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The Angel in the Engine: Reports of Restraint, Seclusion and “Special Treatment” in Special Ed

Circle-timev3 Managing Editor's Note:  Click to enlarge and read the photo, an ad from our sponsor NAA. This is a thoughtful, two part post by Adriana Gamondes. Last week we read of a young man with autism who had bleach thrown in his eyes for a toileting accident. As the numbers of student with autism grows (1 in 38 boys?) and the adult population soars, what can we expect for our loved ones?  The post follows the poem. Grab a coffee, spend some time with this one and share it with friends, family and educators, won't you?

Special Ed—Part 1

By Adriana Gamondes

The Angel in the Engine

It starts with just a little tap
A little jolt
A little rap
They swore the thing was stripped for scrap
But wound in weeds it lay in wait
The angel in the engine
Is whispering your name
And warns you of forgotten freight
It starts with just a little cry
It barely breathes
Gears grind with such a distant grief
Then bear down at the speed of crime
The angel in the engine
Is whispering your name
And tells you it will run on time

It starts with just a little mark
Just for the charts
If memory serves (they like it, see)
But memory fails (then so do we)
It’s only rust on every rail
And loving hands to help them sleep
The angel in the engine
Is whispering your name
And tells you how they spit their teeth

It ends with just a little strike
A little flame
A little spark
They all fall softly in the switching yard
That’s how in hell they learn
The angel in the engine
Is whispering their names
And asks you what this match will burn

I wrote the above at 2 in the morning after watching the Government Accountability Office hearings on restraint, seclusion and death in special education (HERE.)
Shortly after seeing the GAO coverage last May, I met with our local school nurse in order to start the process of registering my vaccine-injured twins for kindergarten after two years of homeschooling. First I had to ask about food handling and management of allergies, then I asked about the “quiet room”, adding that my husband and I weren’t going to sign off on its use. The nurse was taken aback and began to defend the room—kids like the quiet time, there would always be someone in there with them, it would never be locked, there were windows and it would never be used for punishment. I told her that as much as I knew in my heart that the staff at this school would never deliberately endanger my children, all the reassurances she was offering were the same as those used by schools where children had died. I said that if all attempts to stick to the Individual Education Plan failed on certain days, they should simply call me and I would be at the school in an instant, but we wouldn’t agree to anyone laying hands on our children.  Her face fell and she said impatiently, “Well, I think we’ve been over all the potential disasters”. Yes, of course, parents who over-focus on disasters…her remark evoked a hash of recent studies equating autism with parental mental illness—never mind whether those disasters are actually happening every day. 

If the nurse was trying to assure me that the room would never be used as punishment, the fact that the school suddenly dropped all plans to register the children for a summer program after this conversation was not reassuring. I could be wrong, but it seemed we were being punished for attempting to take away a counted-on tool for managing children with learning disabilities. My husband and I decided that we’d continue to homeschool if we couldn’t get placement in a private program which could be confirmed not to use restraint, seclusion or other aversive practices.

A year before the GAO hearings, I learned about the “mechanics” of restraint and seclusion—now commonly referred to as “R&S”—the easy way: someone told me about it.“Cassandra”, as I’ll call her because her clients could suffer if her identity was revealed, is a close friend who works pro bono as an attorney-advocate for families of disabled students. A fellow warrior and “biomed” mother with a vaccine-injured son the same age as my twins, Cassandra was just becoming active on a national level against abuse of disabled students a year ago and was suffering under the weight of what she was learning. 

She described how autistic children seemed to be the particular targets of abusive practices in many public and private schools and how, despite attempts to blame the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) for the abuses because of the legislation’s preference for inclusion (integrating typical and disabled students), the abuse mostly happens in self-contained  (disability-only) classrooms among frequently nonverbal witnesses.

Cassandra explained how budgetary problems with providing research-based therapeutic safe-guards against disruptive behavior such as Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) were just part of the problem, since the per-child funding schools receive is often channeled to a general education fund and Individual Education Plans were not consistently honored. She said she’d found some schools behave as if they were doing a favor to parents to even teach their autistic children and did not feel accountable for how the children were treated under their auspices.

She told me how the Department of Education had responded to IDEA by gradually carving out virtual legal immunity for certain practices which even government agencies like SAHMSA have worked to ban in other federally funded facilities. Cassandra discussed how many of the restraint/seclusion practices used in schools would be illegal anywhere else, effectively making public and some private schools like “foreign soil” where constitutional rights are abridged, particularly for select students. 

