Thursday, 11 October 2018

'Tethered like an animal': School staff strap autistic boy, five, to chair by his ankles and waist as other children play freely - then send mother PHOTOS in class report (4 Pics)

A five-year-old boy with autism was strapped to a chair at his waist and ankles at school, Belfast Live can reveal.
The little boy, the youngest of three children, attends a special school in Northern Ireland.
But photos sent to his parents as part of a class report revealed the youngster had been confined to the chair with straps at his waist and legs despite having no special physical needs.
Meanwhile, other pupils were able to sit and play freely.
Belfast Live is not naming the family to protect the child’s identity.
When his parents discovered 10 months ago what had occurred, they asked the school for an apology and an assurance the action would never be repeated.
But no apology was forthcoming and the child’s parents contacted Social Services and their son’s psychiatrist advised them their claims were a “child protection matter”.
Social services made a complaint to the PSNI and wrote to the child’s psychiatrist stating: “We fear [the child] suffered willful or neglectful failure to prevent injury and suffering, and confinement defined as physical abuse under Social Services procedure.”
The parents made an official complaint citing negligence and breach of duty by the school, the Education Authority and the Department of Education but say they have been left in limbo.
And an internal Education memo seen by Belfast Live, states that on June 29 the parents’ complaints should be registered with Internal Audit as a “potential whistleblowing case”.
The boy’s mum said: “Our son was tethered like an animal. He’s a placid little boy, all his assessments show that. He is physically fit and active with some challenging behaviour but there’s never been a need to restrain him. Those chairs are made for children who need to be elevated and angled to the right position, not our son.
“We didn’t realise what had been going on until he actually managed to show us himself. Our son is autistic and non-verbal, but until this started happening he’d always been happy and cheerful and very easy company.
“Quite suddenly his personality changed and for the best part of a year we were going rapidly downhill. He was tortured, demented. I was really concerned he was going out of his mind. He was so distressed and agitated, having panic attacks, suffering night terrors and he was tearful and acting very strangely, a totally different little boy to the one we knew and he couldn’t tell us why.
“But he started staying in the chair at the dinner table and got very distressed if we tried to get him out of it. His psychiatrist has since told us she believes he’d been conditioned to sitting in a chair because he’d been taught to use the chair in school. He didn’t like it but he didn’t know what else to do.
“We’d no idea he was restrained in a chair in school and we hadn’t given our permission for that to be done and we were never asked. But we were told by other parents that they’d seen our son being wheeled in the chair at the school but when we asked the school, they denied it.”
The boy’s dad explained: “We knew there was something seriously wrong. At first we worried that it might be something to do with his autism and this behaviour was going to be a part of his everyday life. It was a terrible time. The behaviour and distress was so far removed from our normal little boy.
“After dinner we’d all want to go to watch TV but we struggled to get him to join us.
“We literally had to wean him off the chair, remove it for short periods and allow it back for a while, then remove it for longer periods until we finally got rid of it.
“We have video footage of our son who had been a great cuddler, pulling away from everyone, not wanting to be touched or held or cuddled. He would wince and crouch down if anyone walked behind him.”
The youngster, who recently turned seven, managed himself to finally reveal to his family what had been distressing him.
His mum explained: “In January he was lying on the floor with his playbooks scattered around him. These are a scrapbook to show the parents what the children have been up to in school and give an idea of their progress because they are non-verbal. Photos of the classes including our son were stuck into the book and a description of the activity handwritten on the side.
“We had of course looked through them before but we hadn’t noticed that our child had actually been restrained in a chair by his ankles.
“I was talking away to him and asking him what he wanted to show me, and he just kept touching the book. I started looking very closely at the photos and my heart just started racing. It was there in plain sight, my wee man strapped into a chair by his ankles.
“I felt sick, it was like the fog lifted. Now we knew, now we had an explanation.
“I contacted the social worker and the psychiatrist and they explained what I feared. This was a police matter, a child protection matter, a matter of abuse of trust and I believe abuse of my son physically.
“Everything started falling into place and we contacted the school but were told they’d just wanted to keep him safe. No further explanation and no apparent understanding of our concerns.
“We asked for an apology and an assurance it would never happen again but we got nothing. I looked at my son and saw a broken wee boy. They broke his spirit and he couldn't fight them but thank goodness he managed to let us know through the very books the school sent home.
“We took our son out of school and I home schooled him and for weeks he was still distressed but he started to heal. His smile came back, his anxiety lifted, his distress lessened and he finally was able to go back to school with different teachers who have been brilliant with him.

No comments:

Post a Comment