Handcuffs, tape and isolation are tools used on children with behavioral disorders in some classrooms. Restraint and isolation techniques are sometimes necessary to prevent students from harming themselves and others. But some educators argue for emphasizing prevention.
Joseph Shapiro, reporter covering disability and health for NPR
Deborah Ziegler, associate executive director for policy and advocacy at the Council for Exceptional Children
Discipline Success Stories
NPR Producer Susannah George asked some additional educators and counselors to tell her a story about a child who acted out, and what they did to diffuse the situation.
Cooling A Hot Temper
Marcella had a long history of explosive temper tantrums, mostly verbal protests and threats. One teacher had great success with her by building a strategy from just being observant.
Marcella's temper tantrums were more likely when she was given a lot of directions at one time. What worked for her teacher were small changes. He waited five minutes between making each request and acknowledged whatever Marcella had done before making the next request. And the change that made the biggest impact was greeting Marcella when he entered the classroom door with a "good morning."
George Sugai is a professor and the Carole J. Neag Endowed Chair at the Neag School of Education at the University of Connecticut.
Sweets And Love
I spent the summer interning at an abused children's home where I had the option of learning how to perform physical restraint techniques. I chose not to.
Thomas was a nine year old boy with a history of abusing other children and animals. He had severe problems, but his sweet freckled face and short chubby stature made him a favorite among the staff. Thomas' days were filled with hugs, shoulder rides and loving attention. Often I would sneak Thomas an extra snack or a little bit of my dessert. Most of the other children at the home become over-medicated and remain institutionalized for years. But after only 18 months, Thomas was adopted and remains with that same family today. Thomas taught me that there is a definite power in positive rehabilitation methods.
Kirsten Lee interned at an abused children's home in Georgia.
Empowering A Student With Space
I worked with a young lady in a public high school for children with emotional and behavioral disorders. She would act out: scream, curse and throw objects.
One day she had a fit as we were walking down the hall. I told her that she could either calm down and rejoin her classmates in the in classroom or stay outside. Then I stepped away to give her some physical space. It worked. Giving her a choice empowered her and giving her space helped her calm down.
Eventually small interventions like this one led to her educational success. We can't prevent all outbursts but the key is to remain calm and not take it personally. You can't match confrontation with confrontation.
Beverley Johns is a behavioral consultant in central Illinois.