Friday, July 18, 2008

Inappropriate, Often Dangerous Practices

Last September, I wrote a post titled Takedown or Hug, in which I discussed the use of physical restraints by school personnel. I believed then and I believe now that restraints should not be necessary and not used. I understand the rationale I hear from school staff that they are only restraining to protect the child in the middle of a meltdown as well as the other children in the classroom or school. However, my belief is that were proper supports in place prior to the meltdown, perhaps the meltdown would not have happened at all. I am not in a classroom and I do not a group of 20 or more students, some of whom may have disabilities which may result in outbursts of anger and aggression. But, I am the parent of such a child, and I have learned over the nine years that I have parented her that there are other, better ways to diffuse a situation.

An article appeared in this week’s New York Times titled, Calm Down or Else. The author of the article describes several situations in a school classroom in which physical restraints were used. While on the surface, some of the restraints may have seemed appropriate, others described were obviously mishandled situations. The author poses the question “Have the incidents of restraint being used increased because more and more children with disabilities are being mainstreamed?” Again that supposition screams out to me that the proper supports are not in place. Asking a general education teacher who has not been trained in special education services to anticipate issues encountered by a child with an emotional disability is not going to work. Train that general education teacher – provide appropriate special education support in the general education classroom – teach everyone to notice the triggers that may set a meltdown in motion – in other words, know your students, anticipate their needs, and always be aware of the nuances of behavior occurring in the classroom.

The author ends his article with the concerns that unless schools adopt policies and standards, and unless those things are clearly communicated to parents and school staff, abuses and even deaths from improperly applied restraints will continue. And, as one of the experts cited in the article says, some parents want their child restrained and some are vehemently opposed, further complicating the jobs of those professionals who are caught in the middle of the fray.

I believe it is time for a national look at this issue, and while that is happening, I believe school systems need to adopt some transitional policies and standards to ensure the safety and RESPECT of each and every student in their classrooms. And just for the record, I DO NOT WANT ANY OF MY CHILDREN RESTRAINED.

**Special Note**
One exception to my stand on never restraining a child in a school is that situation where a child has brought a weapon to school. At least in my school district, all schools have a resource (police) officer assigned to the school. That officer is trained to handle weapon related situations, regardless of the age of the offender and should be the first to respond. However, if the situation is such that a teacher must act to protect others from the actions of a student with a weapon, I certainly pray that teacher has been trained and is capable of subduing the child with the weapon.


Diane J Standiford said...

I agree with you. I know this is corney, but I watch Super Nanny and out of control kids are changed by common sense good parenting. I lay blame on parents/adults in childs life. I wait to be proven wrong.

Anonymous said...

Sigh. This is such an ongoing problem in schools. I have had to hold M a few times when she was trying to hurt herself and I have worked in a few social work situations where we were told and taught to do holds. I never felt comftorable with it and agree with proper supports something better could be done. The people working with the kids or adults have to be given other ways to handle these situations.

I also always ask teachers if they do holds, time outs etc. Both of which will send M over the edge. Some children with Autism need deep pressure input and will acutally have melt downs to get the holds. It sounded strange to me but once we stopped the holds when M was younger the melt downs went way down. A counselor actually explained that to us. Education is everything.

mommy~dearest said...

Excellent, excellent post. I cannot agree with you more. When I have confronted the school when they have restrained Jaysen, I was met with the response that they would call the police to restrain him next time.

Yeah, like that wouldn't freak him out more.

I was also informed that I couldn't refuse to have him restrained- that I don't know much more about. I had prepared a document stating my view on restraints, and I did not want them used on my son. Then I attached another document explaining that if Jaysen were to be restrained, staff would be taking full liability of anything that happened as a direct result of, or indirect result of, the restraint. And I expected them to sign it. I never used it, and don't know if it would have held any weight, but I felt better that the school at least knew my stand, and were afraid of me seeking legal recourse.