Thursday, January 3, 2013

My thoughts on the use of restraints in school.

So there I was, roaming facebook when a jumble of words caught my eye and turned my stomach... the gist of it was stop the use of restraints in schools. When I think restraints, I think medications, the seat belt on a stroller, locked doors, baby gates, walking harnesses, gait belts, hand holding... all very important parts of our life. Restraints are a measure or condition that keeps someone or something under control or within limits.
 
But you're not talking about everyday restraints, you're talking about physical take downs, time out in padded rooms, being wrapped in blankets, etc, according to the person I talked to but I have to ask... what if they are legit?
 
Alex is not mainstreamed, he goes to a special school. a separate school that I did everything I could to get him into because mainstreaming was not in his best interest. The trade off is the type of kids he's around. Now, I don't mean that in any way other than the straight facts so don't get your panties in a wad. He's with other kids like him and other kids not quite like him. Developmentally delayed, severe special needs, emotionally disturbed... The thing that they have in common is for some reason or another, the general education setting was not in their best interest or the best interest of the students around them. 
 
Last year Alex was attacked by a teenager in the hallway, the bite marks he came home with would break your heart and make you cry. There was no way to prevent it. It happened quickly, it was a reaction. The teen was wearing noise cancelling headphones, Alex reached up and yanked them off, the boy reacted. Our kids do sometimes have violent episodes. Usually as a reaction, not an action. I stand beside the statement that there is no connection whatsoever between autism and planned violence but violence does happen in the heat of the moment. If they didn't have a Behavior Intervention Plan in place with a section on safe physical restraint, how much worse would Alex's injuries have been?
 
I am here writing this at 12:45am, not because Alex has me awake with his stimmy little self but because after seeing a 2nd plea in as many days to stop the use of restraints in school, I woke up dreaming about his screams and I can't help but cry. Can you imagine the sight of a 9 year old being attacked by a 9th, 10th, 11th grader? I saw his body when he came home. I saw the places the boy's teeth broke the skin, I saw the swelling for days afterward, I saw the effect on Alex. I can only imagine  the horror of the attack. I can only be thankful that the school staff had tools at their disposal to stop it and to remove him and the teen from the situation.
 
Advocate for better training in the use of restraints but, please, don't scream and shout and protest for them to keep your children safe and then take away the only tools they have to do so.

15 comments:

  1. Oh my goodness! I can't believe they had your little one in the same area as big kids like that! I used to hurt other kids when I was a kid and the grown-ups kept me away from the little kids because of it. What happened to your boy was wrong and the school shouldn't have been mixing little kids and big kids like that!

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    1. The school has kids from kindergarten on up. Since the incident, they have changed things around to keep the age groups more separated.

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  2. When I first started reading this, I was all "What?! Nobody better lay a finger on my sweet angel baby!" But, by the end, I could see your point. I wouldn't want my child to hurt anyone else, and I wouldn't want anyone to hurt my child. You're making my brain work too hard so early in the morning. ;)

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  3. James has (past tense) been taken down in full 4 person restraints for his safety and the safety of others. His "violence" was all part of his inability to communicate. There is a wonderful lesson we learn from elephants in captivity. When the elephants are first trained to stay in one place, the trainers use a very strong, very thick rope. The elephants struggle with all their force to get free until they eventually give up. When this happens, the trainers can put a simple piece of yarn around their leg and the elephants stay where they are put. James no longer requires full restraint, usually a finger on his shoulder will do the trick. Do I like the fact that 4 grown adults were at first needed to control my young son? No, but I certainly appreciate that it doesn't take that type of physical reminder to do what is asked now that he is older and stronger. I think often physical restraint is often miss used and abused. The energy and adrenaline of the adults must not get the better of them.

