In The Politics of Autism, I discuss the use of restraint and seclusion. Many posts have mentioned these techniques, both in schools and facilities for people with disabilities.
At least 20 children have died as a result of restraints since 2001, according to press clippings and Government Accountability Office reports identified by VICE News. They range from a 7-year-old girl who was restrained multiple times in a mental health clinic; a 15-year-old boy with autism who was pinned by four employees to the ground for over an hour; and a 17-year-old who died in a church-run treatment center after she choked in a restraint.
In 2012, the Department of Education published guiding principles for the use of all types of physical restraint: they are supposed to be emergency safety interventions, and used only when a child puts themself or someone else in imminent danger. But it’s hard to tell whether this guidance is being followed. There is no comprehensive data on how often physical restraints occur or what prompts them. Nor does the government track how many children are injured or killed in restraints.
Cornelius Fredrick was the latest. On May 1, the 16-year-old asphyxiated and died two days after he’d been placed in an on-the-ground “supine” restraining hold at the Minnesota residential facility for foster kids and juvenile offenders where he lived. Fredrick was restrained after throwing a sandwich in the cafeteria. A prior VICE News investigation interviewed 19 former staff and students at the facility, Lakeside Academy, who said restraints were used commonly to punish small infractions and keep order on campus.