About 12 years ago, fresh out of college, I moved from Arizona to Boston with my psychiatrist partner, who was accepted into fellowship at Cambridge Hospital. This time is so vivid in my memory as a person with autism because it was my first time living in a big city and it was 9/11. People were everywhere and jobs were scarce. I read about a job working with kids at The judge Rotenburg Center in Canton, Mass. As an abused child, it seemed like a natural fit for me.
I arrived early for my interview and was seated in a cheerful waiting room, decorated In Disney theme. My interviewer called me and escorted me past a game room where some kids were playing very quietly.
After a brief exchange about how kids earn the privilege of using the game room as a reward for good behavior, I was ushered into a classroom.
I had already begun to feel uneasy when I saw children, some in wheelchairs hooked up to a battery pack. At some point I was asked, “Would you have a problem delivering an electrical shock to a child displaying behaviors not in their behavior plan?”
I rarely lie, but I said I wouldn’t because I wanted to know more so I could notify my partner that this was going on. I vaguely remember something being said about isolation being used.
I left horrified and confused. It’s one of the worst memories I carry with me and I feel dirty having been there.