TASH Conference takes aim at Restraint and Seclusion

By Pat Amos, TASH Board Member

The 2011 TASH No Excuses Conference was an experience to remember, a week of advocacy synergy that forged new alliances and took us to a new level – especially in our strategies for keeping school children safe from the use of restraint and seclusion!

Starting with a train-the-trainer event on Wednesday, parents, teachers and others came together with parent advocates Pat Amos and Peg Kinsell, Joan Gillece of the National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors (NASMHPD), and Janice LeBel of the Massachusetts Department of Mental Health Child and Adolescent Division, to explore what the latest research says about these dangerous practices and how to prevent them. Participants in the pre-conference workshop and in Joan’s and Janice’s Thursday session on The Neurobiological and Psychological Effects of Trauma were eager to be introduced to the knowledge base of “trauma-informed care,” a set of evidence-based practices that respond to the emotional and developmental needs of marginalized persons by building relationships – not restraint chairs and seclusion rooms!

Over and over we heard the comment “This information is so powerful – it needs to be part of every teacher’s training!” Plans are already being made to create new TASH vehicles for translating this knowledge into teacher pre-service and in-services, and to continue training the trainers to assure that local parents and advocates have the tools they need to step up and educate their peers and their local school systems. The first such post-conference training event has already occurred in the Philadelphia area, and more are scheduled in other locales. Our new cadre of TASH trainers is determined to stay in touch, support its members, and increase its impact exponentially! Look for webinars and other resources coming soon.

Another conference high point was the panel, The Case for Eliminating Restraint and Seclusion, organized by Linda M. Bambara of Lehigh University with Joan Gillece and Janice LeBel. These panelists mined a new and virtually untapped source of evidence against the use of restraint and seclusion: their enormous economic and organizational costs to the programs that become addicted to their use, and their long term costs to society in the form of children’s medical expenses and productivity losses. Attendees found “the economic case” to be eye-opening and vital to our efforts.

An additional and very loud shout out goes to Leslie Lipson and Jenny Puestow of the Georgia Advocacy Office for their session, No Excuses: Ending the Practice Of Restraint And Seclusion In Schools. Advocates from our host state shared their compelling story of how thousands of people banded together to approach their state school board and end the dangerous practices of restraint and seclusion in Georgia public schools. Georgia, you have paved the way and drawn a map for other states to follow!

Last but hardly least, TASH conference participants committed to pull out all the stops in the campaign for federal legislation to prevent restraint and seclusion.   We circulated a new APRAIS Advocacy Tool Kit called “Why Our Children Can’t Wait: Congress, Keep Our Children Safe!,” and expect that many Senators and Representatives will be hearing from us very soon!  To check out the Tool Kit and join in the advocacy, visit this action alert.

It feels great to end 2011 energized and organized, with No Excuses and plenty of plans. What happened in Atlanta will NOT stay in Atlanta – it’s definitely going with us!