Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: On seclusion rooms

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  • Sacha,

    Is the door unlocked?

    If the door even has a lock, let's remove it from its hinges pronto.

    This whole thing is a concrete representation of how little our education system has done to educate itself about the needs of autistic students. It disgusts me.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19686 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Sacha,

    how little our education system has done to educate itself about the needs of autistic students. It disgusts me.

    As I’ve noted here before, we had to push back against some awful ignorance on the part of one “specialist” in the system. She was convinced the issue was behavioural and pressured us constantly to send our son to a residential school – which would have deprived him of every secure, reliable element in his life.

    It caused us a lot of grief and things could have been a lot worse had we not been articulate enough to push back. I’ve worried often about the harm this person has inflicted on other families.

    That was more than a decade ago. I hoped things might have changed.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22754 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Russell Brown,

    I’ve worried often about the harm this person has inflicted on other families.

    I've encountered public 'servants' like that in other areas, yes. Amazing how much harm one poorly-managed misguided person can do.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19686 posts Report Reply

  • Vivid,

    The high school I went to in Christchurch in the 1980's had one of these rooms. No windows, red walls, locked door. I spent hours locked in there. They had it built after a fire in one of those two story 60's blocks. It was about 6 foot square.

    Wairarapa • Since May 2015 • 43 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Vivid,

    red walls

    that'll calm you down.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19686 posts Report Reply

  • Helga, in reply to Vivid,

    The words 'locked' and 'fire' in close conjunction are terrifying....

    New Zealand • Since May 2012 • 17 posts Report Reply

  • Dean Wallis, in reply to Sacha,

    I've encountered public 'servants' like that in other areas, yes. Amazing how much harm one poorly-managed misguided person can do.

    Hekia Parata?

    Point Chevalier • Since Jan 2013 • 44 posts Report Reply

  • Vivid, in reply to Sacha,

    I believe that was the theory at the time.

    Wairarapa • Since May 2015 • 43 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Vivid,

    I believe that was the theory at the time.

    There is a reason that the place where people gather their thoughts before going on stage or on screen is called a "green room".

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22754 posts Report Reply

  • Hebe,

    All this is part of piece, isn’t it? The abysmal failure of the New Zealand educational system to adopt progressive ways of recognising, teaching and funding students with needs different to the great mass.

    My hearts bleeds for those parents and caregivers of children with severe needs.

    My two sons are about to finish Year 13, having much lesser learning difficulties but which have impeded their lives, and it is only in the last three years after massive separate battles for both that any help has been forthcoming.

    Some teachers have been helpful, but powerless to make a difference. Othere have been actively obstructive because they did not believe that dyspraxia, dyscalculia or Auditory Processing Disorder existed or were posing enough difficulties for my kids “compared with others who need a lot of help”.

    Yeah I’m angry. Still. And once my life’s other great catfight is over – insurance for a house wrecked by the Christchurch earthquakes – I’m going back to trying to ensure other children do not go through what mine have.

    Christchurch • Since May 2011 • 2895 posts Report Reply

  • nic.wise,

    @russell,

    Even the phrase "sensory deprivation room" sounds a bit grim: it's not as if there is no sensory stimulation, just a lot less of it. Even the darkness is relevant – some autistic people find fluourescent lighting aggravating.

    Not sure I'm on the spectrum (or not enough to really qualify), but find fluro's quite annoying and flickery, and CRT's under 75hz were even worse - I love that everything is LCD now - no more headaches from that. And after 7 years in London, it really made me value quiet time - hence where we live now (Waiheke), and why I'm REALLY protective of my own quiet space and time now.

    I'm curious if you or your boys (well, men) have tried a float tank? There are a couple in Auckland, I use the one in Mt Eden by the prison/fightclub - Floatworks. Best way to turn off all the things and sit in that space between awake and asleep. I'd use it daily if I had one in the back yard....

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 87 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Dalziel, in reply to Russell Brown,

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 7889 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Hebe,

    All this is part of piece, isn’t it? The abysmal failure of the New Zealand educational system to adopt progressive ways of recognising, teaching and funding students with needs different to the great mass.

    Our system does well for kids in the middle. Some schools – to their cost – do well for special-needs kids.

    Challenging behaviour might be at the heart of it. The same intermediate that couldn’t deal with our younger son (and let me be clear, they weren’t bad people and they didn’t have the resources they needed) was a turning point for our older boy. Jim was the first recipient of an award sponsored by another family for the most-improved special needs pupil. That was wonderful. His brother needed something different.

    The problem with the GSE caseworker (who was not attached to the school) was that she did not grasp that the apparently problematic behaviour was totally logical for the kid displaying it. I got that. She should have.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22754 posts Report Reply

  • Fraser Rolfe,

    Another element that I find troubling is that this kerfuffle affects a group that has been the target of various 'hunts' down the ages. Teacher Aides are often women, in the fullness of their years, and prepared/obliged to do difficult work for minimal pay, without much 'voice'. Society at large deems what is appropriate for the care, dignity, and wellbeing of our children, and metes out the resources accordingly.
    Also that person you quoted sounds like an all-around fantastic human being.

