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Physical restraints in special education Essay

Physical restraint is the use of physical force to significantly limit free movement of parts of the body or the whole body. It is a practice whereby people are rendered helpless or are kept in captivity through the use of straps, ropes, straitjackets, fetters, handcuffs and any other way of retraining people physically. In this regard, it should be done when a person poses threat property, self or others. In relation to special education, it is usually done to the students who as a result of their conditions may pose risks to themselves, the other students or even the staff (Magee & Ellis, 2001).

There are reports to indicate that there are many allegations regarding abuse of physical restraint practices in schools. These involve cases where it is used even when the said children are not dangerous or physically aggressive to self o other people. Statistics show that between 1990 and 2009, investigators have found hundreds of allegations revolving around abuse, seclusion and restraint in both private and public schools. On the other hand, there is also evidence that some teachers are not fully trained on the techniques they should use regarding the same.

While nineteen states lack the necessary regulations or laws on seclusion or restraint, only seven states have them. Most of the people who use these restraint and seclusion do not seem to understand the techniques involved and short and long term effects they have on the people they are used on. In most cases, parents and guardians have not consented to the techniques and are usually surprised that they are being used. There are more and more cases of teachers who are using physical restraint even before they have tried the other methods of instilling discipline to the students (Mohr & Anderson, 2001).

The experts agree that it is a good method of restoring order in case of an emergency. However, they contend that this method should only be used as a last resort and not immediately. If the method is used properly, it can be effective according to experts. When all the other methods have been tried and they seem not to work, the teachers and other school staff members can use this method. Some states which are against the technique have banned it. Any other kind of restraint which has the potential to cause the death of the child or injure the child further is also prohibited in some states.

They only allow it in the event that the safety of the staff member and the students is at risk as a result of the violent and challenging behavior of the student in question (Skoulos & Tryon, 2007). The trend however has been on the immediate use of physical restraint. The Massachusetts law on the same allow the use of physical restraints. Physical restraints should only be used during emergence situations after the failure of other techniques but should be used with caution.

It requires schools to have written procedures for physical restraints and to conduct detailed training in their schools for the same. It claims that when non-physical interventions have failed and the behavior of the student continues to pose risks to self and others, then the teachers and other staff member can use physical restraints. However, it should never be used to respond to verbal threats, students’ rebuttal to comply with rules, disruption of school order or property destruction.

It requires that in the event that the student shows distress as a result of using physical restraint, he should be released and medical assistance should immediately be sought (Magee & Ellis, 2001). There are some reasons as to why the staff members use physical restraints immediately compared to as a last resort. First is the fear of being injured. According to studies, once a person starts acting in a way which the society considers as abnormal, there is a high tendency of the people around such a person to run way for their own safety.

This is usually like a reflex action and people in most cases think about it later. In this regard, when a student behaves abnormally, the teachers and other staff members try to help after the first shock. Due to the confusion about the potential consequences and their roles as staff members, they might lack other best ways of containing the situation. Most of them use physical restraints as they seek for other ways of helping such a student (Gersch & Gersch, 2002). Second is the fear that the student behavior might cause harm to him or the other students.

Physical restraints help to control the situation until the staff member can come up with a better solution. In this case, most of the physical restraining involves holding the affected student and preventing him from causing harm. Once the student and the ones around him are safe, the staff member can think clearly of a better solution. Third is the issue of lack of training. Although most of the states which have allowed physical restraints have regulations regarding training about it, we still have many staff members who have not learnt on the way it is applied.

They also lack the knowledge on other ways of dealing with abnormal behaviours of the student. When such a staff member is confronted with a situation whereby a student seems to lack control and poses threat to him or other people, the first think that is likely to come to mind is how to control such a student, mostly by holding the student down. In this case, the staff member ends up using physical restraints without first trying other methods. He can not use other methods because he has not been trained on the same (Thomas & Loxley, 2007).

Using physical restraint immediately or as a last resort is not as major as its misuse. There have been very many cases regarding its misuse which have resulted into physical injuries or even death. For example, Annie’s son is evidence to the negative consequences of physical restrained on children who are uncontrollable. Her autistic son is claimed to have been acting out in school he was taken for a time out where the mother alleges that the school personnel had held him down since he ended with a broken collarbone.

After some time the bone healed, however, the child had emotional damage and he kept asking the mother whether the person who broke his collarbone was taken to jail and the mother had to give a negative answer. After seven weeks, Annie’s son harmed himself and was admitted in a psychiatric hospital for two months (Day, 2002). This is only one case of misuse of physical restraints. There are other cases of the same which have resulted into the death of the victims. Such cases have brought controversy to the issue and many parents are now of the opinion that it should be totally banned for the fear of their children’s lives.

The Council for Exceptional Children however is in support of physical restraint as a technique for dealing with the children who have behavioural cases. However, they still maintain that it should only be used as a last resort when such a child poses danger to self and to the people around him. The body recommends the establishment of regulations which would facilitate reporting of physical restraints to outside agencies (Ryan, Robbins, Peterson & Rozalski, 2009). The council is also in support of the same but recommends that research to be done on kids from all kinds of settings.