She told of countless reports of paperwork being altered after incidents of abuse, how documentation and taped evidence disappeared, how parents who complained were silenced with “slap” lawsuits by the schools, how staff witnesses refused to testify truthfully or were suspended before they could. She explained how police often wouldn’t take reports of abuse, how child protection agencies have no jurisdiction in schools and how schools’  “Due Process” is too frequently grossly biased. 

She told me how school staff— even in cases which resulted in the deaths of children—simply went on to work in the same or another school district. She sent me articles, Youtube segments, files of family testimonies filled with descriptions of horror and injustice. 

Children asphyxiated on their own vomit, lying on a hard floor with several adults leaning on their ribs. Children shuddering their final breath in pain and terror, the last words they might hear on earth a mocking, “Quit faking”.  Children strapped to Rifton-type chairs, forcibly choked on food, hit and slapped, stripped naked in public, sent to cinder block closets to sit in their own blood and excrement. Children having pills forced down their throats, burned with hot pans and chemicals, handcuffed and duct taped, dragged through classrooms with broken bones. Children deliberately induced into seizures as a joke, called names, laughed at, traumatized. All at the hands of those charged with their safety and education.

Reverse Engineers

Like most of the people I’ve encountered who are involved in the effort to bring R&S to public attention, Cassandra protests that she hasn’t “done that much” and then immediately lists the people she feels have done more. If evil were a machine, then these would be the reverse engineers. One person Cassandra talks about a lot is Phyllis Musumeci, the founder of Families Against Restraint and Seclusion (HERE), whom Cassandra credits with playing a considerable role in getting information to the GAO , resulting in Congressional hearings. 

Phyllis, as it turns out, is similarly modest and tends to credit everyone else’s work and sacrifice in bringing the R&S issue to the fore.  Phyllis and Cassandra both speak about Lori McIlwain’s phenomenal  recent anti-R&S campaign for the National Autism Organization (HERE) and Curtis Decker’s key work for the National Disability Rights Network (HERE), among other participants.

They both mention Isabelle Zehnder’s Coalition Against Institutionalized Child Abuse (HERE) in amassing a “death list”, albeit for residential treatment centers, not schools. Zehnder’s list, as vastly incomplete as it is, remains the most comprehensive in existence because, as the GAO reported this year (HERE), “…There is no comprehensive reporting system to track such injuries and deaths or the rates of restraint and seclusion use by facility. Because reporting is so fragmentary, we believe many more deaths related to restraint or seclusion may occur.”

Phyllis Musumeci is the mother of Christian Musumeci,  a teenage boy with autism coupled with Cornelia de Lange syndrome. Phyllis and her husband Gianni live in Florida.
By the time Christian was in seventh grade, Phyllis discovered that the school had been restraining and secluding her son for over fourteen months. Before she understood what was happening, Phyllis noticed Christian’s darkening mood and emotional withdrawal. Then Christian began coming home with bruises, but he would only say that he “fell down”.

What Christian left out was who had held and pushed him to make him “fall” in the first place.

As too often happens, after more than a year of abuse, Christian became violent at home for the first time and Phyllis and her husband were baffled by the dramatic changes in their son. The only explanation for this was the “experts’” usual alibi for all things autistic—“puberty”.  But the school’s restraint logs offered another explanation: Christian, like other autistic students, was being forced into the face-down prone restraint position and put into isolation almost daily for the least infraction and for behaviors having to do with autism—such as being unable to tolerate the blare from music class.  If puberty had anything to do with staff conduct in Christian’s situation, it was merely the static perception of what dangers might be presented by adolescence in autism; a tragically self-fulfilling prophesy in many cases.  

Medical authorities are in agreement that children with Christian’s particular co-morbid condition tend to suffer from pain from various known physical ailments that come in tow with the disorder, particularly GI disorders—the very mitigating conditions that medical authorities deny in relation to children with idiopathic or “regressive” autism. Not that this known cause of physical pain seemed to inspire empathy among the staff of Christian’s school, though. Staff also appeared uninterested in the fact that Christian’s condition might make him that much easier to kill: the primary cause of death during restraint is traumatic asphyxiation, often caused by aspirating vomit.  When at last Phyllis was able to pry the story out of her son, Christian described his experience with restraint in this way: “Mom, they hurt me. They held me down on the floor”.

