Padded rooms in public schools


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.


6 thoughts on “Padded rooms in public schools

  1. I think the concept of “safe rooms” is an excellent one. But I also agree with you about making sure parents are given full disclosure about them: their existence, when they’re used, why, and etc. I hope things will change for the better on this issue, and that the media will not do their usual bashing when they get hold of the story.

    • Unfortunately, portraying these rooms as archaic torture chambers will likely be the angle the media runs with since it is much more sensationalistic. I hope I’m just being cynical though and they take the time to really investigate the uses of them.

  2. Sadly, you’re probably right. If it isn’t negative, it isn’t news… ::sighs:: But, they have been known to take positions opposite to their general tendencies, so here’s hoping this will be one of those occasions in which they support the need for these rooms and influence others to be supportive of them, as well.

  3. As the mom of two kids with special needs, mind you, nothing that would entail putting them in a room like this, BUT, as someone who lives with special needs kids everyday I can tell you that while these rooms “make sense” to the adults. They don’t make sense to the kids. Whenever to take a child away from the rest of their class, be it a general education room or a special needs room, the immediate assumption is that they did something wrong. That coupled with school staff who use the room incorrectly or ignore parental recommendations on how to handle their children when there is a meltdown are the focus here. Some people who are not trained to deal with special needs kids are made to deal with them and then, as has been rampant here in the US as of late, those educated and certified to deal with special needs kids are ignoring their responsibilities in lieu of the path of least resistance.

    In most cases, if the adults in the classroom paid close attention to what they or others do that trigger the episodes of that special needs child, rooms like this would not be needed. Most special needs children to do just act out for no reason – there is a trigger. If the adults can’t be bothered to remove that trigger from the student’s setting then you are going to have outbursts.

    Far too often educators are short-sighted and focus far too much on the outburst/negative behavior and far less on who did what to trigger it – and discover how to prevent it.

    • I am by no means an expert nor do I have any training in dealing with children with special needs. How the rooms were explained to me as a daily volunteer at my children’s schools and coupled with what I read up on autism, the children these rooms were intended for are not able, in their state of mind at the time of the episodes, able to relate to their surroundings but are locked in panic from being overwhelmed by sensation. Any number of their five senses can be bombarded by sensation and the brain misunderstands what it is receiving. A quiet safe area is recommend for them to “reset” and calm themselves. What I understand is that touch can be misconstrued and frightening even if gentle and can escalate the situation. That is why they are allowed to calm themselves. Similar to lying in a quiet, dark room to deal with a migraine.

      However, I do believe these rooms have been misused. No child who is simply misbehaving should be put in one of these. If they are aware of their environment then it would be terrifying to be trapped somewhere. I can imagine how damaging that would be. I would be furious to hear my child had been subjected to that.

      Thanks for weighing in.

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