top of page

(Canada) National focus on ISOLATION ROOMS and how they're used with SPED students

June 11, 2019, Globe and Mail: Cornered: Canadian schools reach a turning point in use of seclusion rooms for children with disabilities Across Canada, some classrooms choose to isolate pupils with autism or other complex needs when they act out – sometimes with traumatic results. Now provinces, parents and educators are reviving a debate about how to balance discipline with dignity Michelle Boshard felt cornered. Her 11-year-old son, Aaron, had been diagnosed with autism and a speech disorder. To accommodate his needs, he had only been attending school for the part of the day in a specialized class. But, after a series of behavioural incidents, which culminated with him injuring an educational assistant, school officials had sent him home midway through the academic year. He would only be allowed to return, they told her, if he spent his days isolated in a classroom with two adult supervisors. They would not allow him outside for recess, either, and for safety reasons, they would have to insist Aaron wear a wrestling helmet – the soft foam kind – with the chinstrap securely fastened at all times. The room officials designated for him had a buzzer locked door, a beanbag chair, a tent, a desk and a window, where he would be able to see other children playing on the basketball court. “He was emotionally devastated,” Ms. Boshard said. “Demoralized and shamed.” And as schools struggle to embrace inclusion, these in-between spaces, as well as the practice of physically restraining students, have increasingly become the subject of debate.
Some parents The Globe and Mail spoke with support the idea of a time-out or calming room, saying that, when used properly, it acts as a temporary safe space and is often part of a student’s Individual Education Plan, which is created for children who need additional help. But many others say their children with complex needs are disproportionately targeted and often isolated from their classmates in these rooms for extended periods. Alberta is moving to ban almost all isolation rooms this fall after reports from families of their special needs children being restrained and secluded, including a disturbing lawsuit where parents of an autistic boy allege that he was locked naked in a room at a school east of Edmonton and ended up covered in his own feces…. Aside from surveys done by advocacy groups that have put a spotlight on seclusion rooms and the resulting trauma, there is an absence of data as to how often – and for how long – children are being isolated. … At the heart of the issue lie fundamental questions about how best to accommodate children such as Aaron as schools across Canada have moved toward a model of inclusive education. Teachers have reported an increase in classroom violence; other parents fear for the safety of their children. Further, families of children who have intellectual and developmental disabilities are increasingly being asked to pick up children early, start their day later or keep them home for an indefinite period because of behavioural issues, a Globe and Mail analysis earlier this year found. … Prof. Bennett said she recently learned of more school districts in Ontario building seclusion rooms, which, she added “really horrifies me.”… Ms. Boshard’s experience is not uncommon. A survey conducted in the fall of 2018 of nearly 400 parents by Inclusion Alberta, a group that advocates on behalf of people with developmental disabilities, found that more than half of families said their children with special needs were restrained or confined in seclusion rooms at school. Similarly, a survey done in 2017 by Inclusion BC found what it called the “routine use of restraint and seclusion in schools across the province.” About 100 people responded to questions on the use of seclusion and 63 said that an adult had prevented the student from leaving, while 25 said their child had been secluded behind a locked door. …
Karen DeLong, Inclusion BC’s director of inclusive education, said guidelines do not go nearly far enough. Many parents find out “accidentally” that their child has been restrained or secluded, Ms. DeLong said, even though the B.C. guidelines say that parents are expected to be notified by the end of the school day after any incident.
The group has called for incidents tracked at the school-district level to be reported to the Ministry of Education. It has also requested Mr. Fleming to follow Alberta’s lead in banning the practice, except in very limited circumstances. … Mr. Cardy said he would be hesitant to fully ban seclusion rooms. “At this point, I would be very, very reluctant to do that because in many cases, it’s an opportunity to make sure that the rest of the students in any classroom are able to continue,” he said. … Aidan, now 16, has autism and is non-verbal. With the support of school staff and educational assistants, he is doing well at a nearby school division, Ms. Oakes said. …


bottom of page