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Your Thoughts on Restraints and Seclusion


A few days ago I finished an article on the use of restraints and seclusion in schools, prompted by a report from the National Disability Rights Network, "School is Not Supposed to Hurt." (pdf) The Government Accountability Office, a Congressional watchdog agency, is working on its own report about the same topic.

The National Disability Rights Network, formerly known as the National Association of Protection and Advocacy Systems, represents the protection and advocacy agencies that are in each state. (You can find a link to your state's P&A agency here.) After a media expose in the 1970s of mistreatment of patients at a New York mental health facility, Congress created the protection and advocacy agencies to represent the rights of people with disabilities across the country.

My article only scratches the surface of this very difficult and controversial issue. But in a quirk of perfect timing, the always-useful Wrightslaw blog has a post indicating that the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates is collecting stories about the use of abusive restraints and seclusion to submit to the GAO for its report.

You can find the survey through this link. And you can read more about the project here.


I have worked with children who have emotional/behavioral disorders and children with autism. I have gone through training to learn how to restrain out of control children with the utmost caution in order not to harm them.

Every time I was involved in a restraint, I worried about the child, and I worried about the harm they could do to me also. These children kick, bite, punch, and spit at you while you are trying to restrain them. You have to swiftly take control of the situation and at the same time watch what the child is doing. I'm not sure there is a foolproof way to restrain a child.

Concerning seclusion...these children should never be left alone. Someone should be observing the child at all times. I cannot fathom that people leave children in total seclusion. That is unconscionable.

I have noticed over the years as an educator, that when training is provided to teachers and other personnel in restraint, that all of the sudden a great number of people are restraining kids.

I have also worked in simular environments were training in restraint wasn't provided and not in the culture. I can barely recall an incident were restraint might have been warranted.

This is why I oppose physical restraints.


Excellent article. I am generally in agreement with Amy and Thomas. Seclusion is never warranted. While restraint may on occasion be immediately unavoidable, it tends to open up a reliance that is at best not helpful, at worst abusive. Certainly an ongoing part of any restraint situation should be constant communication about how the child can end it (stop kicking, hold still, promise not to run--whatever it is that prompted the intervention)--and follow through immediately when the child complies.

And certainly any training should only be within a context that stresses the role of prevention, heavily. I recall reading a follow-up evaluation of a children's mental health facility where restraints had attracted legal attention. A good bit of the preventive training focused on low-skilled aides who actually reported feeling very empowered by being shown ways of preventing the need for, rather than using, restraints.

I wonder how many uses of restraints are spurred by trying to get a child to "comply" with the requirements of a "behavior plan" that is ill advised (ie: a list of imposed restrictions--sit in "time out," go to seclusion, go to the office, etc.) and results in a power play between the child and adult.

After reading about restraints, I am appauld that the state has thrown full inclusion oa all students and teachers with no concern for the other children or the teacher. Every child does not need to be in the full inclusion classroom.
I think its unfair to teachers to dump these children on regular education teachers who did not specialize in special education or have a desire to teach these type of children. Many of these students are disruptive and need one or one assistance.
It is ridiculous that we have taken a paraprofessional who has helped 15 to 20 students in a subject to run around behing an austic or down syndrome child.
the child may have tapped out or just able to master basic skills to function. Whereas, the average and below average student are the ones suffering when these kids are in the classes.
It seems that the only people with rights in public school are special needs. If they start fights 15 days is a limit.
We were hoping Obama would re-open trade schools and the special needs schools. If you place them in schools with staff to properly deal with all their issues then you will not have this problem because teachers are not going to work with objects being thrown at them,students biting and slapping the so called normal people.

I believe that children who need to be physically restrained need to be in at least a Level 5 setting/emotionally disturbed classroom. The problem comes, however, when these children are misplaced and special educators AND regular educators who have absolutely no training in physical restraint are forced to restrained out of safety for the child, the other children and themselves.

In a perfect world, we could say "just put the child in the right spot", but in urban settings where nobody cares anything about these children, other than the money they bring to the system and schools, these children stay in the wrong setting. A teacher has a right to protect themselves. Period. If this means the child needs to be restrained from biting, kicking, hitting, scratching them, so be it. Parents need to push to have their children put elsewhere if they do not want their children restrained or touched after attacking somebody. And school districts really need to get real with going beyond the paperwork and helping educators to actually implement accomodations for children who clearly are emotionally disturbed or with severe autism, when they have children who do not have problems with being violent.

i'm a computer teacher and I just got beat up today by a little autistic child who was placed in the wrong setting. I had no choice but to restrain him, with an unsupportive administration and no real assistance. Until i get the support i need. i will remain in "survival" mode, and use what i can to maintain order and safety in the classroom.

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