Restraining Children with Disabilities: 21st Century or 12th Century?
While reading my news feeds this morning, I came across this report on the dangers children have in school due to "disciplinary action". Â Many of the children were injured or died while under disciplinary action, and many of those children had disabilities. Â One child (and the reason it showed up in my feeds) was a 15 yr old autistic child that was killed while being restrained by 4 school employees. Â Personally, I find this report to be shocking. Â I thought we as a human race left solitary confinement as a casual disciplinary measure in the 1800's when it was proven to be detrimental to a person's mental health. Â I also thought the restraining of children with disabilities (like autism) was abandoned by the 1900's. Â Apparently I was wrong.Â Now, there may be people out there that would argue along these lines: Â Children who are unruly need to be brought under control! Â If that means restraining them, then that's what you do! Â If that means threatening them with solitary confinement, that's what you do! Â A few hours (not minutes, not seconds, but hours!) mean nothing if you can finally get control of the situation! Â Let me counter with this: Â Children are not beasts. Â They are learning, they are growing, and they test their boundaries. Â Most importantly, they crave attention. Â If they don't get positive attention, they will try to get negative attention. Â One way or another they will get validation for their existence. Â First with restraining children, particularly children with autism. Â Most autistic children do not want to be touched. Â The simple action of touching an autistic child can overload their sensory experience and send them into a meltdown. Â Often this is called a "temper tantrum", but instead of kicking and screaming, they will run around the room, scream, fall on the floor and try to block out everything around them. Â Sometimes they will even try to override their sensory overload with pain, and hurt themselves. Â The more you try to restrain an autistic child, the more likely they are to increase the behavior. Â Solitary confinement was used in the 1700's and 1800's as a means of "humane punishment", where a person would sit quietly and think about the wrongs they had done. Â They would be shut in, with no hope of escape, almost completely locked out from any sensory experience. Â Unfortunately, with the idea that you have no hope of freedom or contact from another person, it can cause a mental breakdown precluded by panic attacks. Â This can heighten the effects of the "punishment", and cause serious mental anguish and suffering, often leading to desperate means of escape. Â In the case of a 13 yr old, that escape was suicide. Â This is not healthy on a developing young mind for obvious reasons. Â I'm appalled that any educational institution would resort to such drastic measures in order to "gain control" of a situation. Â I would hope that, particularly where disabilities are concerned, educators would be well informed enough to manage a situation in a manner that diffuses the situation instead of escalating it. Â That means understanding the child's condition, learning about it, and making judgement calls with their needs in mind.