Tuesday, May 01, 2007

The Padded Room. We laugh about it, right?
Maybe I'll reconsider my glib use of the phrase "Oh, just lock me in a padded room." At least this week. Come on, we've all said it. As we complain about some petty annoyance. "Oh that line at the Stop & Shop was so long and the woman ahead of me had a stack a coupons and she actually wrote out a paper check! -- Just lock me in a padded room! I was late for my (insert your favorite diversion here.)"
Well, this photo is of a padded room used in a ELEMENTARY SCHOOL for children who become out of control. This elicits a thousand questions from me. The first being what have we done to our children that they are so out of control that they require restraints, padded rooms and heavy-duty psych meds?
Many of us in the autism world have our theories. Whatever you may think - we'd be naive not to realize that something(s) has changed our kids drastically, and not for the better.
Here's the article about this padded room. In one of the wealthiest counties in America. In one of the most acclaimed towns in the county.
I'm not casting judgement on the use of the room. I don't walk in that Mom's shoes. I'm guessing the room is a safer alternative to some of the physical take-down restraints schools use. And it sure as hell beats the electric shock devices used elsewhere on children. (Yes, you read that correctly.) I just wonder why a school would need this room to begin with. It might treat the "symptom" of out of control behavior - but I'd sure like to get down to the CAUSE.
(04/30/07) NORWALK - A week after hearing a 7-year-old autistic boy was put in a padded room at Ox Ridge Elementary School in Darien, a mother whose son had a similar experience is working with a state lawmaker on a bill to require strict rules for the use of such rooms.

Maryann Lombardi, of Wilton, whose son was placed in a padded room when he was 9 years old, has teamed with state Sen. Judith Freedman, of Westport, to pass the bill, which would look to ensure that schools “don’t isolate children in what we call these isolation rooms or padded rooms unnecessarily because it really is detrimental, especially to a special-needs child.”
Added Freedman: “The parent has to be contacted and the parent has to be part of the process.”

The issue of seclusion rooms has some parents with mixed feelings. Some are appalled the rooms exist in southwestern Connecticut schools. Other parents feel that, if used correctly, the rooms can be used as safe places. That includes Lombardi.


Michelle O'Neil said...

This is so disturbing and there is no right or wrong.

My prayers go out to these babies who are suffering so much, and to the people who have to make such hard decisions as to what to do for them.

Holly Kennedy said...

The picture alone made my stomach flip, Kim. And then, after feeling sick, I felt like crying for any child who would be put in such a room.

I don't have an autistic child or any experience with this, but wouldn't two arms hugging/holding a child be far more humane than letting them flail away in a room where they are inevitably left to feel punished and ostracized simply for being who they are?

Trish Ryan said...

Wow. I can't imagine what that would be like for a child - or for a parent who learns their child has just spent the day in one of those rooms. You make a good point - we can't really judge without knowing the whole story (or the alternative solutions that might be far worse). But wow.

Fivekids55 said...


That padded room really upsets me.
What is it with Connecticut?
First we have to deal with the P. J. Ruling and now this?
Don't get me started on P. J.

Five years ago, my daughter was placed in middle school. It was not our home middle school it was across town. (I know you know which one I mean.) Our 'lovely' town separated the good special ed kids from the bad special ed kids. Good meaning you could read or do some math. Bad meaning you couldn't do academics to the lower end of the scale and maybe non-verbal in a wheelchair.

So, she was in the bad group.

The placement was a disgrace.The classroom she attended had brown partitions, think office cubicles. It was designed for a boy who needed to calm down. He had to be separated from the group, but there were so many freaking cubicles it left little space for the class. The room didn't have a window either.

Did he need it? Yes. He was a very tall and big child. His male aide was half his size and the other teachers were women. I think he needed to be desensitized to regain control. But what happened was, if the other kids had behavior issues, they too were asked to sit in a cubicle.

I argued with everyone, saying my daughter didn't belong there,. She would never see a familiar face in the hallway. Her own brother attended my district middle school. Nobody listened. The outvoted my husband and I at the PPT. I believe it was 15-2. They told me this is where she belongs. These are teachers and professionals that I had trusted.

I tried the school, it didn't work for my daughter or for me. I learned it was against the law to not allow a child to attend their home school. We retained an educational attorney and a consultant from UConn.

Then the town listened.

Eventually, we won. More importantly, our town no longer distinguishes special ed kids. The child can attend their district school and will be provided services. I'm happy to say my husband and I had a part in that.

The padded room could be a safety device. Maybe so a child doesn't hurt himself or others.

The problem is I think the staff will abuse it.

A quick fix for behavior issues? Just like those cubes.


kyra said...

that is so disturbing. my son would FLIP OUT and so would if he were to ever be placed in that room. is there a mirror in there, too? even worse: the child can see reflections of their terror and confusion and isolation.

why not just HIRE MORE STAFF and train them to BE WITH THE CHILD AND HELP THEM CALM DOWN. and yes, i agree with you, what was going on in the first place???

kimtheblogowner said...

