No one’s at fault and we’re all to blame – my initial reaction to a story about a 9-year-old boy with autism being handcuffed and removed from his Ottawa, Canada school following a temper tantrum.
The parents are currently filing complaints with the school board and the police, and are also considering taking their son, Daniel, to a different school.
What Should Have Happened?
The school staff are trained in Non-Violent Crisis Intervention (NVCI), a method of identifying and dealing with escalating behaviours typically seen in children and adults with special needs. This child was clearly at the last stage, which dictates you isolate and do not engage because the individual is over-stimulated and not in a position to be reasoned with logically.
As a care provider for people with special needs for over eight years, I can attest that these behaviours are not abnormal. At some homes I’ve worked in you could see this type of behavioural outburst 2-3 times before breakfast is served.
A Divided Readership
If you read the comments below the multitude of articles covering this story, you’ll see some people on the (rightfully so) side of the angry parents, and others defending the police officer for using handcuffs. The thing is, both sides are completely right, but that’s not the point.
You see, if the boy had been left alone to cool off, which individuals almost always do, the situation would’ve resolved itself. However, when the police officer entered the fray, she inadvertently over-stimulated an already overly-stimulated person. Inevitably, she had to use the tools at her disposal (handcuffs) to respond to a potential threat – that is typical police stuff and she should not be crucified for doing her job… It’s just that she didn’t need to be doing her job in this instance.
Nobody Wins Unless Everybody Wins
Now, we’re left with a police force facing negative publicity (because that doesn’t happen enough), parents who are angry about the treatment of their child, and, most importantly, a child who is emotionally scarred and will likely never trust anyone in uniform again.
So who’s to blame?
Well, we are, or at least, Canadian society is. We are massively lacking in the tools and resources to adequately understand and support individuals with special needs and it is causing situations like these on a frequent basis.
We’re putting ordinary people in extraordinary situations and expecting them to react perfectly each and every time – it’s not going to happen.
No one’s at fault and we’re all to blame.