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Writing a #StopTheShock Op-Ed

Thank you for your interest in writing an op-ed to urge the FDA to #StopTheShock!

An op-ed is a story written for a newspaper, magazine, or website to share the opinions of everyday people who don’t work in the news. If you write an op-ed, it can help a lot more people learn about the JRC and how to #StopTheShock.

Here is a sample op-ed you can reference for guidance. We will also go over some tips and talking points for writing your op-ed below the sample.

Each April, the disability community celebrates Autism Acceptance Month. Autism Acceptance Month is a time to work towards making sure autistic people are accepted in all areas of society, and we urge people to take actions to make that happen. This year, you can take one major action on an issue that is often overlooked: the torture of autistic people, and those with other developmental disabilities, in an institution called the Judge Rotenberg Center.

The Judge Rotenberg Center (JRC) is an institution in Massachusetts for children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities, mental health disabilities, and learning disabilities, including many autistic people. The JRC tortures some of the people living there using an electric shock device called a Gradual Electronic Decelerator (GED). The JRC uses the GED as an “aversive:” they use the pain of the electric shock to punish people for doing certain things. People with disabilities have been shocked at the JRC for things like flapping their hands, standing up without permission, not taking off their coat, and even for screaming in pain while being shocked.

The JRC is the only place in the United States that uses electric shocks to punish people with disabilities. Using the GED doesn’t only hurt people with disabilities physically; those who were shocked by the GED have developed PTSD, depression, and anxiety disorders. In 2013, the United Nations put out a report calling the use of the GED “torture”. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) even put out their own report 5 years ago that said the GED should be banned.

In 2016, the FDA finished writing a rule that would ban the GED–but they never released it. At the end of last year, the FDA said they are working on releasing the rule. But it has already been 5 years. Every day of those 5 years, people with disabilities have continued to be tortured at the JRC. They shouldn’t have to live in fear and pain another day. With your help, we can urge the FDA to take action and ban the GED for good.

As a disabled resident of  [your town] , I want the people of  [your town]  to be know about the atrocities happening at the JRC that hurt autistic people, so that they can help stop this abuse. It only takes a few minutes to speak out, and you can find out how at autisticadvocacy.org/stoptheshock. This April, we have a chance to make a real difference in the lives of autistic people — we shouldn’t let this Autism Acceptance Month go by without taking action.

Here are some general tips about op-eds, as well as what you can do to make your op-ed stand out:

  • Most online newspapers and magazines have a section of their website to submit op-eds. You can also check your local newspaper to find information about how to submit an op-ed.
  • Different news sources have different rules about op-eds (like how long it should be). You can usually find these rules in the same place that you can find out how to submit an op-ed. Make sure you follow these rules as you write your op-ed.
  • Not every op-ed gets chosen to go in a magazine or newspaper. Your op-ed is more likely to get chosen if you show that the topic is relevant. One way to do that is to mention that it is Autism Acceptance Month. Since that topic comes up a lot in April, it makes it more likely that your op-ed will get published if you submit it in April.
  • Having some facts about the JRC and GED to show how bad they are is an important part of your op-ed. You can use our JRC Factsheet to find some of this information.
  • Try and include information about why working to #StopTheShock is important to you personally. People will be more interested in hearing your story than just reading a list of facts.
  • Be very clear about what you want your op-ed readers to do after they read your op-ed. Your op-ed is a call to action, so make sure you let them know how to act!
  • The “Resources” section of http://www.theopedproject.org/ has a list of the op-ed rules for over 100 major news sources, as well as some extra tips on how to write a good op-ed.

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