Once upon a time, a tale of seclusion and restraint

Today’s guest author is Sandy Eyles

Sandy is a parent of two children – one with a disability and one without. She lives in NC with her husband, two children, two cats, and one dog. She works full-time as a designer but spends her free time advocating for children with disabilities and equity in our public schools. 


Once upon a time, there was a little girl who was secluded and restrained and was afraid of school.

School is an overwhelming place when you have sensory needs. You see, all day this little girl had to self regulate as she would easily become overstimulated. Loud sounds, bustling children, echoey gyms. Every day she tried to understand rules and assignments. Doing her best so that she would be considered a good little girl.

Day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year, she worked hard to go to school. Some days it was just too scary and she could not go. Sometimes she would be secluded and restrained because she was too afraid to say goodbye to mommy and daddy.

On other days, she would get overwhelmed. Once, she got really frustrated and threw some books and the rest of the class had to leave. She felt too ashamed to ever go into that classroom again.

Her mom tried to work with the school so that it would not be so scary. But the principal told her that the little girl’s needs were outside of their wheelhouse.

Now the little girl is in a new school and she is excited to go to school every day. She rarely gets frustrated or afraid, but when she does, her teacher helps her. She also has straight A’s.

The little girl did not change. She still has sensory needs and gets anxious. Her needs are exactly the same as they were before.

But now, in her new environment, the adults behave differently. They understand she is not bad. She was just afraid. They do everything they can to help her feel safe.

The little girl was never the problem. She just needed adults who would understand her and help her in the right ways.

This is a lesson for New Hanover County Schools. Don’t seclude children. Change adult behavior instead. And when that happens, every child can go to school and feel safe, just like this little girl.

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