Phyllis went to the school for an explanation and found that the year’s worth of restraint logs on her son had “gone missing”. Later, during her family’s lawsuit against the school, school officials would falsely claim that they had demonstrated “professional crisis management” techniques (physical holds) for her from the beginning—a verbal report which was taken seriously by the Florida Department of Education despite the school’s inability to provide documentation verifying any such thing.

Phyllis’s List

In the mean time, the school’s aggression had taken hold in Christian—they had taught him well. The Musumecis reluctantly placed their previously gentle son in residential care where he remains.  That’s when something in Phyllis nearly broke and she embarked on a single-minded data-gathering mission which should be familiar to any parent of a vaccine injured child.  Phyllis logged thousands of hours on the computer over the next three years, staying up past midnight on most nights, putting out hundreds of Google alerts for stories in the news on restraint, seclusion and abuse in schools in every area of the country. She located the few organizations which were active in the issue and found that these were sometimes at an impasse because coercive practices on the part of schools had effectively shut down some parents’ willingness to report the crimes against their children. 

But Phyllis, as the “horse’s mouth”, began trying to contact families from news stories and started a listserv to collect parents’ stories. After a time, hundreds of emails began pouring in from across the country from betrayed families of disabled students. Phyllis began emailing the stories she was amassing to any disability organization with an active email account. She contacted state and federal officials, news stations, local representatives—anyone who could or should be remotely interested in the information she was gathering.

At last, instead of Phyllis having to break, the story did.  A few local Florida news outlets picked up on reports of abuse in schools. Some families who’d at first only offered their stories in an anonymous capacity— and only because the person asking  was just another parent, not an official-seeming reporting system— stepped forward into the new light being shed on the issue. Other families were intimidated by the real threat of school retaliation and withdrew, but there was now a sufficient database for larger organizations to work with and to begin the difficult process of verification—the way that “anecdotes” are turned into “testimony”. 

That is, if anyone would listen. And if they listen, what will they do about what they’ve heard?  It’s important to remember that the GAO made the same observation in 1998 as it did in 2009—that no government body was keeping track of the numbers of deaths of children due to restraint and seclusion. This was back when the still rising tide of autism hadn’t yet hit the public school systems with its current force. Nothing has changed, except, one must imagine, the number of children dying yearly.

But, again, no one’s keeping track.  Why? Phyllis describes an endless legislative circle game— a tradition which Arne Duncan, the new Secretary of Education is continuing— in which the DOE and federal authorities continue to place the power to restrict or allow abusive restraint and seclusion practices within state control, and then many states pass the buck to district control. The schools have no interest in reporting themselves and fear loss of funding—the irony being that they have lost funding anyway.  She believes that one set of iron-clad federal laws should be in place to restrict deadly and abusive practices and to independently enforce mandatory reporting in all facilities. She won’t rest until this comes to pass.

Phyllis tells of having been raised in a profoundly patriotic family with a strong sense of community. Phyllis once volunteered as a school crossing guard.  These days, she describes what’s left of her feelings towards her country as more along the lines of “tough love” after what she’s seen being done to children. During our one phone conversation to discuss school abuse and legislation, Phyllis wondered aloud about what kind of country we’re really living in. I wondered to myself what century we’re living in.

How Easy it is to Be Dead

I was having trouble wrapping my mind around the things that I was learning through Cassandra and others about abuse in schools. Whenever I’d try to think about it, it’s as if the facts surrounding the issue would slip in and out of focus like a vapor, making me groggy. The sensation brought back a distinct memory of the moment when a nurse flashed a vaccine consent form in front of my eyes and then snatched it away on the day my twins received their fateful flu shots.  I’ve since come to associate that “Oh-I’m-so-sleepy-lying-here-in-the-snow-think-I’ll-close-my-eyes-for-a-sec” feeling with extreme and present danger and, when I get that signal now, I wake myself the hell up.

To paraphrase Doris Lessing, There are two kinds of people; those who know how easy it is to be dead and those who don’t. After watching my father die from flu shots and seeing my children almost killed by theirs, I feel like I now fall within the first sample group.

