NPR recently published the article “A Dreaded Part of Teachers’ Jobs: Restraining And Secluding Students” which touched upon the subject of restraints and seclusion in the classroom, especially in regards to special needs children. This article sheds light on the negative impact of restraints and seclusion, as the usages of these techniques can be easily abused by teachers in the classroom. The article additionally mentions the mental and physical risk that comes with these holds, both to the student and the teacher. What the article fails to mention however is any alternative.
When it comes to working in a special needs classroom, it’s not easy to go by the book on much of anything. Individual approaches for special needs children and those with behavioral issues are most effective. I have personally worked in a classroom setting with children who need this kind of individualized support and can attest to the fact that there is an insurmountable number of benefits from building a close relationship and trust with the children in these classrooms. It’s easy to see how this individualization could be repeated in order to reduce potential harm directed toward these children.
Restraints and seclusion are taught to be used as a last resource when dealing with a student who is having a meltdown, according to Psychiatric Times. When speaking to an educator who works in a classroom and caters to the needs of children with behavioral problems, it was stated that they use restraints or holds “when they’re a danger to themselves or others; so throwing stuff, slamming heads into walls and the obvious, fighting, spitting … any bodily fluids can be a danger for others,” affirming the fact that holds are discouraged unless completely necessary. Additionally, the educator, who prefers to remain anonymous, stated that they had once “physically felt a child relax” when in a hold. In some cases, the holds that they use, which are comparable to bear hugs, can act in a similar way that weighted blankets can reduce anxiety and stress.
What the ethics behind restraints and seclusion boils down to is knowing the children that one is working with. By carefully studying The Individualized Education Programs and other forms that help one understand the mental state and past history of a child, it’s clearer to know how to cater to their needs in ways that can accurately reduce stress and their ability to harm themselves or others. By individualizing the way educators deal with a child who is having a meltdown, there is less of a chance that they need to risk using a restraint or seclusion technique, which may negatively impact the child or the educator. Sometimes, being removed from a classroom and having the ability to sit in a quiet room with a desk and chair and no other distractions is what a child needs to calm their thoughts. In other cases, it’s important to give a child their personal space and have them talk through what they’re thinking. Above all else, it’s imperative that educators, as well as the public, understand that restraints and seclusion, which are to only be practiced by a trained professional, are strictly a last resort.