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]
I came across the Low Arousal Approach and Professor Andrew McDonnell’s work three years after our son had been repeatedly restrained and secluded in his Central Massachusetts Elementary School. Ten years old at the time, we quickly saw the signs of trauma take hold. Four years later our son has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), an anxiety disorder. Today he continues to have nightmares and a consistent worry that teachers from his old school will find him and restrain him again. When we learned his story was not unique, it became important to understand how restraint and seclusion fit into our schools, and training was a big piece of this.
Elimination of restraint and seclusion in schools is not only possible, but it is also morally and ethically imperative
The use of restraint and seclusion in our nation’s schools has been debated for decades; these procedures continue to be used today despite reports of psychological and physical harm, including the deaths of students; and they are disproportionately used with disabled children and Black, brown, and indigenous children. Use of these procedures causes psychological harm to observers and physical and psychological harm to the individuals doing the secluding or restraining, including death. Restraint means restricting the student’s ability to move his or her torso, arms, legs, or head freely, and seclusion is confining a student alone in a room or area that he or she is not permitted to leave. In a letter submitted for consideration at the 2019 hearing on Classrooms in Crisis: Examining the Inappropriate Use of Seclusion and Restraint Practices, The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) stated that the harmful use of aversives, restraint, and seclusion in our schools deny students an equal educational opportunity and violate their civil and human rights.
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Many folks don’t know that seclusion and restraint techniques are used as interventions when students aren’t able to comply with the task at hand during the school day. Unfortunately, these methods cause trauma and sometimes irreparable damage, developmental regression, injury, and even death.
My son is, Stryder, is in 5th grade. Stryder has autism, learning disabilities, auditory processing disorder, sensory processing disorder, and ADHD. This school year has been difficult for him to say the least. Stryder is in a hybrid model where he receives in-person instruction at school 4 days a week and on Wednesdays, he does virtual learning from home. The transitions are difficult for Strdyer because the expectations vary from setting to setting. Additionally, Stryder struggles with math and reading so during these subjects we tend to see increased behaviors that communicate he is challenged.
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