Seclusion rooms allow students to manage outbursts

Published On: Jan 15 2013 08:40:47 AM HST   Updated On: Jan 14 2013 02:55:00 PM HST

There was a time when riding the school bus was too big a risk for Matthew Jones. 

"Tremendous meltdowns, yelling, kicking, screaming, cussing, hitting," said his mother, Amy Jones. 

Matthew, who is autistic, is now 12 years old and has learned to recognize his emotions and respond more appropriately to them. 

"A couple years ago, I'm different," Matthew said. "I'm pretty much a nice kid now, and I've grown up. I'm a young kid, and I'm doing my good work and now I'm not getting – not punching no more." 

His school in Fairfield has helped him by setting aside seclusion rooms. 

School officials declined to show the space to News 5, but Lakota Schools use similar spaces for students with emotional disturbance and allowed a brief tour of them. 

Lakota's Special Services Director emphasized that the room was not used as punishment, but to help students overcome periods of trouble. 

"The door may be open, the student may walk in and that just may be their chill space," said Brenda Paget, executive director of special services. 

Up to eight special-needs students can use the classroom, and a small adjoining room is used about once a week for them. 

"Significant, acting-out behaviors where they could be a harm to themselves or others, and in that situation we may decide that maybe shutting the door would be – for safety reasons – what we would do," Paget said. 

School employees can see inside to monitor what goes on, even when the door is closed. 

Supporters of seclusion rooms say the spaces allow students to remain in school with their peers, rather than having to leave school after each outburst. 

Matthew said he used the seclusion space just once last year, and not at all this year. 

"I'm being respectful and trying to tell my brain to relax and calm myself down, not to punch," he said. 

The Ohio School Board will vote Tuesday on rules governing the spaces in schools.


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