Thank you to Safeminds.org for continuing to look at so many important topics in autism. Safety is a primary concern, and restraint and seclusion for students with disabilities is a source of worry, and sometimes, outright crime. The thought of our kids sent to a room, alone, is maddening. Worse, being held in what I would call "submissions" (the martial arts term for restraint) that can be deadly. A knee on the neck by a police officer threw the nation into turmoil not long ago. This happens during restraints. They can go too far. Fast. Typically they are begun during bouts of aggression that put both the student and the teacher, paraprofessional, therapist, in an aggressive fight or flight mode. I am trained in martial arts - a submission can break an arm (think Ronda Rousey's arm bar), choke, dislocate a shoulder, in fact that's the point - to cause injury in self-defense. School should not be a place for self-defense. I don't think there is a way to really teach submissions by the quick courses offered. I know that if my daughter is about to run into traffic, a teacher or para will have to GRAB her to save her, and maybe grab her hard. I know that if a student is about to throw a chair at another student, someone has to intervene. I just don't know how it can be done without grave damage to self-esteem, self-image and safety.
All of this gets much worse in adult services. Our loved ones are fully grown, powerful men and women. And their staff has marginal training. Even the best of them.
Alliance Against Seclusion and Restraint Praises the Department’s Effort
A group of parents, advocates, and educators called the Alliance Against Seclusion and Restraint (AASR) applauded the Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE) for issuing a press release last month pledging to take active measures to prevent the illegal and discriminatory use of restraint and seclusion in Maryland schools. Furthermore, the advocacy group is pleased that the State Superintendent of Schools, Mohammed Choudhury, has directed a comprehensive review of Maryland’s regulations, policies, and procedures on restraint and seclusion and moves to eliminate practice altogether. Superintendent Choudhury went on to state, “In all cases, restraint and seclusion should be a last resort, employed only in emergency circumstances. Given the potentially devastating physical and emotional impact of restraint and seclusion on students and staff, as well the disproportionate use on students with disabilities and students of color, MSDE will work with our local school systems to eliminate the illegal use of these practices and increase system capacity to provide effective, positive means of behavior management.” MSDE’s actions appear to be in response to a letter authored by AASR to Superintendent Choudhury regarding a recent settlement between the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Frederick County Public School District. The settlement was in response to a DOJ investigation which discovered that the Frederick County Public School District had unnecessarily and repeatedly restrained and secluded students as young as five years of age in violation of Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Under the settlement, the school district will end its use of seclusion, revamp its restraint practices, and train staff on appropriate use of behavioral interventions for students with disabilities.