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  4. I agree with you and then I don't. I am against restraints to certain extent. When I read the pleas to stop retraining kids in schools, I look at the facts. A lot of schools don't do it right. Leaving a severely disabled child in an isolation room? No, not so much. With some kind of supervision like a camera, that I can get behind. But locking them in the room and leaving them there for the duration of punishment? That's when it gets dangerous. And excessive restraint/use of shocks or tasers, not so much. I think there's a time, a place, and a way to go about restraints. You have to do what you have to do to keep everyone safe. But restraints need to be done properly or they are just dangerous. You see so many things in the news about unsafe restraint practices and how our kids are being injured or dying because of said practices. But you can't just do nothing either, and conventional means don't always work with special needs kids.

    Scenario: When I was in high school, I had to serve a week's work of detentions for tardiness (we lived 20 minutes away from the school, and I regularly ran into cows, horses, and peacocks on the road.) There was a mentally disabled kid in detention with me. Being in school after hours really freaked her out. The first day, she was rocking, clicking, and starting to work herself up. The second day we had more freaking out and worked herself into a tizzy. The third day we hit full on meltdown mode. She began running back and forth into walls as hard as she could and when she finally fell, she'd bang her whole upper body on the floor. The teacher yelled at her, and she freaked out more. Teachers aren't allowed to have physical contact with kids in that school, only the principal or vice principal. After about ten minutes of the girl freaking out, he finally called for help. This made her freak out more "no more punishment, go home, I good" all while rocking, banging, and clawing at her own face. Five more minutes of the went on without help arriving. The girl was bleeding, vomiting, and was forming huge bruises. I sat on the floor with her, pinned her arms to the side, gently rocked with her, and made shushing noises. You see, my nephew had ADHD and some kind of mental disability that I swear is autism but has not been diagnosed. This worked for him, and I figured worse case, she'd hurt me a little, and it was better than continuing to hurt herself. She didn't calm down much, but she was unable to scratch and she stopped banging into me quite as hard. When the vice principal arrived, 20 minutes after he was called, I ended up being suspended for "assault." The school threatened to press charges on me. The girl's mother however, fought it and said that if I hadn't have stepped in, she could very well have put herself in the hospital. The ironic thing, the girl was in detention for that exact kind of behavior.

    What I'm saying is that there does need to be some kind of restraint for kids in schools. For kids like that girl in my detention session, for Alex, and even for the teenager who attacked Alex. The do nothing or treat special needs kids as typical kids doesn't work. What's important is that there are solid rules and safety measures in place. And supervision is a must. How some schools handle restraints does not work. So, don't take it away, just reform it so that it's safe for our kids as well as effective.

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    1. Oh, yes. I agree. There needs to be training before and supervision while the restraints are used.

      Thank you!

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  5. I have always had mixed emotions regarding the restraints in school. I agree with you 100% though, educate them on proper and safe restraint techniques but don't take them completely away. Sometimes the only way to protect my son and his brothers is to restrain him.

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  6. Oh Mac, I so hate thinking about that incident with Alex. You're right, this is a complex topic that needs more in-depth discussion than just boiling it down to restraints being either good or bad. I think the word restraint is such a trigger for many people, who maybe can't get past that to really look at the deeper issues.

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    1. Yes. There are so many stories about schools gone bad, and so little known about what exactly restraints are. Thank you, Bec.

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  7. My son is six and is mainstreamed. He has autism and despite being exceptionally bright he has huge sensory issues, behavioral issues and regretably I must be honnest, he is prone to violent attacks on teachers and other students. I worry about him being restrained by people who are not properly trained and he has had some awful injuries because of precisely that! However I do understand the need to get him out of the situation and I would be quite happy with the use of a padded room for him to calm down in. I think that when we are talking about restraining we need to make it clear that it is not acceptable to use any force nessisary, my son is not some criminal who deserves all he gets, and all people that are attempting this must be fully trained!!!! I think it is also worth pointing out that a lot of situations could be avoided by identifying triggers and watching for warning signs so the child can be removed before an incident occurs. Also worth noting that trying to grab a child during a meltdown will probably also exacerbate the violent defensive behavior. x x x

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  8. Thank you for this. So many people lack an understanding about the necessity of safe restraint, both for the safety of the child who is violent and for those around them. I am completely FOR the use of physical restraint and supervised isolation for my violent son, both at school and at home because it prevents him from harming himself and those more vulnerable than him.

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