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Autism Speaks supports FDA’s proposed ban on aversive shock devices

Opposes controversial devices used to curb challenging behaviors in children and adults affected by developmental disabilities
April 25, 2016

Autism Speaks lauds the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for its newly proposed ban of electrical stimulation devices (ESDs) designed to curb self-injurious or aggressive behavior – a practice largely focused on children and adults severely affected by developmental disorders such as autism.

In its statement, Autism Speaks affirms:

Painful aversive conditioning has no place in the treatment of autism or any developmental disorder. Autism Speaks applauds the FDA’s proposed ban on electrical stimulation devices, particularly their use with children and adults with developmental disabilities that prevent them from communicating their pain, their needs and their consent to such treatment.

Virtually all autism centers and mental health hospitals in the United States have disavowed aversive shock therapy. However, the practice remains legal in the U.S, and one educational center for children with severe developmental disabilities has been widely criticized for manufacturing and using the devices.

“The FDA takes the act of banning a device only on rare occasions when it is necessary to protect public health,” the agency announced in its related press release. “The medical literature shows that ESDs present risks of a number of psychological harms including depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, fear, panic, substitution of other negative behaviors, worsening of underlying symptoms and learned helplessness (becoming unable or unwilling to respond in any way to the ESD); and the devices present the physical risks of pain, skin burns, and tissue damage.”

Read the FDA's proposed ruling in the Federal Register here. It will remain open for public comment until May 25, 2016.