The policy gives the indication to the availability of other methods which teachers can use to contain behavior. It is against the harm that may come to a child as a result of misusing physical restraint. The CEC’s recommendations regarding the same tallies with the Massachusetts law on the same (Jones & Timbers, 2003). Studies show that physical restraint has been used over a long time in medical institutions. This has been possible because there are guidelines for the same.

However, in the case of physical restraint and schools, there are not such guidelines. Lack of commonly accepted guidelines in schools put the people who use in vulnerable position where they are often understood and at times abused. In this regard, the staff may not have the necessary skills to deal with children who have emotional outbursts or the kids who have behavioural problems. At times, such interventions are very important to deal with such cases as they help to prevent the behavior of students from increasing to harmful levels.

Another issue which poses a problem regarding the use of physical restraints in school is the fact that it was thrust into public education mainstream without prior proper planning. This was partly due to the Act for education of the people with disabilities whose principles include serving the individuals who have special needs in an environment which is least restrictive. Nowadays, there are many children with behavioural and emotional problems being admitted in the public schools irrespective of the disability label.

This implies that the issue of physical restraints move with them to the public schools and typical classroom and school settings. At the same time, the media has played part in creating a lot of attention regarding the issue and schools are now more than ever before required to show practices which are capable of containing the violent and challenging behavior. Many of them have therefore resulted into making use of physical restrain as one of the tools to ensure that the challenging behavior is contained.

This produces another challenge in the sense that if the staff members are not well trained on physical restraint; they may end up causing more harm to the affected children. This leads to lawsuits from the affected children’s parents and other problems for the whole family (Mohr & Anderson, 2001). The way forward therefore would be to come up with many ways in which the violent or challenging behavior can be contained. Once this is done, schools should undertake thorough training of its staff members to ensure that they are well equipped with the right techniques.

The training should not be based on physical restraints only. We have already discovered that there are many people who turn to physical restraints simply because they lack other methods of containing challenging behavior. The school staff should be trained in the various methods so that in case of an emergency, they have a variety to choose from. There are also many programs which are available for training people on physical restraints. These also teach different methods of problem solving and conflict de-escalation.

They also teach the right procedures for the different approaches for the same. Schools should invest in such programs to ensure that their staff members are equipped with the right techniques and procedures of behavior control methods. They should also make sure that there is recurrent training so that the staff members always keep on toes regarding the same issue (Magee & Ellis, 2001). There should also be an extensive research on the use of physical restraints. Most of the studies have shown negative effects of physical restraints.

Researchers claim that physical restraints are an effective tool for controlling behavior which is likely to lead to harm. However, most of them do not show how many cases have been successful as a result of using this method. If it is agreed to be an effective method, there should be evidence in support of the same. There are however numerous studies’ showing that physical restraint has been misused and it has led to escalation of the problems. There have been deaths, physical injuries, emotional and psychological harm as a result of using physical restraints.

There have cases of children being unable to trust grow ups due to having being subjected to physical restraints by the same adults. In other words, there are many problems which have come up as a result of using physical restraints in schools. The efficacy of using physical restraints is largely in doubt or the research showing positive effects for the same are usually lacking. This means that it might not be as effective as people wish. In order to maintain conducive learning environments in addition to controlling violent and challenging behavior, schools need to come up with less harmful methods.

On the other hand, if they wish to use physical restraints, they should be equipped with the necessary information which they are supposed to transfer to their staff members. This way, it might have positive effects on schools (Mohr & Anderson, 2001). Conclusion A restrictive school environment can be blamed for the use of physical restraints in schools. The intent was to use it as a last resort when all the other methods have failed. However, due to factors like fear and lack of skills in other methods of controlling violent behavior, people end up using it immediately there is violent behavior.

This contributes to the major negative effects which come as a result. The schools which are willing to use it as one of the techniques should train the staff on the right procedures in order to reduce its misuse. This would give evidence that physical restraints can be an effective method to control challenging and violent behavior. Reference: Day, D. M. , (2002), Examining the therapeutic utility of restraints and seclusion with children and youth: The role of theory and research in practice. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 72, 266-278. Gersch, Irvine S.

& Gersch, Adam, (2002), Resolving Disputes in Special Educational Needs: A Practical Guide to Conciliation and Mediation, RoutledgeFalmer Jones, R. J. & Timbers, G. T. , (2003), Minimizing the need for physical restraint and seclusion in residential youth care through skill-based treatment programming. Families in Society: The Journal of Contemporary Human Services, 04(1), 21-29. Magee, S. K. & Ellis, J. , (2001), The detrimental effects of physical restraint as a consequence for inappropriate classroom behavior, Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 34, 501-504. Mohr, W. K. & Anderson, J. A.

(2001), Faulty assumptions associated with the use of restraints with children, Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Nursing, 74(3), 141-154. Ryan, Joseph B. , Robbins, Katherine, Peterson, Reece & Rozalski, Michael, (2009), Review of State Policies concerning the Use of Physical Restraint Procedures in Schools, Education & Treatment of Children, Vol. 32 Skoulos, Vasilios & Tryon, Georgiana Shick, (2007), Social Skills of Adolescents in Special Education Who Display Symptoms of Oppositional Defiant Disorder, American Secondary Education, Vol. 35 Thomas, Gary & Loxley, Andrew, (2007), Deconstructing Special Education and


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