Though my children are recovering and outbursts are less frequent, I had real fear for how someone—someone who didn’t live and die for their welfare— might respond to the mitigating physical conditions so well known to the vaccine-injury community such as “transient demonic gluten possession”, “fleeting pesticide-brain-swelling”, “dysbiotic-constipation-rage”. Especially anyone with disdain for our children’s leaking guts, disbelieving of the physical nature of their illnesses and their capacity for recovery (and their ability to one day bear witness)—in other words, too many of the know-it-all mercenaries who work with autism that I’d already encountered.  

I could see how easy it would be to justify a take-down on my daughter, one that could easily go very, very wrong in an instant. She vomits when she’s afraid. Because she’s so almost-recovered but unevenly recovered, she doesn’t emanate enough “autism” anymore to hopefully buy her a little amnesty by reminding people to ascribe some of her behavior to the diagnosis.  Not that this, again, seems to inspire much sympathy in some places.  
I was afraid for my children, afraid there was no safe place for them within (or even beyond) our means, afraid of being reported to child services by some clueless bystander, afraid, afraid, afraid and tired of being afraid. It occurred to me that I might be abusing my psyche, “manifesting” my own fears by looking too deeply into nasty realities and whipping myself into unnecessary paranoia over “disasters”, but I threw out the notion as soon as I thought it. Anyone who’s been a statistic has a reason to doubt their luck when further dangers loom. 

Yes, what I was learning was causing head-films of the terrible things that could happen to my children and I need a break from it now and again. But how many of us would have vaccinated on the recommended schedule had we had previews of what actually did happen to our children? And these realities are just there to be seen; I couldn’t make them happen any more than any other victim’s family had “made” them happen. We aren’t witches with the power to render evil in others by asking the wrong questions, thinking the wrong thoughts— even if autism families are under the gun of a kind of nonscientific, psychiatric-genetic witch hunt. We may be assigned the magic ability to “immaculately” (as Mark Blaxill puts it) morph the DNA of our offspring and taint them with our illusive bad gene juju, but we still don’t have the power to turn good teachers into abusers. Too many families believe that if they’re “nice” with the school and don’t bring up unpleasant issues, these things won’t happen— but what does that say about those who were already victimized? That they weren’t nice people?

I asked my friend “Cassandra” why she thought these abuses might be happening. “It’s because they don’t think of our kids as human” she tells me over the phone. “Ever read the DSM-derived descriptions of autism?—‘treats people like furniture’, ‘lacks compassion’, ‘doesn’t feel pain’. So they think the child deserves the same. And it extends to parents” Cassandra says. “You should hear how some people in the schools talk about autism parents. We’re all defective by association so no one has to listen to us”.  And why was that? “Because if autism isn’t genetic, it could happen to them. And never forget the role the schools play in the epidemic by requiring the shots”.  That gave me a flashback to my Behaviorism 101 course in college: people are able to generate real hate against a target only after they’ve done something crappy to them.

And the abuse is spreading to children with other disabilities. It’s as if the gravitational pull of that need to quarantine the fault for the autism epidemic  to family of origin is so vast and powerful that it manages to suck all other cognitive conditions—whether heritable or not, and always undeserving of mistreatment regardless—into a black hole of bureaucratic, rationalized contempt.  And does the lie that an up-to-15,000% rise in the disorder is due to “genetics” (when this is logistically impossible) have anything to do with it?

I think anyone can sense, even unconsciously, that there’s something deeply fishy about the rise in rates. I also think that abusive personalities have a radar for designated targets and that all authority has to do to designate a particular targeted group is to lie about them. The lies can be bad or indifferent, but the lie is the aegis, the get out-out-jail card for anything one wants to do—and then lie about doing— to the target. For this, there’s a definite historical parallel breaking through the surface. 

Adriana Gamondes, a former theater director, lives in Massachusetts with her husband and recovering twins.



An eye-opener for those who are not aware of this kind of events. This was 14 years ago and I hope something has changed for the better. I am gonna share it.


I am sickened this is what educators call FAPE. I hope the parents sue the ass off this district.

Stop the Abuse

I wish the industry had more teachers like your sister. So many of the so called "experts" are anything BUT experts or professionals. And how much sense does it make for adults to react to physical aggression by an autistic child by using physical aggression and floor restraints? What is this teaching the child? That aggression is acceptable and to continue to be MORE aggressive. NECC is simply a disgusting excuse for a school which markets itself to ignorant parents. Sorry, sad but true.


