Today’s guest author is Abigail Werner. Abigail is a student at Brandeis University’s Heller School for Social Policy and Management, where she is earning her degree in socially impactful business administration. She hails from Louisville, Kentucky, where she witnessed the disturbing, repeated restraint of a 6-year-old autistic classmate in her elementary school. Through her internship with the AASR, she hopes to educate and empower people to advocate against the use of seclusion and restraint so that no child has to experience the lasting trauma of being subjected to this treatment.
On #internationaldayofpersonswithdisabilities, I’d like to bring awareness to the disproportionate use of restraint and seclusion on youth with disabilities and Black youth in K-12 schools in the U.S.
In partnership with the The Heller School for Social Policy and Management at Brandeis University and the Alliance Against Seclusion and Restraint, my colleague Imene Bouziane Saidi and I researched this issue in depth over the past few months.
We’ve reviewed numerous reports, listened to heartbreaking stories of self advocates who’ve been traumatized by this treatment, and interviewed close to 40 youth health and behavioral science experts, legislators, lawyers, educators, parents, advocates, and critics.
Above all else, we’ve found the inhumane use of these tactics causes lifelong trauma for restrained and secluded youth and hurts every individual involved.
The person restraining or secluding is traumatized, as well as students and staff who witness the treatment occurring. For young witnesses, the disproportionate restraint and seclusion of Black children with disabilities can shape a life-long bias against people with different racial identities and/or abilities.
So, what can be done?
Public lack of awareness is one of the main barriers to improving safety standards in schools and ensuring behavioral management practices are both #neurodiversity-affirming and trauma sensitive. There is high variation in reported incident data between schools, school districts, and states, meaning the national numbers reported by the Department of Education and the Office for Civil Rights – though shockingly high – are likely well below the realistic number of restraints and seclusions occurring in the U.S.
I’ve included a poster and a suggested reading list for more information on restraint and seclusion. If you are interested in advocating for #disabilityrights and/or learning more about this issue, please do not hesitate to message me or Imene Bouziane Saidi.
Download Poster (PDF)
Suggested reading list: