Restraint and Seclusion: A Mini-blog

Restraint and Seclusion: A Mini-blog


“I trusted this member of staff to help me when I was feeling scared and then I saw her holding the door shut one day.  I could hear a kid screaming inside. Then I was confused because I had trusted her and I didn’t know if she was nice anymore”

It has come to my attention that Children as young a 6 are regularly restrained and placed in seclusion in schools in Britain.  Here are four questions to considered in the context of children of average ability and with an Autistic Spectrum Condition…

If restraint and / or seclusion ‘works’ to modify behaviour then each child would need it less over time, then not at all?  So, if it continues to be needed, then what purpose is it serving? Some possibilities:

If it is considered to be a strategy that the child ‘needs’ then what next?  How will this impact on his or her independence in the future?  How will they manage to regulate as an adult if they haven’t had the support they need to manage this as a child?  So, when schools use this as a strategy, what are their approaches to supporting independence as the child gets older.  *Independence is more than being able to take the bus*.  True independence will only be achieved for children that can manage their emotions and understand and manage their own triggers, surely?

What is being done to understand the triggers? If a child is so distressed that they need to be wrestled to the ground by adults and shut in rooms little better than a concrete cell (yes it is ‘legal’) then is a therapy team working to understand the cause?  After all, this behaviour is triggered by fight and flight (well perhaps until it becomes entrenched, at least) so what is being done to understand the underlying adrenaline surge?

For those children who are subject to restraint and seclusion what does research tell us about the long term consequences?

Some things to consider:

  • Ensure that EVERY time your child is restrained and every time they go to seclusion there is a written record.  Don’t agree to it under any other circumstance.
  • Keep notes on anything that your child says about the use of seclusion.  Is it used as a threat?  ‘If you dont do x you will be sent to seclusion’ and any other contextual information such as staff holding the door shut.
  • Use the questions above to work with the school.
  • Ask for regular meetings to review the restraints, the triggers for these and strategies to reduce them.  Don’t accept them as inevitable aspects of school provision.
  • Find out who is trained and to what level, to carry out these restraints.
  • Find out what level of behaviour triggers restraints – is it only used as a last resort when the child has lost control or is it used as an early intervention when behaviour is starting to escalate.

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6 thoughts on “Restraint and Seclusion: A Mini-blog

  1. Reblogged this on School Refuser Families and commented:
    The use of restraint with school anxious/refusing children to force them into the school environment, or to remain while a parent leaves is something which should surely be questioned, both in terms of the damage it does to the child’s mental well-being and levels of anxiety; and the validity of using physical force to maintain school attendance above all else. This practice is usually carried out against the wishes of the child and the parent (using threats of prosecution for non-attendance) – is that really how we want to treat children and their families? and should we ask WHY would any child need to be restrained or physically forced into a school environment?


    1. Thank you. I am quite nervous about this one as I think it may upset the very parents we aim to support. Very tricky one for me. I hope though that by creating a converstaion that fewer families will have to endure this in the future 😦


  2. Brilliant post, and I agree with bethbod too – we can’t expect our children to want to attend school and be happy there if they have to be dragged in kicking and screaming and then held down while their one anchor of safety waves goodbye for the next 6 hours as they are sobbing for rescue! That’s a definite need and should be treated as such; truancy and school refusal are two very different things.


  3. Ask for restraint records, they will say its not policy, not possible etc.. But it is vital you see how often and if they diminish over time … Or else indicate over reliance on Team Teach (if they are indeed trained). Tram Teach and similar methods are NOT Autism specific, make sure your child has a very good behaviour plan with triggers and de escalation strategies that you permit. Find out via foi how many formal complaints were made in the last 10 years re safeguarding for that setting. If the staff tell you some pupils need restraint as part of their plan, that is a red flag. If they say they use it as a last resort .. That is a vague and ultimately useless statement – ask them to qualify it with restraint records. Ask what accredited autism qualifications staff hold. Do not assume that they know how sensory processing difficulties impact on children. Be aware that in a special school they can restrain a pupil for “the good order” ie pupil x was refusing to go to registration: Instead of trying to work out the underlying reasons (anxiety for ex), they “confront” the behaviour.. Not very supportive! If you have to, secretly record your Childs day or else you will be told there is no evidence that they have been subjected to inappropriate or excessive restraint.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. You are welcome, I would be more than glad if you shared it in whichever way you felt was best. I wrote it just in case it does help even one family – we went through hell because we didn’t know any better, and by the time we did, my child was traumatised and at risk of institutionalisation. Well done for having the strength to write such insightful and articulate posts xx

        Liked by 1 person

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