Restraint and seclusion are crisis management strategies that are used in many schools across the nation and the world. Physical Restraint, is exactly what it sounds like, it is a personal restriction that immobilizes or reduces the ability of a student to move his or her torso, arms, legs or head freely. Seclusion is the involuntary confinement of a student alone in a room or area from which the student is physically prevented from leaving. These interventions are dangerous and have led to serious injuries and even death in students, teachers and staff.
According to federal guidance restraint and/or seclusion should never be used except in situations where a child’s behavior poses an imminent danger of serious physical harm to self or others, and restraint and seclusion should be avoided to the greatest extent possible without endangering the safety of students and staff. The important wording here is “serious physical harm”, these measures are not intended merely for unsafe situations, but rather to situations that could result in death or serious bodily injury. As such based on federal guidance restraint and seclusion should be exceedingly rare. However, it has been found that restraint and seclusion are occurring far more frequently in schools across the nation and are not always limited to situations that involve imminent serious physical harm. [Read More]
My experience with the special needs community started with volunteer work when I was sixteen. I started working for a company that helped special needs children and their families deal with the difficulties of navigating the school system. I left that work for a while, and as it turns out my path led me to law school and then to be a stay home mom. Both of my children are neurotypical, so my perspective is not as a parent, but I genuinely seek to elevate the voices of the parents and children in this amazing community.
When I was writing up my doctoral thesis in Peace and Conflict Studies, I became a mother for the first time. Parenting a very special neurodiverse child taught me more about peace and conflict than any book, and it led me to design the award-winning ‘The Everyday Peace Toolkit Project’, where ‘peace’ is not an abstract, far away concept, but practical strategies that we use to respond to challenges that we face in our lives and communities – for example raising, protecting, and advocating for a child that could be perceived as different.
I’ve considered our parenting style “middle of the road” since our two children were born. We read “What to Expect when you’re Expecting,” sleep books, toddler books, and so on. We never spanked. We sent kids to their rooms for timeouts, created behavior charts, and counted to three. We used “grandma’s rule” – you can have screen time after you pick up your toys, for example. We were consistent in our parenting – following through on consequences and rewards. We played with our children – giving each child quality time and attention. We weren’t perfect, but we were doing our best.
From August 2017 to December 2018, Illinois public school districts documented over 15,000 physical restraints with a quarter of those beginning with no documented safety reason. In the 50,000 pages of documentation of seclusion and restraint incidents in Illinois public schools, there are records of many students saying they can’t breathe and are being hurt as they are being restrained. Specific injuries – “Cuts on the students’ hands, scratches on necks and noses. Collarbones that hurt to touch. Knots on their heads and split lips. Sore ankles and wrists.” – were documented, and at least twenty-four times an ambulance had to be called due to the severity of the injury.
Being an advocate is not just my career. From the day we brought our daughter home, I have fought for her. You see, my daughter is on the Autism Spectrum with severe anxiety. This journey hasn’t been an easy one. Before she was diagnosed it was a constant battle getting doctors to hear me when I said she was on the spectrum, most wouldn’t listen because she was a girl. Even after her diagnosis, it like an all-out war just to get my daughter the correct supports she desperately needed in school.
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