Judge Rotenberg Center Withholds Therapy
More data from the New York State Department of Education review of the Judge Rotenberg Center:
A review of JRC’s internal IEP admission checklist states that staff ‘eliminate’ (where possible) related service recommendations, such as speech and language therapy or counseling. While JRC employs or contracts with some related service providers, documentation showed that JRC takes steps to have CSEs eliminate recommendations for related services.
Student files contained documentation that JRC consistently requests that speech and language therapy, occupational therapy (OT), and counseling be removed from a student’s IEP. A review of IEPs of NYS students showed:
- 23 students had CSE recommendations for counseling that were later eliminated based on JRC’s recommendation;
- 12 students had IEP recommendations for speech and language therapy that were later eliminated based on JRC’s recommendation;
- Seven students had IEP recommendations for OT that were later terminated based on JRC’s recommendation and one continued OT on a “one hour per month – consult” basis; and
- Four students had IEP recommendations for PT [physical therapy] that were later terminated based on JRC’s recommendation.
Twenty students’ current IEPs include recommendations for speech and language therapy. JRC records indicate that 12 students are receiving speech language therapy with most at a duration and frequency of 1×30 min/week (below the minimum NYS regulatory requirement).
At JRC, behavioral counseling is provided in a nontraditional format in which students are expected to learn how to self-manage their target behaviors. Students who request to speak with a psychologist must write a note or “business letter” requesting a session and “pay” with their tokens. (The nature of counseling is unclear). The Director of Clinical Services indicated that other types of counseling could be used, but that it is not routinely offered.
Based on classroom observations, there was no evidence that language instruction, as required by NYS regulations for students with autism, was being provided.
Out of 148 NYS students at JRC, 128 students receive no related services. The provision of related services was not observed during either visitation.
Observers did not see a structured, systematic program for teaching of generalization of skills, self-care, social/recreational or community skills in the school or the residences to assist students in post-secondary transitions or to promote transitions to less restrictive settings.
There was no evidence of social skills instruction or use of a curriculum or instruction to teach alternatives to aggressive behaviors. When asked about their social skills curriculum, JRC staff described opportunities to socialize and opportunities for recreational trips. None of the staff mentioned any of the published social skills curriculum that are in common use for the treatment of children with autism spectrum disorders or curricular for teaching prosocial and anger management strategies. For students with autism and students with diagnoses that represent social difficulties (e.g., oppositional defiant disorder; conduct disorder), there was no evidence of teaching students positive social ways to communicate or of teaching or programming for social skills during the observation periods.
The complete lack of organized, instructional social interaction periods and reinforcement for positive social interactions also prevented developing time with other children as a reinforcing activity.
This is a particularly glaring omission in programming when contemplating transition to a less restrictive school or adult settings where positive social play and interaction with other children and adults is necessary for success.
This is an outrage. Even if JRC was doing nothing else wrong, this alone would justify an immediate termination of the program and criminal prosecution of those in charge – at a bare minimum, they’re defrauding state governments and parents by claiming to offer therapy and then systematically denying therapy, and I would hope a case could be made for child abuse on just on the systematic and intentional denial of speech and physical therapy to children who need it. Ordinary, well funded schools with a halfway decent special ed program provide or help arrange for speech therapy. That JRC goes out of their way to actively be worse than mediocre is inexcusable.
And students who want to speak to a psychologist have to request it in writing and pay for it with good behaviour tokens? That is below bare minimum standards. Normal schools allow access to a counselor with nothing more than asking a teacher, and I haven’t seen one where a student in distress would be turned away from a drop-in appointment.
It gets worse. JRC found a way to do one better than denying social skills classes and speech therapy to their charges: preventing them from talking and socializing altogether.