Parents in the area I live in are suddenly up in arms over the discovery of padded, quiet rooms in public schools. These rooms have been around for quite sometime and were not implemented as “punishment rooms” but merely as a safe environment for certain children with more advanced special needs. Some times autistic children or children with down syndrome (just examples) experience moments were they become completely overwhelmed by sensation and may thrash and strike out blindly potentially harming themselves or others. Physical contact at this time can do much more harm than good as they are not , at that moment able to comprehend the gesture. These rooms are meant to be a safe, calming environment for these times. These tools can be necessary in fully integrated public schools. The kids are not supposed to be locked in or left unsupervised. They are supposed to be used to allow the child to calm themselves and then be comforted ,not to throw a misbehaving child in, lock the door and leave the terrified child alone. I can’t imagine the psychological damage that kind of usage could cause.
Where I think the problem occurs is when parents are not informed about these “safe rooms”, and explained their usage. What concerns me is why children are being placed in the rooms without prior consultation with the parents and trained staff and then follow up dialogue to explain why the staff felt this action was needed, what the results were and an action plan put in place for any future situations. Had these steps been taken then there would be no panic, fear and anger from ill informed parents.
The school currently under scrutiny in my area really failed in their duty to work with parents for the well being of the children. Sadly, a tool that could be very beneficial for children with special needs may now be vilified in the media. Or, maybe this will bring some understanding and the guarantee that these rooms will be used appropriately. Never as punishment.