Good grief, how very sad. My sister is a SpEd teacher and has been for almost 20 years. She has all levels of disability in her classroom, and this year she has almost all children with severe autism. After reading this article, I gave her a call. She is a very thin built person and I asked her exactly what techniques they use to subdue a child if necessary (I can see that many kids are bigger then she is). Her answer is surprising....she has never had too. They use something called a "basket hold"....which she has performed on an adult in a fake situation....and guess what....she has NEVER done that to a child. Her belief is that every child can be successful if their enviroment is adjusted in a way for that to take place. I asked her if she thought the poor behavior was lack of quality teachers. And absolute YES! Her belief is that sensory needs are important to maintain a classroom, which they interject into the classroom many times throughout the day. SHe told me I would be amazed at how well a child can do their "work" after the sensory needs have been met. And if she notices a child getting ansy in their is a quick up on the feet for some knee bends...and lol, these kids do great, and they love school, and her:) The list of mother's and father's that have called my sister in tears thanking her for what none of the previous teachers have ever done is long! Honestly, as you can tell, I am very proud of her, but also, I am not exagerating. I truly go sleep praying that families can find a person like my sister to help them. Her prayer every morning as she drives to school is "Lord, guide me to help "john", show me what it is that he needs, enable me to reach his mind and help...."
These kids do not need restraints...they simply need a real teacher who cares.

Stop the Abuse

And here's the follow up to this poor child. The solution at NECC is to overppower, react and restrain. MA has to be one of the worst states for looking the other when it comes to restraints and abuse which is ironic since it has some of the strictest laws against restraints. Goes to show you, the attitude towards our kids is, they're disabled so we can restrain. Criminal if you ask me.

This child attends NECC supposedly one of the best centers in the country. Abuse is apparently permitted anywhere when it comes to autistic children:

Then my contact teacher called me yesterday to let me know that Meghan needed another “hold” (that is two this week), and after being placed on the ground (god, it’s hard for me to even write this) she was at first shocked that this was happening, like “what’s going on” kind of thing, but then she was fine afterward, and back to her smiling self (both times). The second hold happened a few days after the first one, and they held her for a little longer than the previous time, hoping that Meghan would understand why this was happening—that she cannot attack her teachers. It appears that since she’d found this power (or comfort level, as strange as that sounds), as she had with me, then she feels that she is free to fight for what she wants. Or when she’s not getting her way, she feels free to get mad and lash out at a teacher.

Lisa - Central Mass

I live in MA as well. One year ago my son (6 years old) was being secluded, away from the class in an IT closet. His aid was with him but he was given nothing but an empty room, desk and no work. Just time to sit. I objected strongly and removed him from the program. One week later he was moved to a classroom with a fully trained teacher. The teacher that had been secluding him was on a Mass teachers waiver. Two months later she was completely removed from the school for series of "incidents" that were never made public. I hear she is stil teaching.


What is more concerning to me is how many cases is a blind eye turned to?

Who is spot checking to make sure this isn't happening regularly?

A working class hero is something to be Adriana... thank you.


I pulled my daughter out of school over a year ago and will never again enroll her in any public school other than a cyber school. Although she is verbal she can't always communicate effectively, and sometimes she doesn't tell me things right away. I only recently learned from her that they tried to restrain her in a Rifton chair. There was an incident where the teachers forced her to stand still on a circle throughout recess as a "consequence" (punishment) for impulsively writing on the blackboard. They also tried to make her suppress her Tourette's tics, which, by the way, have almost completely subsided since we removed her from school. It's almost as if she doesn't have Tourette's anymore. Shortly before she completed second grade, we learned some young children with autism had been arrested in school when the teachers couldn't handle their behaviors. I could easily see the same thing happening to my daughter. At that point I knew I had no option but to educate her at home.


You've written another tour de force, Adriana; thank you. What a haunting poem you've conjured; it captures the sense of imminent threat that too many of our children feel when perversely betrayed by adults paid to teach and protect them.

This was another article I had to break away from before completing; reading it hurts too much. Especially the paragraph detailing children's suffering at the hands of their tax-funded teachers and aides. Guantanamo, USA.

Equally disturbing are the captions at the GAO site: "Mother of victim." "Mother of victim who died."

These tragedies often occur when people who consider themselves "nice" actually carry some not-so-nice misapprehensions about autism and false assumptions about discipline, i.e. equating it with physical domination. Inevitably negative behavioral episodes erupt -- a tantrum, a flailing fist -- and combined with the "caregiver's" lack of training and maturity the situation becomes a crisis that blows out of control.

