Friday, January 16, 2009

Ending Restraint and Seclusion

The National Disability Rights Network presented a report to Congress earlier this week on the harm done to children with disabilities by the use of dangerous restraint and seclusion practices in the schools. ASAN was one of the organizations that signed as a supporter of its policy recommendations. The report described specific cases of children who had been injured or killed as a consequence of being restrained or isolated by their teachers and other school employees, and it recommended policy changes to prevent such practices.

Because the federal government does not keep data on such abuses and there are no national reporting or tracking requirements, it is likely that the number of children injured by restraint and seclusion may be significantly larger than the cases reported. Rep. George Miller, who chairs the House Education and Labor Committee, has promised to schedule a hearing on the restraint and seclusion issue.

Autistic children, because of their behavioral differences, are disproportionately victimized by restraint and seclusion practices in the schools. Evelyn Towry, an eight-year-old autistic girl in Idaho, recently was restrained by two teachers whose goal was to prevent her from going to the school Christmas party wearing a cow sweatshirt. As reported by, Evelyn said that she struggled with the teachers because "they were holding me down and I got thumb bruises on me." She was taken from school in handcuffs, briefly placed in a juvenile detention center, and charged with battery (a charge that was soon dropped)... all because of an argument over a cow sweatshirt.

Children in Ohio also are injured and sometimes killed as a result of school restraint and seclusion practices. The Cleveland Plain Dealer reported last week on the case of Faith Finley, a student who suffocated as a result of being held face down at her school. Cuyahoga County Coroner Frank Miller declared her death a homicide. The Ohio Department of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities has banned this practice, known as "prone restraint," because of its danger, but it still occurs in some Ohio schools.

Ohio has no statewide requirement for reporting of incidents involving restraint and seclusion.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Obama Transition Autism Policy Recommendations

The Obama transition team invited ASAN and other advocacy groups to present recommendations on policy priorities for autism issues. ASAN President Ari Ne'eman issued the following statement about these recommendations:


This past Friday, we met with representatives from the Office of the President-Elect on Autism Policy. The meeting was attended by representatives from the Autistic Self-Advocacy Network, Easter Seals, TASH, the Marino Foundation, Autism Speaks and the Autism Society of America. At the request of the Office of the President-elect, we presented to the new administration our top three policy priorities for the coming year: 1) Supporting and Empowering autistic adults, 2) Ending School Abuse and Ensuring a Free and Appropriate Public Education for Every Student, and 3) Balancing the Research Agenda in Support of Quality of Life. You can read our recommendations to the new Administration on our website and we encourage you to post them on your blogs, listservs and elsewhere.

Although these are our top three priorities, they do not represent our only action items and we are pleased to report that the incoming administration expressed a strong interest in remaining in continuous contact on these and other issues. It is absolutely essential that we ensure that autistic self-advocates have a voice at the policy table and we will continue to keep you up to date as we advocate for the autistic community.
Nothing About Us, Without Us!
Ari Ne'eman
The Autistic Self Advocacy Network
1660 L Street, NW, Suite 700
Washington, DC 20036