While they can be difficult to share, our stories are critical for influencing change. Our stories help others to realize that they are not alone and that they too can influence change. Our stories can influence members of the media to investigate and write articles that can inspire change. Our stories can connect with lawmakers who can change the law to protect our children and our loved ones. Please share your story and let us know how we can use it to influence change.
Read stories from others
Here are stories from parents, advocates, educators and others related to the use of restraint and seclusion.
I started my career working in a residential facility. Restraints and seclusions were common, almost daily experiences. So I have a long history with them. I am embarrassed to say that while I was in my 20’s trying to supervise extremely volatile and impacted children, I saw them as “sometimes necessary for safety.” I don’t think that anymore. As an educator, I have worked relentlessly to decrease the use of these traumatic interventions.
Safety First: A quick start guide for parents working to keep their kids safe from restraint, seclusion, suspension, and expulsion
When I held each of my two kids as newborns, I promised to keep each of them as safe as possible. I know that the world isn’t fair and that no parent can (or should) shield their children from all of life’s difficulties, but I thought that since I had a relatively safe childhood, I could keep both my kids safe from abuse and trauma as elementary school students.
I’m a special educator with over ten years of experience working in self-contained alternative classrooms in Arizona and Vermont. When I began my career, I was a teacher who restrained and secluded young children. I was a teacher who couldn’t have done anything differently because I lacked skills. I was new and inexperienced. I didn’t understand the impacts that trauma and adverse experiences have on young children’s perception of the world. Unknowingly, I contributed to the trauma by using restraint and seclusion. Restraint and seclusion never felt right, so I quit using them.
School is hard. A classmate told my mom I wasn’t a real Princess. My mom said, “How do you know she isn’t a real Princess?” I Iaughed.This Princess is restrained and secluded at school for not listening or not working on boring worksheets or not sitting in my boring chair. Being secluded makes me sad and mad. Mom calls that being smad.
Back in the day, I would usually start my IEP (Individualized Education Program) meetings with a statement like, “Restraint should be the last resort, or things will go downhill quickly.” Every year it seemed to get worse after the first restraint would happen. It was just the beginning of a long road ahead for my son, who is autistic, and has ADHD, anxiety, and PTSD. When he was in public school, he was restrained and secluded. He stopped doing all academics after being secluded and would elope almost daily. I was constantly on call to come up to school! Mason would tell me who would hold each leg and each arm. I guess I consider myself lucky he could tell me what happened. He has an elephant brain and maintains everything, which is a good and a bad thing.
We are parents from the Frederick, MD community and recently read the news about FCPS practices regarding the use of restraint and seclusion. I just started crying, feeling grateful after knowing that thanks to you, people with the emotional strength, knowledge, and support advocated for yours, were listened to, and opened doors of justice for others to begin breaking the apathy barriers needed to improve our education system. No one deserves to be hurt and traumatized by others, no one. Those practices did not just hurt our child when he was in 2nd grade but also his siblings and the whole family. We wrote many letters for months, trying to get the attention of the authorities, but no one replied. It was frustrating, and we had to homeschool our children to protect them from those practices. It was a real nightmare.
Growing up, I lived in a very unstable, violent home. I spent too many nights hiding in my bedroom as I listened to fighting in the other room. I know domestic violence and abuse. I know what it is like to have the police in my living room in the middle of the night to break up a fight and go to school the next day. I witnessed my mom attempt suicide when I was 5, and hours later got on the bus to go to kindergarten as if nothing had ever happened. We were poor and, at times, lived off food stamps. Food was rationed for the week. Once it was gone, it was gone. I remember bare refrigerators with only a handful of items – bologna, hot dogs, some condiments.
I have been on multiple adolescent inpatient psychiatric units and, as a result, have seen the use of seclusion and restraint. I will forever live with the memories of seeing people restrained on the restraint bed and in the seclusion room. Those memories will continue to haunt me for the rest of my life. While I was inpatient, the staff (thankfully) used it correctly when a patient was at risk of serious injury or death to themselves or others.
Today’s guest author is Jennifer Abbanat. Jennifer is a wife and mom to three kids ages 18, 16, and 13. Jennifer is an advocate and voice for her neurodivergent children. She and her family live in Northern California. One shift in our mindset can mean the difference in appropriately meeting a child’s needs or potential … Continue reading An Avoidable Crisis: The Keeping All Students Safe Act (Part 3)
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