People who lack intuitive skills should not be caring for nonverbal children. It's as if abusers suffer from a form of mind-blindedness themselves... limited empathy. So many other occupations are tailor-made for the emotionally bankrupt -- like CDC bureaucrats.

I know how easy it is to be dead, and use my scary head films to keep my son safe. So far. At least now he's old enough to use his words, and fight back physically if necessary.

Hanno W. Kirk, LICSW, PhD

I am a therapist in private practice and I work with autism spectrum children. That includes listening to the laments of parents about the attitude of school personnel that they consider their children to be out of control monsters.
I work from the premise that thimerosol or other toxic substances in vaccines have disabled those areas in the brain responsible for perceiving, interpreting and acting on social information. I also believe and have proved with the kids that I treat that the brain's plasticity can be used to bring the brain more normal functioning through non-invasive, non-pharmacological operand conditioning. Once that happens, the "damaged" or underdeveloped centers in the brain can begin to develop. The modality I use is EEG Neurofeedback.

A. Denise Kyle

When I read this stuff, it makes me ill. But I know it does go on, and much more that is lesser in abusiveness. I worked as an aid in a school somewhere,(wont say where, because I can get sued) and saw such low grade abuse, that it will never be dealth with. I did get an investigation of the class before I left, but doubt that it went anywhere.

These kids are the leas able to defend themselves or tell what has happened. I guess that is why the schools feel comfortable allowing this to go on.


I have been an advocate supporting children with autism and their families for over ten years now, and I unfortunately can relate to and validate every one of Cassandra's accusations. I try to explain to people who come to me for help that others only contact me when things are going poorly. Therefore, I have a slanted (very negative) perception of the public school system as a whole, and special education teachers and staff in particular. But the more I do this, the more I realize there probably really isn't a "good side" that I am just not seeing. It's ironic and actually very sad that after all of these years, dozens of school districts and hundreds of hours of meetings, I have yet to meet an IEP team that actually had their act together and were focussed on the best interests of the child. To this day I am unable to recommend a parent send their child with autism to ANY public school in this community. Parents, you need to go to your schools and observe what's going on. You need to demand accountability and actual educational progress for your kids. Too many of us don't, and I know their are plenty of reasons why, but we can't continue to let our children be so discounted by a system which is supposed to be helping them. Each time one of us stands up to this, it raises us all up a little bit. Thank you for your article Adriana.


Thank you for the thoughts and for sharing the hard stories all. If it wasn't for the people with first hand experience who speak up, we'd all be walking into the current situation blind. Thank God there are organizations working against this but the effort needs wide support if anything is going to change.

Kim wrote that AOA is now collecting personal accounts of school abuse. The accounts can be anonymous, so please tell anyone and everyone who might have run into this kind of situation to email their stories to Kim Stagliano (see AOA contacts).


This article was very informative. It was also heart wrenching. Our poor innocent children deserve love and compassion. They have a right for an equal opportunity for education. The public, in general, is not aware of this situation. Please keep these articles coming. Educate us and engage our help. God bless you for your courage.

Jane E.

This kind of treatment to children with autism and any kind of behavior issues is very common practice in many public schools today. When will it stop? Who will help our children and keep them safe when they are in school? Why are school staff above the law and why are they getting away with child abuse?


Kym Grosso

Excellent article. Last winter, our local elementary school installed and used 2 seclusion rooms without parent knowledge or permission. When parents found out, 6 months later, we fought to have the "quiet rooms" removed. While the rooms in our district are now closed, other schools in PA routinely use seclusion and restraint.

The scary part of this experience is that many in the educational system think it is perfectly acceptable to do this to our kids. The attitude by the school nurse you described is prevalent.

I wrote about our painful experience on my blog to raise awareness of what can and does happen in schools. After this nightmare, I am determined to do whatever I can as a parent and advocate to see that state and federal laws are enacted to better protect our children.

Parents speaking up, writing legislators and advocating is the only way we can change things in the school systems. One thing is for sure, many school districts/educators will fight to keep seclusion and restraint alive and well despite the GAO report. It is time for this antiquated and discriminatory practice to end.

~Kym Grosso

Jack's mom

Thank you Adriana for all that you do
My friend!
Good work!


I don't know when it became okay to treat children with disabilities in such an abusive way in school but this kind of treatment the writer of this article is talking about has been going on for years and is just now surfacing to the public since the GAO report came out.

