A Book That Talks About Restraint & Seclusion Through the Eyes of Children with Special Needs
Mommy, I Wish I Could Tell You What They Did To Me At School Today
Last year, we found out that restraint & seclusion can be a personal threat to our own kids; I knew I needed to take a stand, and since then have worked hard locally and online in advocacy against restraint and seclusion.
So when I saw the book by Richard S. Stripp, Sr. about Restraint and Seclusion, I knew I needed to take the time to read it. Mommy, I Wish I Could Tell You What They Did To Me At School Today is the true story of Mr. Stripp’s work as an aide in the public school system and respite worker.
And he found a way to tell their story in a way that was both emotional and heart-rending.
Restraint and Seclusion is the Story of Abuse
I found this book to be a hard read, but important for anyone who cares about children with special needs. In it, Stripp gives voice to children with special needs he encountered during his years as an aide in the public school system, many of whom were nonverbal or mostly unable to give voice to what happened to them.
Stripp used a literary technique I’ve rarely seen utilized when trying to tell the story about nonverbal children with special needs – he got into their heads and became their voice. While we will never know exactly what these children really were thinking about during these horrific experiences, Stripp gives us a rare glimpse into their possible reactions to being mentally, physically, and emotionally abused, either through callous neglect or outright abuse.
The danger of restraint and seclusion is best left to a post on the subject itself, but consider for a minute that your child can’t tell you if someone hurt them. That your child can’t tell you that someone keeps hurting them, in the name of discipline, class control, and sometimes incompetence.
I firmly believe there are more teachers of children with special needs out there who are passionate about helping the children in their care, but they are only human. And humans make mistakes, act in anger, become overwhelmed, and sometimes take the easy way out instead of doing what is right. Sometimes it happens. We hear the stories all the time, and in this book, we hear about those stories from someone who was in the classroom with these children, from someone who knew and loved these children.
Stripp warned me I might need tissues for this reading adventure, and I’m proud to say I didn’t. But I couldn’t let go of the images, of the children he introduced to me as a reader, and the advocate in me roared at the injustice of it. The thought of that happening to my own child … when I know in fact that something similar did happen … makes me want to fight all the harder for all the children out there.
Stripp shares with us stories that should shock and anger us, should overwhelm us … and hopefully they will inspire us, also, to do what we can to remember that these children can be difficult to understand, they might not be able to talk with words … but they do have a voice, and if we look hard enough we can see what they have to say.
From what could be their own words … the Children of Restraint and Seclusion:
In brief, I want to share a few quotes from the book, and I hope they will give you the same goosebumps they give me …
About a little boy named Adam, who hid his shoes because he didn’t want to go to school. Emotionally and physically abused by those he trusts, his story ends with this sad note:
“As I get put on the bus, the teacher tells me to do them all a favor and stay home tomorrow. Sounds like a great idea. I’ll try, but Mom always finds my shoes.”
Or the little boy named Tommy, who reminded me of what my own Logan might be thinking, and what he might have had to deal with strapped in his own rifton chair at school last year. Tommy, who says …
“I used to love coming to school and running around. They don’t let me do that too much anymore. Most of the day I’m strapped into this stupid chair. I hate this chair. When I’m out of the chair, I like to run. I’ll run anywhere…
When they strap me in the chair, I try to get out. Wouldn’t you? …”
Restraint and Seclusion is a Kind of Dirty Little Secret
But in Mommy, I Wish I Could Tell You What They Did to me at School Today, Stripp pulls away the veil, and makes us see this as the horrible injustice it is. I was moved, angered, and horrified at what I read … and that’s why this book MUST be read – because anyone who loves a child with special needs SHOULD be moved to action against restraint and seclusion.
Do you have your own story of Restraint and Seclusion? Have you read this book? Have questions about it? Tell us how restraint and seclusion has affected your world, and join the Cafe in vowing to make a difference.
I’ll be continuing the talk about restraint and seclusion here at the Cafe, because it needs to talk about for change to occur. I’ll also be publishing a post about Stripp, whose personal story as a child with epilepsy and as an aide is fascinating as well.
Restraint and Seclusion needs to be fought, and this book is an important read if you want to understand why, at a more visceral and personal level.