Seclusion and Restraint Trip Ups

I want to keep the discussion going about seclusion and restraint, so I am using our Tuesday theme of Tricks, Tips and Trip Ups to explore how seclusion and restraint actually trip our students up.

What if, just what if, the fear of being restrained or put in seclusion puts our kids in such state of hyper-vigilance and fear that they escalate instead of control their behaviors?


What if the threat of restraint and seclusion actually increase the probability of an escalation?  Because when any of us feels threatened or anxious, our brain chemistry changes and our bodies respond in unpleasant ways.



What if this whole behaviorist thing is causing more harm than good?


What if threatening to move our kids down a level actually causes loss of self-control rather than serve as a motivator to get it together and make better choices?

What if the presence of the level system in our classroom actually puts our students in a constant state of anxiety? And if we keep a big chart posted for the world to see what level each student is on, the anxiety is greater.


What if we are expecting our students to be in control of neurological activity that is actually beyond their control?

Why do we think kids should be in more control than adults monitoring them?


Why do we assume antisocial behaviors are based in ‘won’t’ rather than ‘can’t’ states of being?

As mentioned in other posts, I have been in many classrooms and many schools in many districts. I have developed special education programs, evaluated them and made recommendations about them. I am increasingly appalled at how seclusion and restraint are so commonly misused.

Using seclusion and restraint as daily behavior management tools is tripping our students up. It is tripping us up.

How so?

Well, using them impedes progress, wrongly assumes onus and purpose of anti social behaviors, and can cause long term psychological harm to the kids we are actually trying to help. Yes, PTSD is often an unintended consequence of seclusion and restraint. (check out chapter 2)

I have spent the last week or so reading restraint and seclusion reports written by the teachers using them. And I swear on all things holy, I am dumbstruck. Gobsmacked. Dismayed. Rendered speechless. Well, not that one. I am never rendered speechless.

As stated in the U.S. Department of Education document titled Restraint and Seclusion: Resource Document

“Restraint or seclusion should not be used as routine school safety measures; that is, they should not be implemented except in situations where a child’s behavior poses imminent danger of serious physical harm to self or others and not as a routine strategy implemented to address instructional problems or inappropriate behavior (e.g., disrespect, noncompliance, insubordination, out of seat), as a means of coercion or retaliation, or convenience.”

So hiding under a desk,Unknown


refusing to eat lunch,


wadding up paper and throwing it, growling, reusing to do work,

putting head on desk


do not qualify as behaviors necessitating restraint and/or seclusion.



So, if restraint and seclusion are used for these behaviors repeatedly/daily on the same student, that means it is being used as routine school safety measures.


When we use behaviorist methods and seclusion and restraint to shape student behaviors, we are invalidating their unique way of sensing, interpreting and coping with the world as they experience it. We are telling our students that they must change the way they experience the world. And we mostly tell them the way they are experiencing the world is wrong and that the discomfort they feel in the world is not justified. Something is wrong with the way they feel, process, experience and they better fix it or things will be taken away, rewards will only be handed out to those who experience the world the way they are supposed to.


How absurd.  And we are asking this of wee ones, kids with mental health challenges, neurological differences, sensory integration sensitivities, communication deficits.

While PBIS is attempting to focus on teaching kids the ‘right’ way to be in schools, it is completely discounting how teaching and reteaching and remediating behaviors neglects to address organic reasons for unwanted behaviors. This whole notion of if kids know better they will do better, especially if we are heavy on practice opportunities, is so flawed. It assumes that if one knows better, one will do better, regardless of any organic factors.

So tell me how fair, no, how humane, is it to expect kids to make ‘better choices’ when they can’t.

c76da4946d7b087a55ebe8604724ecebGood and Bad Choices Anchor Chart

And I hate that ‘make a better a choice next time’ bullshit.


They can’t.  And no amount of reteaching what is expected and practicing what is expected is going to change that.  Points awarded or taken away, restraints and seclusion, level systems, rewards and being left out of celebrations are not motivating. They more often are sources of great stress and anxiety for our kids. Imagine not being able to attend a celebration with your peers because you ‘chose’ not to control an anti social behavior you really have no control over?

It would be like putting you in jail because you ‘chose’ to have a heart attack while driving and caused an accident. Or like not being invited to a party because you have tremors and keep ‘choosing’ to spill your milk at lunch. Or the neighbors ban you from the block party because you ‘choose’ not to fix your sagging shutters because you have no money/ladder/tools/time to do so. Or being rewarded for your good looks, just because you are easy on the eyes.

The real damage done is to our student’s psyche. How painful and confusing to be told over and over again, by the level you are on, the reward you get, the points taken away, frequency and reason you are restrained or put in seclusion that you do have control over things you actually have no control over.

When we do this to kids, they internalize they are less than. They believe they are not worthy of love, rewards, feeling safe, being cared for, or respected.  Then how is use of restraint and seclusion ethical?


It’s not. So stop.



Tomorrow, since the theme is Wednesday Word, let’s explore the word prevention as it pertains to all this behaviorist nonsense and use of seclusion and restraint.



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