“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:
- kudos for the staff (“I have to manage kids so disturbed……”)?;
- as a way staff survive when they have little training and support?;
- a predictable habit for the child whose anxiety has not been properly understood or addressed?;
- a way of managing children who can’t cope and really need therapy, understanding, interventions and alternative strategies?;
- it validates the parents’ struggles (“it’s not just us that struggles to manage our child”)?
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.