Friday, February 17, 2012


     There is a lot of buzz recently around restraint and seclusion. With bills in and out of Congress, parents and advocacy groups are being more outspoken as a result. I thought I would weigh in on the subject of restraint specifically. I would also add that I consider myself a very A-type personality and have unfortunately been involved in more instances of physical restraint than I care to recall. Thankfully, in my new position as an ABA therapist, it virtually never arises.

     I have a few opinions on the matter. The first is that immobilizing an out of control child, regardless of if they present with any barriers, stinks. Some of my worst days, both professionally and personally, were days where I needed to help in a restraint situation. They are physically and mentally taxing, they damage rapport with students, and from a person-first perspective they make me uneasy.

     Second. Restraints should be exclusionary. They should not be done in the middle of a classroom where all other students can see. They should not be done in hallways. If you are in one of those areas, then the proper staff should be called to remove the student to a safe environment set-up for the purpose. We need to give children the dignity they deserve -- this is especially true in the times when they are in the most distress. An individual's dangerous behavior is telling us that something is wrong. We need to teach self-management and communication skills to avoid situations where students are speaking to us through their dangerous behavior

     In terms of training people in restraint, once you train them, they are probably going to use the techniques. As sad as it is to say, once you have "empowered" an individual to make the decision to restrain, in my personal experience, a restraint becomes almost self-fulfilling prophecy. In this same token be weary of people who "like restraint trainings." I once heard a colleague say "I like restraints." This is clearly a person who should NOT be trained to use restraint, and should be placed in a different setting where using restraint is minimized. To be glib, they cannot restrain themselves from using restraint on others.

     It takes a very specific type of person who should be trained in restraint systems. The type of person who recognizes the value of the embedded deescalation techniques that are to be used prior to engaging in restrain. Obviously, there are situations that warrant restrain immediately, but those are far and few between, and I cannot think of one good example from my experience. People who do not fit this mold, should not be trained in restraint, or working with students who may require restraint.

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