The inhumane treatment of our children with autism and other disabilities in some public and private schools is out of control and our state and now federal government know about it but I still do not see any changes coming about to protect the children. When will our government step up to the plate and protect our children from the mental and physical abuse that some schools are subjecting them to.

USDOJ Arne Duncan wants the state DOE's to put a stop to this abuse but that's like asking the fox to guard the henhouse. Mr. Duncan said he was shocked and alarmed at what he found out. Mr. Duncan you had to know about this abuse going on if not all over the US then at lease in your home state of IL. I don't think you are that stupid.

We cannot allow the school districts to police themselves anymore. It has not worked in the past and it will not work in the future. If this is allowed, the abuse of our children will continue by the same people and we will be right back where we started from.

Thank you for the article and for bringing this abuse of our children more out in the open.



You are such a treasure for our kids/cause. Your talent is unsurpassed. Our kids will be better off with the help of your priceless contributions. Your piece will help parents understand about these abuses and the systemic problems of the school system because of your exceptional writing style. What would probably take years to understand has now been thoughtfully and thoroughly explained to parents. Angel in the Engine will help parents be aware of the potential for abuse as well as the abuse itself. We all need to have our eyes wide open.

I have friends who's children with autism were locked in rooms and restrained countless times. Some happened solely schools for autism and others at regular schools. These parents had no idea that each time they dropped their precious child off at school they would have to endure such abuses, probably screaming inside for their parents. These parents were continuously told that "all was fine". Looking back they say that if the behaviors were happening at home it was foolish for them to think things were fine at school. These parents now fight for positive behavior interventions such as ABA to be used to PREVENT the behaviors from ocurriing. I guess it is easier for a teacher/staff to just throw a child in a locked room or restraint them than to provide the evidence based practices IDEA provides. Who will tell? Not the principal, staff or others who benefit from this practice. Our childrens inability to communicate effectively at times can be their worst enemy. This part of their disability is exploited and used to the fullest by the abusers.

I can only pray and fight that things will get better in schools. Our children are entitled to an appropriate education free of abuse. We all pay taxes and don't do so solely to help all other children than our own. This is condoned criminal behavior and must stop immediately. What if this was happening to typical children? Our children have suffered enough. We need to know the world will be a safer place for them when we are gone. The only way to do this is to let the government know that we will not tolerate this. Abuse on one disabled child is an abuse on all! It is about the way society sees children with disabilities, especially those with autism as you so eloquently point out. Our children's inability to communicate does not equal a lack of feelings! They feel pain too!


stop the abuse

Here is a perfect (but sad) example why the individuals in the public and private schools continually get away with time out and restraints. This was written by a mother whose child is in the New England Center For Children residential unit. The child has been vaccinated and revaccinated over and over as is NECC's policy. The child is also not on any special diet and the mother writes in an immediate follow up post that the child had explosive diarreah. Can you imagine how this child must have been feeling? And how will NECC deal with the predicted behaviors as a result of her obvious G/I issues? By restraint of course. The reason that this abuse (and that is what it is) continues is because ignorant parents permit their children to be treated in this manner, thus making it much more difficult for educated parents to try and educate providers and educators. By law, providers must look at the WHY of behaviors, not just resort to restriants and time out which is what happens over and over again in these places. Bottom line, it is abuse.

Hold On!
Friday, August 14, 2009 11:17 | Filled in Behavioral issues, Vacations5 Comments »Just got back from vacation with Nick and his dad (we stayed in Ogunquit, Maine at the Anchorage check it out here, I highly recommend it! And Judy, you were right, it’s a new favorite place to stay!! ) and I received a phone call from Meghan’s teacher—my weekly update phone call from Meghan’s contact person, so it was expected—but unfortunately on different terms.

I’m used to receiving comments like: “Meghan had a pretty good week, some hand biting, but overall, good…” and then I get a rundown on her schoolwork, activities and her week…

Or sometimes I will even hear this: “Meghan had a great week, she did all her work (which she loves), got all her rewards and was smiling and happy all week…”

But this week there were two phone calls and an email. The email came first and it was from her contact teacher (teacher assigned to help Meghan at school and at her home): It read:

“In regards to behavior, Meghan has had an ok week. She was doing great until yesterday morning when she had a tantrum with some aggressions, hand bites, but mostly throwing items. She cleared off her dresser, including her TV, but everything seems to have survived. I checked over her TV and there are no cracks or exposed wires.”

