Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

By Allison Gamble

During the 2007-2008 school year, children with disabilities were pinned down over 18,000 times in Texas. Of these students, 20% were autistic, 40% developed emotional disorders, like post-traumatic stress disorder. Black eyes and broken medical equipment were par for the course. Public school system, what have you wrought?

Abused children may suffer, in accordance with forensic psychology, effects including excessive fear, inability to trust, attachment disorders, eating disorders, depression, and suicidal tendencies. It's common for children subjected to all kinds of abuse to withdraw from society because of life-long effects such as anxiety, relationship problems, mental illness, and post-traumatic stress disorder.

These are heightened in children with disabilities that limit effective communication. Restraint and seclusion becomes a negative feedback loop: should the child express displeasure with his or her situation, the perpetrator of the abuse is likely to handle what they perceive as negative behavior by inflicting the same punishment. A disabled student may not be able to communicate that these steps are being taken to an adult, and sometimes, it’s already too late: there are 50-150 deaths related to restraint annually.

Abused or neglected children may show aggressive bouts of anger, lashing out and possibly injuring themselves or others. According to Non-Abusive Psychological and Physical Intervention International, research shows children subjected to imposed restraint and seclusion are apt to feel resentment, fear, and anger, and further confirms that there is no therapeutic advantage to restraint and seclusion.

It is imperative that victims have mentors, teachers, counselors, or other trusted adults as resources to help them feel safe to achieve full recovery. Our legislators should force the illegality of restraint and seclusion beyond a doubt, and criminalize those who perform it. Above all, our educators should be held accountable for their colleague’s actions, as well as their own, and act as advocates for their students.

Post-traumatic stress disorder was pathologized during the 1970s when Vietnam veterans returned home from the horrors of war. School shouldn’t be a battleground.

Allison Gamble has been a curious student of psychology since high school. She brings her understanding of the mind to work in the weird world of internet marketing with forensicpsychology.net