    Since Apr 2015 • 2 posts Report Reply

  • Kerry Annett,

    One of the autistic students at the school I teach at was often 'calmed' by being squished in a folded foam mattress by his Teacher Aide. I hate to think what anybody observing that thought. Although I in no way condone what the teachers and teacher aides at Miramar Central did, I deplore the lack of support, training, and resources that teachers and teacher aides working with special needs students receive. As the SENCO (special needs co-ordinator) in a primary school with several high needs students among it's population, I have had no extra training and receive no extra release (above that which I have as a DP) to fulfil the role. Special needs on a shoestring doesn't work, and the Ministry and Minister need to face up to the problem they have created.

    wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 4 posts Report Reply

  • Ianmac,

    Imagine this. A teacher has a class of 30 nine year olds. One of them becomes angry and hysterical. The class although upset do not make things worse but the class program grinds to a halt. There are no other adults to help.
    What can the teacher do with an angry out of control kid and protect the rights of other children and behave with due regard to the dignity of child and parents?
    Time out somewhere perhaps?
    This dilemma for the teacher and the child is often not considered in the light of angry public responses.

    Bleneim • Since Aug 2008 • 135 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Ianmac,

    There are no other adults to help.

    Under-resourcing, yes.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19686 posts Report Reply

  • Hilary Stace, in reply to Ianmac,

    This is not a new situation and has been a reality for schools for ever. A school should have policies and practices for such circumstances. One child in the class could be sent to find the responsible adult who can help. It can be an authority figure like the principal or an administrative staff member. There should approved procedures where that child can calm down and be distracted but with a responsible adult near by at all times. The angriest situation I have witnessed was a 10 year old throwing furniture and a metal rubbish bin lid around a classroom – but a calm authoritative school principal defused the situation and made the boy sit in his office with him. Later there were some restorative practices all round.

    Wgtn • Since Jun 2008 • 3202 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Kerry Annett,

    One of the autistic students at the school I teach at was often ‘calmed’ by being squished in a folded foam mattress by his Teacher Aide. I hate to think what anybody observing that thought.

    Sounds like a good sort of squeeze machine to me.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22754 posts Report Reply

  • Hilary Stace,

    Astute teachers and teacher aides can tell when a situation is escalating. Many (even young ) kids can be taught to self-identify, and to self-regulate to an extent perhaps with some visual aids. Some carry flash cards (eg on a lanyard) to indicate stress levels rising and the next steps they need to take. That is when you bring in pre-approved responses which have to be pretty immediate. It might be that they are allowed to leave the classroom and take themselves to a safe place like a part of the playground or the library.

    I've probably mentioned this before but our school had a great teacher aide who could read the signs of rising distress. One student called it doing a Lake Taupo (ie the volcanic eruption about 1800 years ago) which became their code word. He was allowed to leave and she always knew where to find him.

    Some schools have heavy blankets and sofas where kids can hide from the world and feel that same soothing pressure like the squeeze machine. Touching kids and doing physical restraint can be problematic so that squeeze machine response mentioned above would be a person specific one and hopefully the rest of the school knew about it and why

    Wgtn • Since Jun 2008 • 3202 posts Report Reply

  • Tom Johnson,

    The teacher aide spends most of the time with the pupil. The experts spend very little time with the individual yet they talk like it's the other way round. We need to make working in this sector a real profession with solid fulltime pay, training and systems.

    Mainstreaming young students gives them an ability to negotiate social situations at the same pace as their peers. It can be a huge advantage for a student to feel part of the social fabric at a young age, consequently hiding young people from society is a recipe for disaster. Yes, they melt down but so do all students and an acceptance of procedure and proper technique is what is needed. If you come into a special needs room for a day you may be shocked but within a week you will realise that most of the time these students are gathering important social and academic skills and getting extremely tense about issues is just part of the human brain that we all deal with in some degree.

    hamilton • Since Mar 2016 • 98 posts Report Reply

  • Rosemary McDonald,

    ...the ministry and its minister are in danger of erring in the the other direction.

    Baby out with the bathwater...again?

    Thanks Russell...listening to this story unfold (via Natrad, whilst out in the wilderness) Peter and I were concerned we may be the only ones who thought that 'seclusion rooms', properly used, were not the hideous torture chambers they were being made out to be.

    For all the reasons respondents have listed....

    Waikato, or on the road • Since Apr 2014 • 1344 posts Report Reply

  • Hilary Stace, in reply to Rosemary McDonald,

    There was a lot wrong with the Miramar situation. Locked room, distressed child, no consultation with parents or community that this was one of their behaviour interventions (which became in effect a punishment), nothing on IEP about its use or why and for how long. Then neither the principal or board chair would front for the media. The board member who eventually fronted was unfamiliar with the physical environment of the school and its policies - which all indicated much to be alarmed about..

    A seclusion room is not a safe, quiet time out space. Seclusion is about enforced removal from other humans and whether for children or adults amounts to punishment.

    Wgtn • Since Jun 2008 • 3202 posts Report Reply

  • Rosemary McDonald, in reply to Hilary Stace,

    A seclusion room is not a safe, quiet time out space.

    That's why I put 'seclusion' in inverted commas!

    A "quiet time out space", not locked, with close supervision/support....fine.

    Sometimes, the world is too much with us...how much harder to cope with the world if it is difficult, if not impossible, to filter out the 'noise'?

    Waikato, or on the road • Since Apr 2014 • 1344 posts Report Reply

  • Tom Johnson,

    A seclusion room is a cupboard with a window. It is a really nasty business for child and enforcer. Also the reluctance of the individual to be secluded means the achievement of said task is sometimes quite physical.

    hamilton • Since Mar 2016 • 98 posts Report Reply

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