Note: this statement from the Autistic Collective was published earlier this month but not widely circulated. I'm happy to publish it here because it's important to hear the voices of adult autistic people first-hand, and because it serves an an introduction to this recently-formed group. – RB
The Autistic Collective wholly supports the recent decision of the government to ban the practise of seclusion in schools, and also agrees with statements made by Altogether Autism and the Human Rights Commission on the practise.
Seclusion is here defined as the forcible locking away of students in separate rooms, whether the room has windows or other amenities or not, as a means of controlling their behaviour, punishing them, or simply because a member of the teaching staff doesn’t know what else to do.
This amounts to a form of imprisonment, and a breach of the students’ human rights.
There is a difference between ‘seclusion’ and ‘respite’. The latter is when a student needs some time away from others. Autistics of all ages frequently suffer from sensory or social overload, and need somewhere to rest and recuperate. This means a space which is quiet, separate from others, preferably with comfortable furniture, and which can, if necessary, be darkened.
The important differences between this and seclusion are that, firstly, going there is at the student’s own instigation, or at the suggestion of a teacher who recognises the signs it’s needed. Autistic students can be taught to recognise when they need such respite.
The second and most important difference is that the student is never, ever forced to go if they don’t wish to, and never locked in, unable to get out even when they are ready to leave.
We also urge the government to consider funding further training for all teachers in how to manage disabled students, especially those with autism, who because of their different neurology require different methods to other students. To not do so risks either backsliding or the use of other and equally negative methods of managing students seen as ‘difficult’.
The Autistic Collective is a group of autistic advocates who have joined together in order to become more effective in our advocacy. We can be contacted at and our website can be found at www.autisticcollectivenz.org