Kyra, love. Sing with me "Money, money, money, must be funny, in a rich man's world." Even in the wealthiest districts there is a never ending struggle for enough money to help our kids. My daughter has a one on one aide required per her IEP. She doesn't have the aide for 2+ hours a day - the school put together another plan that, while satisfactory, is indeed in contrast (that's a nice non threatening word instead of violation) to her IEP.

Dawn said...

I have no experience with special needs children - in fact I don't have any children. But what I see here is a group of brave mothers filled with love and concern for their kids and my heart goes out to you all. You're doing it right, you know what your children need better than anyone else.

A century ago we put people in asylums and laughed at them. We are getting better - slowly. Hang tough, ladies.

Anonymous said...

I was just brought in on a case in Massachusetts.(I advocate for children on the spectrum) and there are very strict laws surrounding use of these rooms too...all of which districts seem to constantly violate from what I have found. In this case, the district was putting this child in one of these rooms for up to an hour. It was appalling. They are also supposed to be keeping accurate data on the time spent in the room because if the child is put in one of these "time out" rooms (as they like to call them in Mass.) then the time missed from class is supposed to be considered compensatory ed. time and made up at some point. None of this gets done.

My question is...why are these children having such behaviors to begin with to require the need for this? Always look to the teachers and the teaching I always say. Make sure FBA's are done often to figure out the "WHY" of behaviors. Most of the teachers and the teaching of children on the spectrum within school districts is just horrible. That has been what I have seen in most cases. Putting children in these rooms is disgusting and very outdated. You never see good (and remember, I said GOOD!)ABA providers using this as some behavior technique.

John Elder Robison said...

They told me my parents were locked up in padded rooms, but they were actually conventional locked rooms. They used straightjackets.

Then they medicated them into submission.

My enthusiasm for rooms like that is, as a result, rather limited. I would not keep my own kid in a school system that had one.

That said, there is nothing wrong with the belief in the room. When my son was small I convinced him I had a spanking machine that I would put him in if he became uncontrollable. The threat was usually effective.

And on a darker note, here is a photo of a padded room with a view, circa 1970

This was the front door, which you did not see if you arrived in chains, in the back of a cruiser.


kimtheblogowner said...

But John, the average family can't just pack up and move to a new school system - especially as other schools may have WORSE systems in place like physical restraints, calling the police on the child and even electric shock. Or staff even less trained. I still demand to know "what have we done to our children" and "why can't we help them before they get to the point of violence." I weep for these kids - and their parents. My girls do not have out of control behaviors - I pray to God every day for that gift. I don't know how I would hold up knowing my child could be subject to solitary confinement and/or worse in school.

Anonymous said...

In Olympia, WA school district, a teacher was caught using a time out box extensively for one student, and there has now been a legal case mounted.

What happened to the teacher?

She was promoted to the position of special ed director for the district.

Anonymous said...

Anon - I know of a sped director who sent her entire staff an newspaper article that ripped apart the diet and DAN! protocol - with a note "What are parents supposed to think?" Mind you, the article was POSITIVE about DAN! except for an excerpt from a man in New England who runs an ABA school where you must SIGN PAPERS saying you will not use the diet or any other biomed protocol for your child while enrolled in this "world class" autism school. Miss SPED director didn't sent the whole article - just the portion that said the diet is useless. Sabotage much?

Anonymous said...

And the Dept. of Education in Massachsetts just completed an extensive review of that "world class" school in Mass. and there were several findings of lack of supervision and training in the report (which is public record on the Mass. DOE website under program quality assurance). Trust me, the people there want you to think it is "world class" but many parents beg to differ! Dictating to parents what they can or can not feed their child and making them sign a paper is unbelievable and I am stunned parents would bend to these people.

twhitaker@crossbowstudio.com said...

Kim--I can't believe this. M. O'neil sent me here. Just as you were writing this, I was writing about my sons experience in the padded room. Please check out my blog. It was so disturbing to see him in there, and yet--I did not know what to suggest to them. It was absolutely horrific.


Anonymous said...

Sometimes, "simply being who they are" as someone else put it, means hurting themselves, attacking others, and trashing the house.

My daughter is bigger than I am, and very strong.
I cannot take her in public as I fear she would attack others (as she once did) when she got crossed.

Today I am in pain! my heart aches and my body hurts, I have bruises to prove it. I have done all the training that there is to regarding restraining. I say one thing, in theory it is fine, in practice with a love one, it is hell.

Most people do not have a clue what is is like to have to care for an autistic child (in my case a 15 years old) who is very verbal, but yet obsessive!

I am not looking for sympathy, but I found this blog as I was looking for pads to try to secure a portion of the house and I felt I better give you guys a bit more of the picture.

If anyone want to donate a padded room, I will kindly take it!