We Can Do Better

Let me start this post by asking this question,

When is this ok?

“There’s mounting evidence that several B.C. schools are restraining children who act out and putting them in isolation rooms” (CTVNews)


Are B.C. schools using isolation rooms to restrain

“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.




  1. Hi Julie, When Nick was in one his many stays at CHEO, we had a roommate who was a young boy of about 12. I LOVED this boy. He was without any family (except a grandmother in Nova Scotia) and he was a resident in a group home for kids with behaviour issues. The staff at the group home had restrained him and broken his leg in a spiral fracture, one that required surgery. This boy told me that he didn’t want to sign the consent because he wanted to stay in the hospital. He said that he had never been treated so well. What made matters worse was that the people from the group home that had bungled the ‘take down’ or whatever you call restraint visited him. They were obviously not chastened and still pleased with their power over this boy. He special needs, I suppose on the basis of his impulses, etc. but he was able-bodied and verbal. I’ll never get over that boy – what happened to him was so unjust. I hugged him and cried when we left because I knew there was nothing I could do and I’d never see him again. He was so vulnerable.


    1. Donna, this is chilling and it hurts my heart. I know some children can be more than challenging to deal with, and it takes very special people to work with them with an incredible amount of patience. But I keep coming back to – what if this was your child? And I worry about how things will be for Kate as she gets older and becomes more challenging. Many people have commented that we have to see this from the other side – from the perspective of the other children, and I agree that we do. But seeing from another side still does not excuse this. There is a better way.


  2. This should be a huge call out to government agencies that regulate education in every province and to the ministries of social services for children and developmental services. Constant cutting in schools for EAs and specialized services has left schools with few resources to service and educate the most vulnerable children. Our children deserve much better, after all, it was the Ministry of Education that closed specialized schools in favour of having all children integrate in main stream schools then took away the funding resources needed, not only in schools but across the life spectrum. Canada is in a crisis situation ever since the closure of institutions. It’s time all ministries put their money where their mouth is. They should be ashamed, nothing has changed! It really upsets me for all these kids, their teachers and our future young adults. Transparancey and policies plus much better supports need to be put in place all across all boards.


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