Patricia Chambers, a service user stated, ” Inherent racist beliefs that black people are more likely to be violent mean psychiatrists and nurses fear black people and consequently they are more likely to be overmedicated or restrained.”

  • http://pervertedalchemist.blogspot.com Perverted Alchemist

    Are Black disabled children being mistreated? Is water wet?!

    From the educational system to the psychiatrists and even the parents (Yes, them too), I would say that this is a question that didn’t need to be asked. Next question, please.

  • http://itsoftenbeensaid.wordpress.com Sasha

    This is absolutely sad. Thanks to advances in technology and science we are now able to test for these conditions while babies are in the womb and although I am against abortion I’d likely abort if I found out my child were to have a disability.

  • apple

    Black kids are always mistreated being disable is just the icing on the cake

  • S.

    This article breaks my heart

    IA with Perverted Alchemist… i have a “slow” cousin and he was abused as an infant by his father and he continues to be abused and taken advantage of by people

    It’s really sad to witness this

    I tend to wonder… is there any hope for Black people in this world? It seems like we’re the permanently bullied race

  • http://pervertedalchemist.blogspot.com Perverted Alchemist

    What makes being a Black disabled child even worse is that you have parents who think the only solution to handling a special needs child is the excessive use of corporal punishment. Instead of trying to be more attentive and mindful of their disabilites, you have what would be referred to as lazy parenting.

    I once had a discussion with one parent several years ago. He had a child that suffered from a learning disability. He honestly thought the best way to get him to behave and cure him of his ADHD was to “beat it out of him”. That didn’t work and it only made things much worse.

  • golden_girl

    Heartbreaking. I felt like I was reading something form 1960s.

  • http://www.thegoodliferaina.com Raina

    Heartbreaking. As the parent of a child with autism and deafness I have dedicated my life to my daughter. I grieve for special needs children of color that do not have people to advocate for them. I volunteer to help parents advocate for their children because most of the time the do not know their rights. For the writer of this article please use the phrases “Person with autism” or “Children with Autism” instead of the word autistic. That term can be offensive to people.

  • http://www.thegoodliferaina.com Raina

    Heartbreaking. As the parent of a child with autism and deafness I have dedicated my life to my daughter. I grieve for special needs children of color that do not have people to advocate for them. I volunteer to help parents advocate for their children because most of the time the do not know their rights. For the writer of this article please use the phrases “Person with autism” or “Children with Autism” instead of the word autistic. That term can be offensive to some people.

  • TypicalBlackWoman…

    This is an incredibly disturbing video because while shock therapy is still used today, this was clearly performed without consent and has no indiction of use for autism. Absolutely heart-wrenching.

  • Fox

    I wonder if many parents and caregivers are aware of their rights?? I did not watch the video, but it sounded like all of this was done without guardian consent.

  • http://www.HandwritingThatWorks.com Kate Gladstone

    Raina — you tell us: “please use the phrases “Person with autism” or “Children with Autism” instead of the word autistic. That term can be offensive to some people..

    Dif you know, Raina, that the phrases “Person with autism” and “Children with autism” are offensive to many autistic people? Learn more: http://www.google.com/search?q=autistics+oppose+person+first+language&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8&hl=en&client=safari

    By the way, I’m an autistic person.

  • G-Ball

    This is hearthbreaking! My daughter also has autism, and I think I would honestly hurt someone and risk going to jail if anyone ever tries to hurt her! I cannot even watch the video. I think disability is one of the other taboos that the black community believes we can just “beat” away.

  • LoversRock

    The more I read things like these..the more I’m convinced that we as black people don’t belong to this world…This can’t be it for us…we don’t deserve this abuse in any capacity of our lives…yet we face it in some shape or form everyday…Please God show us the way!

  • CB

    I dearly hope that your first sentence was a comment on the actions of the doctors in question, and your second was an unrelated reference to your own estimate of your ability/willingness to parent a disabled child. I say this because I initially read your comment as saying it’s sad this child was allowed to be born, and I can think of no more dehumanising attitude to have towards someone than to imply their very existence is a tragedy. I’m not saying that was your intent – just that it was my first impression from reading your comment. I might be a touch over-sensitised to that, so if you really were saying what I hope you were, I apologise sincerely for the assumption.

  • http://www.thegoodliferaina.com Raina

    Hi Kate, Thanks for your insight. However, our experiences differ and that is fine. I know people with autism and I can only go by what they prefer to be called. My daughter uses sign language, and we actually never sign the name or label autism to her in sign language.

  • http://itsoftenbeensaid.wordpress.com Sasha

    Hey CB- I can see how from my comment you may have thought the latter but it was definitely the former: speaking of the doctors actions and my inability to raise a child with a disability.

  • CB

    Glad to hear it, and again, sorry for the unwarranted assumption. I hope I didn’t offend you. :)

  • http://www.twitter.com/ThisIsMissRae MissRae

    ” For the writer of this article please use the phrases “Person with autism” or “Children with Autism” instead of the word autistic. That term can be offensive to people.”

    I was thinking the exact same thing.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100003405885659 Shalu

    Bonnie, these are all wonderful tips. I’ve used sarevel of these with Jaimie (who had her very first playdate here a couple of weeks ago! YAY JAIMIE!! LOL!)I found what really helped with Jaimie was when she got a bit agitated in between activities, we ran around in the basement or took turns jumping on the mini-tramp or climbed on our climbing wall…all the things we usually do as part of her Sensory Diet but mixing it in with ‘normal’ play so it’s fun for everyone.We even have a homemade MEGA dice with different animals on it that we play “Move Like A…” game: You roll the dice then all move like that animal that shows up. I’m going to link your tips to my site, if that’s okay. These are brilliant.Thanks for sharing.Chynna

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