Then came the phone calls: One from her regular contact teacher and then one from her teacher. They told me that Meghan has moved from self-injurious behavior and aggressions (hand biting, hair pulling) to lunging toward a teacher’s face and neck and pinching them. They reported that there were no real antecedents of these two violent strikes. One episode was when she was in the bathroom and she came out in a full rage and went after a teacher’s head, pulling her hair and pinching her cheeks and neck. The other episode was because she wasn’t getting her way.

This was the same behavior that I had experienced with Meghan when she was living at home, but it has been a whole year since we’ve seen this type of violence from her. If anything, she was good about striking out at other people, even at home. I did have that one day when she was so enraged that she was pulling at her own hair and thrashing food around the kitchen (as they have seen at school, too), but that’s all. I was actually feeling good about Meghan during these last several months and our relationship has been so much better, but now I’m a little bit scared again. I hate that! I hate how this has happened!

She told me that so far the teachers have been able to redirect her after these violent strikes, redirecting her to an activity or work to calm her down has been successful. But she wanted me to know that she has instituted the use of “a hold” for Meghan in emergency situations only. A hold is when they place her down on the floor and teachers hold down her arms and legs. And for emergencies only, I guess the next time she lunges for a teacher’s throat and cannot be redirected, then she will get “the hold.” I will be notified if this happens. I hope it doesn’t have to happen, but Meghan cannot attack people on a whim just because she feels bad or doesn’t get her way… My God!!

She’s on her way home this morning and I’m a little scared to say the least!! I hate that!

I will post some vacation pictures in my next post, as well as an update on Meghan’s weekend….

And this is why...

My son has been home schooled since the age of 7.

He would be the perfect candidate for a chemical restraint (which I am against).
Medications were already being recommended at the time I removed him from public school. People couldn't and can't understand why I am against them.

He would be the child who would get so upset and escalate to self-harm or aggress on another. I used to spend my few hours while he was in school fretting if the phone would ring and that something happened. This was when he was a small boy and easy to control. He is no longer a small boy. He is not always in a vulnerable position to "lose it". But, he is enough due to illness that the thought of sending him to school- taking that risk- terrifies me.

I don't live in a community where I have good autism resources. I live in a community where the schools are supposedly excellent for my NT child who is an exceptional student, athlete, and a "joy to have in class".

My autistic child would not fit into this perfect mold that my community schools focus on.

Of the few children I know with autism in my community -who do attend school- they are all medicated and all recieving "glorified babysitting". It is somewhere to go to spend their days. Until they age out of the system. And then what will be available to them I have no idea.

So, there is no where to send him where I know he will be safe and drug free. It is not worth it to even attempt it - to risk him any harm at the hands of school employees or the cops they would call on him if he really melted down. To cause more havoc in his already phsically stressed body with drugs that will do who knows what to him? To have him spend his days with people who have little to no training in dealing with children like mine. One of my biggest issues with the school when he was there was the piss poor watered down behavioral training the people on the frontline got. The paras were clueless about the behavioral techniques we were implementing at home in our home based ABA program. I was constantly convening IEP meetings to address this or that behavioral issue. It was exhausting. It was pointless. They had no idea what they were doing. They just wished I would try the meds to see if my son would behave- at all times.

It's up to me. It always has been up to me. It always will be up to me.

What will happen when I am no longer here to take care of him?

In the meantime this new revelation into what is happening in our schools with our children with autism is not shocking to me at all.

When you have children who can't communicate effectively, who are sick and not sleeping, who misbehave, who do not conform to the wishes of those in charge. Who frankly can be real pains in the asses. And you place them all day with people with very little training, who are grossly underpaid- under the direction of a teacher who is burning out under the mounds of paperwork these kids require and more and more of them keep coming each year. In a school system where they don't have the money or the desire to properly train their staff or would prefer to stash cash away for a fight in case any parent who dare bring a lawsuit their way. What do you think is going to happen?

This has been a long time coming. This is autism growing up.

I saw the writing on the wall many years ago.


My heart.. it aches reading this.. How does one compliment an article like this??

I guess by saying: It's written excellently, thank you for writing it. Also I live in MA and my wife the Warrior Goddess she is, also worked in theater, you two should get together sometime.

Now excuse me while I go throw up..

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