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The Conventional Wisdom in the Extreme

Those of you familiar with our approach know that we are dedicated to helping adults develop and maintain a more accurate and compassionate view of behaviorally challenging kids—one reflective of the decades of research pointing to lagging cognitive skills in such children—and to learn our empirically-supported approach to addressing unsolved problems and unmet expectations.

We’re often pleased when we step back and think about the progress being made in overturning the conventional wisdom, which is that “kids do well if they want to” and that if kids aren’t doing well, it’s about their attempting to get attention or avoid things.  Things really are beginning to change, and such views are increasingly being challenged.

But the conventional wisdom is hardly on its heels, and it’s of course very discouraging to be reminded of some of the more distressing manifestations of this.  Our local public radio station, WBUR, ran a story this morning about some rather egregious practices at an area therapeutic school that employs electroshock as a form of punishment.  While the substance of the story actually contains some good news—tomorrow Massachusetts state representatives are to hear a proposal for a ban on this aversive therapy, called “skin shock”—it is a troublesome reminder of what some behaviorally challenged children continue to endure. The tough fact of the matter, though—and this can be hard to consider—is that while this is an intervention that seems extreme, it flows from the same underlying conventional wisdom that informs any consequence-based system: kids who are not complying need to be motivated by having their lives made more unpleasant when the do not meet our expectations.

Fortunately, there is a better way.  If you’re new to our ideas and our website, read on to learn more about our view and approach.  For the moment, though, we can’t do much better than to listen to a former student of this school, quoted in the WBUR story: “There are other ways to keep people safe without hurting them…you don’t get people to stop hurting themselves [or others] by hurting them.”