Physical Restraint of a Medically Fragile Child

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My 6 year old grandson has ASD, Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis, & Hypermobility Syndrome. He is prone to fractures and in danger of re-fracturing the same bone over & over.

He was physically restrained at school and received numerous bruises. The principal said he was restrained for rocking back & forth in a chair. My understanding is that a child should only be restrained when a threat to self or another child or person.

I’m going to have his medical specialist write something about restraints being contraindicated to his medical conditions. I am also picking up the report from the school district regarding the physical restraint. What else should I do?

First, you need to document everything you are told and everything you learn. Make a log and jot things down. The fact that an educator or school administrator put a 6 year old medically fragile child in restraints is horrible.

Unfortunately, this is a problem around the country. Very few states have any requirements about when to use restraints, training for staff, or any requirements to report this.

On July 31, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan sent a letter to all school officials in all states. He described his reaction to testimony before Congress on the use of restraints and seclusion in public schools. He advised school officials to reform their seclusion and restraint procedures “to ensure that every student in every school is safe and protected” before the beginning of the 2009-2010 school year.

Read “I Urge You to Ensure that Every Student in Every School is Safe and Protected” at

If you click this link — you will go to a page about restraints, seclusion and abuse at schools. You need to educate yourself about this issue. There is a “no restraints” letter that you can tailor to your grandchild’s situation.

Be sure to get letters from your grandson’s doctors describing what damage he may suffer if this happens again.

  1. I can’t say I ‘m supprised by what is happening to children in schools. My child is diagnosed with Aspergers Syndrome and is in high school. When she was in the 4th or 5th grade, she was placed in isolation after having a melt down in class. While in isolation for the whole school day. she repeatedly banged her head on a wooden desk in the room, causing her nose to bleed enough to create jelled golf-ball sized blood clots on the floor when I was led to the room after school that day. She had also smeared her blood all over the walls and small window in the door. I was in shock that the school had not called me, and told me what had happened. I did not call the police. I failed to protect my child that day. I will not fail again!

  2. I recommend you contact an advocate or consult your state board of education regarding questions for seclusion and restraint. Since the congressional report this year, seclusion and restraint has been a hot issue legally. Investigate both state and district policies, and hold your school to them.

    I certainly hope your district does not make use of any prone restraints as they are dangerous and risk asphyxiation. As always, restraint and seclusion should never be used as punishment and only as a last resort to prevent harm to the student or others.

  3. If your child is or has been restrained at school, you should contact your states Protection & Advocacy agency and report it. Most of the P&A’s are investigating reports of seclusion and restraint in public schools. You can find your Protection and Advocacy agency by accessing the National Disability Rights Network’s website:

  4. I am a SPE teacher with a MS degree, currently working on my EdD. I am so weary of my students being pushed to the side! I have never dealt with a restraint issue, and I refuse-Not on my watch!
    I came onto this site because of the reading comprehension tests. We have DIBELS in my district. This is a joke for children with SLD. Yes, they are too busy trying to read the words to get anything out of comprehension. Yet, I am forced, week-after-week to make these children go through this torture.
    My time would be better-served in helping them read, in a safe and encouraging environment. Instead, I have little time to help them. Why! Well, I am always testing and DIBELing.
    I can teach reading. I don’t need these assessments to determine where my students are.
    SPE/Advocate/Teacher (Advocate before being a teacher; isn’t this correct?)

  5. As a parent whose child has been restrained on many occasions for some ludicrous reasons, I urge you to take the information given by Wrightslaw (including filing the letter of no restraint with the district), along with the medical recommendations (once you obtain them), and get it all in place ASAP. Also think about filing a complaint on this incident. More parents really need to file complaints in order to let them know that it is STILL HAPPENING despite media attention and policies without teeth. In our situation, we had to really spell this stuff out in the IEP and in the Behavior Intervention Plan in order for them to be found in violation. You can use this unfortunate situation to make sure that it doesn’t happen again….but if it does, your grandson will be better protected with this documentation in place. Good luck.

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