My Communication Passport

Calum's Story

by Beth Morrison

My son Calum has multiple and complex special needs including Epilepsy, Autism and learning difficulties. He had very little understanding of verbal instructions and extremely limited means of communication.

After being in a mainstream local authority school with enhanced provision in Angus, he went at the end of P5 to a brand new “special school” with a small class (5/6 children). After the first 6 weeks of evaluation he was placed in a new class with a teacher and two carers.

From the very first day in the new class there were problems. Calum came home with bruises and marks on his body that he definitely did not receive at home. I was told that Calum had refused to get off a bike he was riding in the gym hall and this had resulted in him being “restrained” by four staff who had held him for up to forty minutes on the floor. During this time, Calum urinated, only then, did the staff release their hold on him. However, determined to punish Calum for not doing as he was told, the staff went on to force him sit in his urine soaked clothes whilst another member of staff stood over him with an egg timer to indicate he was in “time out.” Calum had no understanding of the concept of “time out” or “punishment.”

Calum’s injuries were seen by doctors and were consistent with positional asphyxia. In the end we counted over 60 bruises and abrasions. He was 10 years old wearing clothes for a 7 year old. 

No one was held accountable. There was no apology. The Police were at best, disinterested. Local Authority Child Protection were useless, they were never going to take their own council’s education staff to task. It was deemed “ok” to treat my son in this way, and all in the name of education. I was absolutely furious!

I had no idea school staff could even DO this! I was completely devastated that my small, severely disabled, little boy had been (in my eyes) abused by the very people we trusted to care for and nurture him.

I began to do some research into the use of restraint and found that in the USA, children had DIED as a result of being restrained. I also began to realise that the vast majority of these children had disabilities and special needs. The practise of restraint seemed to go hand in hand with “seclusion” and children having sensory meltdowns because of their neurological conditions were being manhandled into “safe spaces” or “cool down rooms” like criminals being thrown into a prison cell. The children were almost always left alone, frightened and crying until the teacher decided they had “calmed down.”

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