Friday, January 27, 2012

ACTION ALERT on Restraint and Seclusion*

PLEASE EMAIL YOUR UNITED STATES SENATORS AND ASK THEM TO COSPONSOR THE KEEPING ALL STUDENTS SAFE ACT (S.2020). This bill will protect children with disabilities nationwide from restraint, seclusion and aversive practices used in the public school system.

The need for this legislation is exemplified yet again in a horrific a situation regarding the use of school seclusion rooms, this time in Middletown, CT – See one of many stories on this situation here

How to Contact your U.S. Senator

*reposted with permission

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Another child, another injury from restraint

Please sign this Petition to support the end of restraint and seclusion in Florida schools. 

We will tackle this state by state if we have to but this needs to end.  I will warn you... the video posted is graphic and heartbreaking.  My heart goes out to this mother!

Friday, January 13, 2012

"Scream Room"?? Sounds more like torture room to me.

A school in Connecticut is under fire for having and using what they refer to as a "Scream Room".   They are used when a teacher has lost control of a child's behavior and is used as a seclusion room.  They are supposed to be padded for the child's protection.  This room is not. 

Children as young as 5 are allegedly subjected to this room on a regular basis.  Their screams heard by the other children.   There are claims that the teachers will hold the door closed on the child to keep them inside.  How the hell do these people sleep at night????

I read the comments at the bottom of the article and I wish I could say I'm surprised.  I'd love to take out a full page ad in USA today or some other national magazine or newspaper to let the world know that most parents of special needs kids do parent and discipline our children!  We do NOT expects the schools to raise our children for us.  That often times children are being overly disciplined for either (a) typical, age appropriate behaviors or (b) for behaviors that are caused by neurological responses to their environment. 
Would you expert a child who had a seizure to be disciplined for their behavior?  If not, then why should a child who is verbally or physically stimming (hooting, yelling, humming, spinning, rolling on the floor) be punished? 

My son is a major stim monkey.  His OT once told me if she could hook up an IV of stimulation to him....  Anyway, one of his stim behaviors last year was, at the end of the day, when he was tired and overstimulated, he'd lay on the tile floor and push his face onto the tile.  If this was happening in the classroom, it would have not been a big deal.  However, he tended to do this during dismissal in the middle of the hallway when students are trying to get to their buses.  He posed a hazard to himself and those children.  His teachers didnt' restrain him or seclude him for a behavior that he really couldn't control.  They did what they had to do to keep him safe until we were able to come up with a solution to the challenge.  We found that if he was given sensory stimulation prior to dismissal, it would hold him long enough to get him and his classmates on their buses safely.

I'd love to see action plans for every student - not just special needs.  I'd love to see all teachers setting their students up for success.  As Dylan's teacher, Miss Joan, says over and over again... "If you set children up for success, they will succeed.  If you set them up for failure, they will fail". 

Scream rooms or restraint and seclusion rooms that are used at the drop of a hat is a great way to set up students for failure.  These techniques should be used as a last resort, when an escalation plan has been put into place but does not prevent a child from going into melt down.  Children should not be left alone in a locked room, frightened to the point of harming themselves.  They should be monitored as closely as possible.  These rooms should have cameras to prevent the abuse of students AND school staff.

People, this isn't rocket science.

Friday, January 06, 2012

Keeping All Student Safe Act - An Open Letter

Over the years, I have learned about the use of restraint and seclusion being used as a disciplinary tool in our schools. For some children, it has meant severe mental anguish after being locked in a closet during school hours or, in a recent case, forced into a duffel bag, zipped into it until his mother could get to the school and free him. For other children, the use of restraint has resulted in injuries from being duct taped or tied into chairs. Some schools have specially made restraint chairs! The use of restraint has led to some children's death.

While these disciplinary actions happens across the board with all children, it is an area of extreme concern in the special needs community. Children, young adults and adults within special needs community can easily victimized by teachers, aids and may not be able to communicate what is happening to their parents and/or caregivers.

My son Dylan, unfortunately, experienced being restrained this summer. He has a one-on-one advocate (she's worked with him for the past two years, is the parent of a special needs child herself, handles Dylan wonderfully and he adores her). He was angry at her because she wasn't letting him have his way. He was flapping his arms, telling her he was mad at her and he was going to walk away. Now, this is typical of Dylan when he gets angry and we have all worked hard to teach him that sometimes you just need to take yourself out of a frustrating situation and regroup. His Advocate knew this, was comfortable with this and had numerous situations where he responded this way and they worked through things in about 5-10 minutes. However, this particular day she was being shadowed by her supervisor who decided that my 3'11" tall, 47 pound son posed a physical threat to his advocate and physically restrained him, bruising his wrists in the process. I was furious. We had no legal recourse against this woman. There are no laws currently to protect our children. As I type this, she's teaching pre-school for special needs children. While we didn't expect her to lose her regular job, there is no database to track this behavior. We were lucky - the bruise and the memory faded quickly for him... but not for me.

Restraint can be necessary. It's important that the teachers and other caregivers have the means to protect the students, themselves and anyone else who may be in the middle of a situation. However, people have gone overboard. People have needlessly died.

US Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) who crafted the American With Disabilities Act, has introduced the S. 2020: Keeping All Students Safe Act. For a fantastic outline of what this Act will hopefully achieve, please see a post by Jessica Butler who is the Congressional Affairs Coordinator for the National Autism Committee at OUR Journey Through Autism.

Please, if you have taken the time to read this, please take a few extra minutes and read the legislation and support it. Email Jessica at to share your support. If you have a story to share about seclusion and/or restraint, she'd love to hear them. If you don't, your support is enough. Contact your local senators and let them know that you want their support on this important piece of legislation.

Thank you for your time!

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Too Important Not To Share!

How do you feel about the use of seclusion and restraint in your child's schools?  Were you aware that your child's teacher and physically restrain your child, lock them in a closet or other room and face no legal action? 

This summer, Dylan was injured (slightly) when someone unnecessarily restrained him.  We had no legal recourse against her.  Keeping All Students Safe Act, S.2020 will change that!

Please see this post over at OUR Journey Thru Autism and let Jessica know your thoughts on the matter.  Even if you don't have a story to share, if you support this bill (how could you not?), please email Jessica and spread the word!