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Special Educators' Group Sets Standards for Restraint and Seclusion


The Council for Exceptional Children, a professional association for special educators, has announced a policy on the use of physical restraint and seclusion in school settings. The group hopes to establish as a professional standard that such procedures should only be used as a last resort when a child or others are in immediate danger, the policy says.

The group is also pushing for new laws that would require data on restraint and seclusion be reported to outside agencies, such as state or provincial departments of education.

"This policy indicates the high professional ethics and standards the special education community holds itself to," CEC President Kathleen Pucket said in a statement. "There are numerous evidence-based practices that do not involve physical restraints or seclusion that teachers and school personnel may use to manage challenging behaviors. Restraint and seclusion procedures, if used at all, must be implemented properly. One child harmed is one too many."

The policy said neither restraint nor seclusion should be used as a punishment to force compliance. Interventions for children with behavior problems should focus on prevention and positive behavioral supports. School staff should be required to have training on how to avoid and defuse crisis and conflicts. There must be an adult supervising any child in seclusion. If a school uses physical restraint or seclusion procedures, there should be a written positive behavior-support plan and pre-established emergency procedures, the policy says.

Readers can view CEC's full policy on physical restraint and seclusion here.


If we start resorting to physical restraint and seclusion, we are taking two steps backwards. History does not need to be reinacted here. Anyone who believes this is the answer needs have be put in physical restraint and seclusion and see if it the right thing to do. There are WAY better methods, people are just starting to get lazy.

Ask yourself this question? Is this in the best interest of the child?

Ask yourself? Is this a "best practice" in education?

Ask yourself? What does the research show?

Ask yourself? What are the alternatives?

Ask yourself? Would you like to be treated in this manner?

Ask Yourself? Would you like a friend, neighbor or student treated in this manner?

Ask yourself? What is your school's policy?

What is the school district policy?

Finally, What can you do or suggest that is positive and could circumvent restraint and seclusion?

Thank you,

L Alcott

I agree in principle to many of the points others have stated. However, as an Autistic Support teacher, I can tell you that some children have behaviors that go beyond the scope of schools to handle effectively without restraint or seclusion. I have on more than a few occasions witnessed a child throwing a violent tantrum (knocking over desks, scratching people, banging on windows, trying to run into the street). Removing other children and staff from where a child is having a tantrum can be a safe way to handle the situation. However, restraint is the only option in the case of elopement in the community. Surely parents don't want their children hit by a car.

The fact is that some special-needs students in regular schools have extreme behaviors and reactions to things that are perfectly reasonable, like fire alarms, changes in a schedule. Some children have medical issues that can prompt extreme tantrums like sensitivity to light and noise and poor sleep habits.

I say by all means let's examine closely where and when restraint and seclusion are appropriate. Then, let's train all staff. Lastly, let's make sure that classrooms have adequate suppport for students with behaviors that represent a danger to themselves or others.

Nikki's comments, while carefully and responsibly stated, are some that raise a red flag for me. In any discussion of restraints and seclusion (or discipline in general), someone is bound to bring in the "what do you do with a kid who throws a chair?" question. The difficulty in answering this question is that the goal of a well functioning behavior plan (whether individual, class or school wide) is to prevent that from ever happening.

Families of autistic children, for instance, learn through hard experience to circumvent tantrums that result from schedule changes by maintaining a high degree of regularity, introducing change gradually and putting a great deal of effort into preparing for any needed changes. It is very frustrating, then, to see their child thrust into situations that they know will be terrifying, result in extreme behavior and bring about "consequences" such as restraint and secluson that only serve to magnify their terror. This does not have to happen nearly as often as it does.

Certainly the worst cases, in which children have died as the result of restraints, or when unattended in seclusion, are not every day scenarios. However, we must regard these as the tip of the iceberg. Death does not always occur when restraints or seclusion are used. However, the data (or lack thereof, which is more often the case) suggests that restraints and seclusion are far more often inappropriately than appropriately used. It is sometimes incredibly easy (whether intentionally or inadvertently) to escalate a kid with special needs into a situation in which they "need" restraint or seclusion.

I agree with Nikki that all staff need adequate training and classrooms need adequate support for students with special needs. I would add to that that one missing dimension is that when we are able to build that kinds of classrooms that focus on preventing, rather than responding to undesireable behaviors, or on teaching desireable behaviors, rather than punishing the unworkable ones, these classrooms will be better places for all kids--not just those with special needs.

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