Today’s New York Times reports on what may be an increase in the use of restraints on children—-with behavior problems, ADHD, autism—-in public schools in America, where there’s less oversight about such abuses than for psychiatric hospitals and in nursing homes. I would have thought the kinds of practices—holding a student down prone on the floor, for one thing—-were the stuff of some benighted Victorian past. But physical restraints were repeatedly used on my own son in a New Jersey town we used to live in, and without the school district telling us that this would occur, as I wrote about in a post today. And in Bedfordshire, in the UK, a family may have their 12-year-old autistic son, Ben Haslam, taken into care by the Local Education Authority, following a dispute about what the appropriate education is for the child. He’s currently in a school where, after a lot of trouble, he’s doing really well.
Both cases highlight how little people take into account the perspective, and the feelings, of disabled children and especially children with limited communication. Of course my son didn’t like—was terrified—when he was physically restrained with his arms twisted behind him—-but he wasn’t even able to say “no” or “stop it.” Ben Haslam does not talk, but you can tell from watching a newscast that his current school has helped him tremendously, that he’s learning and interested.