All Tied Up

At an IEP meeting a couple of weeks ago a parent requested that we put her student in a straightjacket. Yes. That’s right. The parent wasn’t joking. In her mind this would solve many of the “extreme behaviors.” I had an immediate visceral reaction of disgust, as did others around the table.  But I had trouble finding words to describe why we felt this request was so wrong.  After all, it promised to control the extreme behaviors (hitting others.) It certainly would make safely securing the student in his seat a much easier task.

Not surprisingly, the rest of the team was more than glad to let me take the lead on this one.  I was thinking about the student’s civil rights but I chose to talk about the Least Restrictive Environment (LRE).  We don’t just jump to an extremely restrictive solution even if it promises to be the safest option if there is a right-sized solution which is less restrictive.  After some exploration, we ultimately chose to use a properly fitted safety vest with crotch strap and to monitor the situation closely.

It sure would have been easier for us to accept the parent’s suggestion but a few issues swayed us:

  1. If we used the straightjacket we feared it would be too easy to continue its use since the student is non-verbal and the parent was OK with it.
  2. A straightjacket just minimizes the impact of behaviors rather than “solving” the problem.
  3. Shouldn’t we use the most extreme measures only when there are no other options?

What would you do?

Posted on November 1, 2012, in Best Practices. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. If a reader is “tied up in knots” over “All Tied Up”. . .

    Knowing the level of Pete’s experience as I do, I suspect he’s able to “short cut” the process to get to the solution when a parent’s request doesn’t jive with safety considerations. I thought it might be useful to explain a bit more.

    When thinking through appropriate equipment or even staffing questions for students with a disability, brainstorming is important. You’d start with the least restrictive approach – the method that envisions the student’s riding most like his or her non-disabled peers . If you’re hesitant about that method because it just doesn’t seem safe enough, determine if you can pass “the straight face test” – can you articulate the reason for your reluctance, and does that reason suggest that you need to move to consideration of the next least restrictive. I’d do that with each progressively more restrictive option until getting at one that you have some measure of confidence will provide a good shot at safety. Peggy

  2. Wow-
    I am appalled first at the mother for even suggesting such an alternative. This goes from most restrictive environment to the absolute most restrictive environment. What are we thinking!! Even those the mother agreed, are we wanting another series of litigation. Surely not. There has to be another alternative for the safety and security of the student. This is not the answer.

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