Let me start this post by asking this question,
“There’s mounting evidence that several B.C. schools are restraining children who act out and putting them in isolation rooms” (CTVNews)
“parents from across the province who reported that school staff used various forms of physical restraint and seclusion against their children, many of whom have special needs” (CTVNews)
“some children were locked alone in small rooms, including closets and stairwells. The length of isolation ranged from five minutes to more than three hours” (CTVNews)
The answer for me is never. It is never ok to treat anyone like this, especially our most vulnerable and especially children.
The fact is – and I have lived it – schools have a difficult time keeping up with the needs of children who require more specialized attention than their peers. The ‘not-typical’ kids, the ‘medically fragile’, the ones who don’t fit the norm. These children don’t fit in the regular system, but they are forced in there like square pegs to round holes, and resilient as they are, they do their best work within a system that lacks the infrastructure and supports to truly educate them.
It is called ‘integration’ and it is full of IPRCs and IEPs (if and when they are used) and endless advocacy, but what it should be truly called is, ‘we’ll do what we can, but it won’t be consistent across schools, administrations or teachers, and at best it will be haphazard and you’ll have to make do’. It’s not integration, but as parents to these children we work with the schools to make it the best we can for our kids.
What is resulting from the lack of support and lack of parental engagement (in many cases) is that children with special needs who have associated behavioural issues are not being managed properly and teachers – who for the most part are amazing and doing their best with what they have been given – are using inappropriate measures to manage these children.
It used to be frequent trips to the corridor, or principals office, but now…
Isolation rooms? Restraints? Holds?
For elementary aged school children?
How do you think this child feels? What emotions do they have when this happens to them? A child who is already challenged and likely feeling isolated? A child who cannot regulate their emotions as a ‘typical’ child might be able to and is already distressed.
“Forms of restraint included having arms twisted behind a student’s back, being held in a chair, having wheelchair straps put around a student’s legs, and being put in wrestling holds” (CTVNews)
A nursing friend of mine, who works with psych patients, told me these measures are rarely used with adult patients. And isolation rooms are unheard of.
When did this become ok for our children. When did we all stop paying attention. When did we start the slippery slope of justifying this – no matter how frustrated we got. When did we stop asking for help, or seeking other measures.
“parents weren’t even told about the practices used on their children”
This is beyond bold, and the part that upsets me the most personally. I know who Kate’s teachers are, I know her EA, her classroom ECE, her itinerant deaf teacher. I know the principal and assistant principal and the office staff. I am regularly at her school. But I don’t know each and every teacher personally and I know there are many adults who come in contact with Kate over the course of a school day who I am not aware of. Kate can’t tell me how her day was. She can’t tell me if a particular teacher said or did something that upset her. She can’t help me to protect her or advocate for her as a ‘typical’ child could.
Let me be clear that I trust the adults who are with her. But reading an article like this heightens my awareness and instinct to ensure I know exactly what is going on with Kate and how she is being ‘managed’ at her school. Even if I think I know – I want to be sure.
Trust is something parents of special needs children don’t have the luxury of. You have to KNOW.
This situation in BC has made that abundantly clear.
WE CAN DO BETTER.