Do children with special needs require policing? - Toledo special education |

Do children with special needs require policing? - Toledo special education |

Lee's Summit has done this to children with autism.

"A 10-year-old African-American student diagnosed with autism
ended up handcuffed and face down on the ground with a police officer’s
knee in her back. Police were called after the girl had an outburst in
class and began running around the classroom, jumping on desks, and
knocking down chairs.

"She climbed out a classroom window and up a tree. The police dragged
her away from the tree by her ankles and handcuffed her. Several
officers were on the scene....When the girl’s grandmother arrived, she
found a police officer pressing her granddaughter’s face so close to the
ground that she was having difficulty breathing. Officers eventually
released the girl. Since the incident, the girl has said the police are
not her friends and has asked, “Why do they hate me?" (

One of the issues is that schools and other service providers are no
longer allowed to physically engage children and adults with
developmental disabilities. As a behavior specialist, this author
physically restrained students that behaved this way and provided
training to teachers and teacher assistants on preventive measures, as
well as proper holds and restraints.

However, some people who were untrained and/or poorly trained used
illegal restraints on children and adults, resulting in a number of
deaths and lawsuits. Those staff and providers used similar techniques
to police officers whose restraints have killed people. Proper, safe
restraints would have prevented all of these deaths.

Do children with special needs require policing since they are not
cognizant of and may not understand that they are exhibiting criminal
behavior? In this case, the child who apparently trusted the police to
serve and protect her now believes the police hate her. How do parents
and teachers reconcile these kinds of actions with the messages from
home and school that all students should trust the police and go to
police officers for help?

In Toledo, several individuals with special needs have been shot and
killed because the police did not know how to handle this population
during noncriminal outbursts. Most recently, a few years ago, an elderly
woman with cognitive disabilities was shot and killed by two female
officers after staff at her group home called 911, per state protocols,
when the woman got in her bed with a pair of scissors after staff tried
to get her to calm down after an outburst.

Police officers need to be trained how to deal with this population
humanely and safely. Often acting out is used due to a lack of
communication skills to show frustration or indicates confusion. While
an individual with special needs in this state may grab a weapon, it is
more likely it will be used in a self-injurious manner than to hurt
others. However, if staff approach said individual and she or he becomes
frightened, he or she may strike out with said weapon.

While preventative measures are the best ways to avoid violent
outbursts, when faced with these behaviors anyone dealing with
individuals with any type of developmental disabilities should -

1. Remain calm

2. Speak loud enough to be heard but not in a threatening

3. Make sure only one person is talking to and/or approaching the individual

4. Re - direct the student (or adult) by talking about something she or
he likes to do (read a book, listen to some music, go for a walk, etc.).

5. If the student (or adult) wants to engage in this activity, get him
or her to move away from any dangerous item or means of escape so she or
he can engage in a favorite activity.

6. When sure he or she is calm proceed with activity, remembering that
she or he was highly agitated and itake some the for him or her to relax
and calm down.

7. Engage in activity and use positive statements throughout
complimenting appropriate behavior and redirect any inappropriate

8. Once the student (or adult) has maintained appropriate behavior for
an hour or more, calmly talk about his or her outburst and try to find
out why he or she was agitated, suggesting things that might have upset
her or him if the student (or adult) has a great deal of difficulty

9. Offer the student (or adult) alternatives to acting out the next time
he or she gets upset and try to role play situations that might cause
outbursts by the student (or adult) and help her or him act out some
appropriate ways to act in those situations. Practice this behavior
whenever the student (or adult) starts to become agitated.


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