|"I would emphasize," he said, "that an
allegation doesn't mean that something took place."
Romanczyk offered, however,
that "many parents hold passionate views about therapies," referring to
competing theories about what approaches can help alleviate autism, a developmental
disorder that appears during the first three years of life and interferes with reasoning,
social interaction and communication. An estimated 400,000 Americans have some form of
Dissatisfied parents accused Romanczyk of asserting his approach as the only valid one.
But he said his goal was to provide information to give parents a choice. "I
understand the frustration that can occur," he said.
The institute includes the Children's Unit for Treatment and Evaluation, which serves
children with autism and severe behavioral disorders. It uses an approach called applied
behavior analysis that has come under attack by a local advocacy group, Parents Empowering
Parents, which helped organize the protest. The institute's therapies were compared to
"techniques used to train dogs," the group's statement said.
The Fitzsimmons said their son, Timothy Fitzsimmons, 8, had been subjected to
pointless, repetitive behavior therapy that put research goals before his welfare. That
included potty training which required their son to repeatedly go to the bathroom every 15
minutes, a practice that left him suffering from bladder spasms, his mother said.
"We were hoodwinked into believing it was the only thing in the area and the best
thing for our child," Daniel Fitzsimmons said.
The Fitzsimmons were joined by other dissatisfied parents.
Debbie Sepanj of Binghamton said her daughter, Pariesa Sepanj, would not sit on a chair
for a year after one was placed on top of her to restrain her.
"Our children aren't animals," Debbie Sepanj said. "We don't want to
condition them, we want to raise them."
Christina Dubitsky contributed to this report.