Tuesday, June 9, 2009

IL: (Part I) Child abuse in our schools: Restraint and seclusion in boy's special education classroom

NOTE: This is my friend Amy's (Ravingmotherfromhell's) account of what she and her son Sebastian went through at his public school. At the age of 5, Sebastian, a then-Kindergarten student who has been diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome and asthma, was repeatedly restrained in a prone position - the most dangerous and deadly type of restraint - on the floor or on a bean bag chair. His offense: not sitting still when he was told to.  Amy and her husband were routinely refused to visit Sebastian at school during the school day or to volunteer in his classroom; as a result, they didn't find out about the abuse until a year later.  Sebastian no longer trusts school personnel and has  been attending a cyberschool for the past two years. He also has been diagnosed with PTSD as a result of the abuse he suffered at the hands of so-called "educators" during his Kindergarten and first-grade years. (JS)

By Kindall Nelson
Chicago Special Education Examiner
June 8, 2009

This is Sebastian, a six-year-old boy who was restrained by a teacher's aid and the school principal for behaviors that he could not control. He was put in an isolation room and told to sit still and be quiet. When he was unable to do that right away, the adults went into the room and held him in a face down, prone position to 'calm him down'. It didn't matter to them that he had a behavioral plan in place that they were supposed to follow or that they might be traumatizing him by treating him this way. It also didn't matter to them that this was a little boy who needed special understanding instead of a heavy hand.

When the Government Office of Accountability reported their findings to congress concerning use of restraints and isolation in special education classrooms, they testified using very little identifying information. The facts needed to be heard, and those facts were given. Sometimes, however, to get a complete grasp of events, one needs more than just the barest facts. The abused here are real children, just like the ones you and I hug every day as parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, teachers, and friends. They are part of real families and their stories, their whole stories, deserve to be heard.

According to the testimony before congress, the following story is a just number. To him and his family, this is the story of Sebastian, a brown haired, five-year-old little boy with deep brown eyes who was excited to start kindergarten and attend school all day despite his health issues and diagnoses. Sadly, in just year's time he came to hate school and anything associated with attending school.

Sebastian entered kindergarten with a formal diagnosis of Asperger's Syndrome and an IEP from his preschool. Unfortunately, the school that he was entering did not understand anything about high-functioning Autistic children or how to handle them. In fact, many staff members within the school district made it clear that they didn't believe Asperger's Syndrome existed, much less that Sebastian had it.

Originally, the school avoided giving Sebastian's parents a meeting to discuss an Individualized Education Plan (IEP). They gave his mother the run-around by denying he need one and then telling her that an IEP was already in place. She knew better than to take anyone's word for anything and kept asking questions.

Eventually, upon her insistence, a meeting was called. The principle members of Sebastian's team did not come to the meeting. Those that were there did not know how to write an IEP. Being a well-informed parent, when she received the documents Sebastian's mother actually rewrote them in their proper format and took them back to the school. Like most parents, Amy thought that having the plan in writing was all she needed to make sure that things were going the way they should be at her son's school.

Sebastian's parents relaxed a little. They finally had the plan in place that their son needed and deserved. However, even though the IEP and behavior plan were in place, they were both ignored by the staff and administration. In fact, reading through his mother's diary of the events makes it seem like the school was deliberately trying to make him have melt-downs so that they could send him home and/or place him in another school.

Sebastian's parents were told on many occasions that it was their fault that Sebastian exhibited the symptoms he did. Administration told them that if they were better parents, these issues would not come up. Then it went from bad to worse. The principal began following Sebastian around, keeping and extra-close eye on him, causing paranoia and practically rendering a meltdown unavoidable. Sebastian was routinely punished for things beyond his control. One effect of Autism in some children is the inability to have proper physical responses to emotions and situations. When Sebastian was sitting in the office being berated by his principal for things that he couldn't control, he would often laugh or smile or look around nervously. The principal would then punish the poor boy further for his attitude. 

Click here for Part II or click the following link: http://www.examiner.com/x-9926-Chicago-Special-Education-Examiner~y2009m6d8-Part-II-Child-abuse-in-our-schools-Restraint-and-seclusion-in-boys-special-education-classroom

No comments: