restraint & seclusion

10 RESTRAINT & SECLUSION TIPS FOR PARENTS

9) DOCUMENT EVERYTHING

Document and date anything your child says or does that concerns you. Be sure to take and date photographs of any suspicious injuries.
::  Seek immediate medical attention if your child has any visible signs of abuse. Take your child to his or her pediatrician or an emergency room as soon as possible. Make sure that all injuries or signs of trauma are recorded in your child’s medical records. Even if your child does not seem to have injuries that require treatment, your pediatrician should check for hidden problems such as muscle sprains or joint dislocations. In addition, having professional corroboration of your observations about your child’s physical and emotional condition may be important at a later date. If your child’s doctor has not previously done so, ask him or her to provide a letter for the school stating why restraint and seclusion are dangerous and inappropriate for use on your child.
:: Take pictures of your child’s condition as soon after the event as possible, and label them with the time and date. Be on the lookout for injuries, such as bruises, that may not become apparent until later; photograph and label these as well.
:: If your child has a trusted psychologist or professional counselor, contact that person at once to alert them, and ask for their help and advice on how to handle the emotions and reactions your child may be experiencing. If your child’s psychologist or professional counselor has not previously done so, ask him or her to provide a letter for the school stating why restraint and seclusion are dangerous and inappropriate for use on your child. They may wish to remind the school that there is strong evidence showing that, once a child has been psychologically traumatized by restraint or seclusion, the danger of re-traumatization is heightened.
:: For the sake of your child, remain as calm as possible. You may be feeling panic, fear, or anger, but displaying those reactions could spread them to your child and heighten his or her distress.
:: If your child is able to communicate about what happened, gently encourage him to give you needed information. Don’t press the issue if your child is not ready. Keep a written record of everything your child communicates, including any unusual and/or fearful behavior that may be a response to the event.
:: If your child has a school aide or support staff who reports to you, de-brief that person about what they saw or were told. Check your child’s bookbag for any notes or reports from the teacher, and check the school-home communication log for any references to what happened that day. Make and keep a copy of the communication log.
:: Contact the school the same day. Ask to speak to both your child’s classroom teacher, and to the principal. Politely but firmly demand a full ABC accounting (Antecedents - Behavior - Consequences) of what happened to your child, and follow this up with a faxed request to receive a full account in writing. Listen carefully when those involved in or were witness to the incident tell the story. Use the phrases, “and then what happened?” and “and what happened next?” to elicit more information. If pieces of the story seem to be missing or don’t make sense, return to them and ask again: “so after this happened, what happened next?” Do not comment on what you are being told until you believe you have the whole story; then, keep your comments brief. Remember that taking a confrontational stance at this stage may shut down communication or even lead to changes in or retraction of the statements you have been given. Write down, date, and keep any information you are offered by phone. Tell school personnel that you want a copy of any reporting (i.e. the incident report, mandated reports to the state, etc.) and of the school policy on restraint and seclusion; if possible, offer to pick it up in person, or to receive it quickly by email or fax.
:: Ask whether your child was seen by the school nurse after the incident occurred. If not, why not? If so, there should be a nurse’s report and you should ask for a copy of that as well.
:: Tell the school that you will need to have a meeting within the next day or two, with everyone involved in this incident. Contact an education advocate or other trusted and knowledgeable ally to attend the meeting with you; if at all possible do not go alone, as you will want someone with you who can later confirm and review what was said.
:: KEEPING YOUR CHILD HOME FROM SCHOOL: This is a very individual choice and cannot be determined by anyone but you. If you feel that your child is not going to be safe, or is likely to be subject to additional trauma through more restraint, seclusion or aversive practices, it may be appropriate for you to keep your child home. School days lost can be made up by the school once the issues are resolved and positive strategies put in place. Document your decision fully and provide a copy to the school; include a note from your child’s medical doctor if possible. Keep a copy of this documentation at home in case truancy officers come to check on your child (this is not likely to occur once you have notified the school, as you have then created an excused absence).
Much of the above content was developed by The Alliance to Prevent Restraint, Aversive Interventions & Seclusion (APRAIS), of which NAA is a member. For more in-depth information, visit Tash.org & download its free Parent Toolkit: Shouldn’t School Be Safe?
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