Monday, September 24, 2007
Hug or Takedown?
Recently, I’ve witnessed children being put into restraint holds by the adults whose task it is to teach/assist/supervise them. The first time I saw any child in a restraint, I found it incredibly disturbing. The principal of my daughter’s elementary school was lying on his back on the floor in the school’s common area. On top of the principal, also on his back, was a child who appeared to be maybe 7 or 8 years old. The principal had his legs wrapped around the child’s legs in such a fashion that the child could not move his legs at all. The principal also had his arms pulling the child’s arms back and held them immobile just as he did the child’s legs. I don’t know what precipitated the principal feeling he needed to restrain the child in such a way, and I don’t know why they were in the school’s common area. But, just as I walked upon the scene, the school’s bell rang, and students poured out of their classrooms.
The majority of the students moving through the hallway and common area were exhibiting one of two behaviors. One set of the children released by the bell just stopped and stared. Not a one of them said anything, but I do believe their eyes held worry, apprehension, and even fear. The second set of children moved around the principal and child in the restraint almost as if they weren’t there. This second set didn’t act surprised and didn’t seem bothered at all. The reactions of the second set of children were the ones that upset me the most.
Joel at NTs are Weird wrote a blog the other day about restraints, and I really liked his explanations. The comments that folks left for that blog entry are also very good. As I read what he wrote, I thought about my youngest daughter’s classroom. I know that restraints have been used, but I know also that they are very infrequently used. I attribute that to my daughter’s instructional assistant.
Besides providing superior support to my daughter, this aide has come to know each child in the classroom better than any other adult. She can spot when one child is heading for a meltdown. She understands the environmental triggers for each child, and she moves to make changes before things get out of control. And, as a result of that forward thinking approach, the children who previously would be put into a restraint hold, almost never go there now. Like one of the commentor’s on Joel’s blog, this aide knows when a child needs deep pressure for calming versus a restraint which could actually make the situation worse. She has even gotten one of the children to ask for a ‘squeeeeeze’ when she feels the need for one.
And because of the wonderful work this particular aide does, the other children in the school don’t have to witness things similar to what the elementary school children I wrote about above witnessed. The children in this school witness respect, dignity, and support not unnecessary restraints.