Friday, January 1, 2010

When Schools Were Safe

There has been much press over the use of seclusion and restraint in schools, especially concerning kids with developmental and mental health issues. Since I have worked in psychiatry for over 20 years, I find this very interesting. The fact we have this as an issue raises a larger question...WHY? 15 years ago, there was no need to hold a child, or lock them in an isolation room. There were no police on the school campus and teachers actually were more concerned with teaching that disarming their class. But that was when parents were in control of their kids and involved in schools.
The current turmoil, as I understand it, has to do with kids who have ASD ( Autism Spectrum Disorder) or a similar type developmental delay which prevents them from being able to function in a general classroom setting. Sometimes these kids can become combative, but usually if they feel threatened or extremely frustrated, which increases their anxiety level. The general classrooom has limits on the abaility of a teacher to give a child specialized attention based on sheer numbers. Special Ed teachers should be able to handle our kids without causing more escalation by their interventions. But again, numbers sometimes prvent this from occuring. Our classrooms are overcrowded and special education classrooms are saved for the worst case scenarios. There seems to be a ruch to get kids back to general classrooms as quickly as possible even if we know they will fail without adequest supports. For a child on the spectrum, change is a trigger for "disruptive" behavior. These kids thrive and do well on consitency. We in Texas, have a law which prohibits use of seclusion and restraints in all but extreme danger to self or others,in the medical world. Even then, if we do need to hold a child, we have all had specialty training and know how to do this without harming the kid. It takes training, both physical training and phychological training.
Someone who is using a hold needs to know the history of the child. A child who has heightened skin receptors may feel hurt by direct physical contact. Any child who takes longer to process information may feel they are being attacked and strike back. This is traumatic and further damages the ability of the child to mainatin calm behaviors in theis evnivonment. Much like a trauam victim, just the smell or the sight of items they witnessed during the intervention can cause the fear of attack to trigger more disruption. Teachers and school officials are rarely adequately trained in the use of these techniques except to restore order. The psychological impact of the event is an after thought. The recent serious injuries of kids at the hands of school officials is cause for a very seriously look at how we treat our kids as a nation. We teach them might equals right. Bigger and stronger prevails over the weaker. It is ok to make fun of and take advantage of those who are innocents by our standards. I urge all who read this to forward it and then do some research into your own school districts. Find out how school staff receive training on the use of seclusion and restraint. How often do they have to re-certify? What do the policies say? We trust the schools to keep out kids safe. Recent history has shown that trust is sometimes misplaced. OnN the list of blogs I follow, you will find a link to Wright's Law. Please read the blog posts there and get involved locally and at a national level if you so desire. Take a stand for our kids. They are the only future we have.

1 comment:

  1. Please click on the link below to
    Protect Children by Supporting the Preventing Harmful Restraint and Seclusion in Schools Act

    By signing the petition your U.S. Legislatures will be contacted.

    Please sign the restraint and seclusion petition