When to Restrain A Child

**Restraining a child in the school setting should only be done if the child is an immediate danger to themselves or to others around them*****

This is such a hot topic.  I was nervous to even think about bringing attention to this subject because it CAN be so controversial.  However, I am a strong believer in my theories and thought…heck, why not.  It's about time.

I cringe when I see and hear stories about staff using restraint as the first intervention when dealing with a child.  If a student verbally protests, your reaction SHOULD NOT be to grab their arms and restrain them until they are quiet.  If a student drops to the floor, your reaction SHOULD NOT be to run and restrain them.  If a child refuses to work, your reaction SHOULD NOT be to restrain the child until the child is mad enough to return to work.

You must think in your head, "Is the child going to get hurt?"  "Is another student going to get hurt?"  If the answer is yes, then follow your district's protocol and restrain the child until they and their peers are safe.  If the answer is no, do not restrain the child.  Does this mean do nothing?  Absolutely not.  Proceed with a less restrictive intervention to help the child become successful.  Throwing a child in a quiet room or padded room does not teach a kid how to regulate their emotions to prevent future tantrums.

I know a lot of skeptics are reading this and thinking you've never had a child like so and so.  Or you've never dealt with a tantrum like I have.  And this may be true, or it may not be.  I decided to share a few pictures of tantrums I've dealt with to let you see what I have gone through to make you realize that we are all in this together.

So let's face it, we all have these students in our class.  We all have these days.  We all have scars to prove that we are a special education teacher.  So what can we do to keep everyone safe!?

Here's a FEW of the interventions I use!

A few little tips that can prevent injury in our classroom for those "desk flippers" we all have.  Find an extra desk of the same size somewhere on campus.  Place it in front of the "desk flipper's" desk.  Tie them together so that when the student tries to flip their desk, it is blocked by the desk in front of it.

Another tip for those extremely challenging students.  Try using visuals to teach coping strategies.  Once the student has escalated to that point of danger, restraining the child will not calm them.  While it's important to note that restraint may be needed until other students are cleared from the room, it's even more important to note that restraint should be stopped once the students are out of the room.  Then we can try teaching the appropriate and less restrictive coping strategies.  I use my Calm Down Kit visuals with some of my students.


Pre-teaching is also an important skill.  Social Stories are a great way to address behaviors before they occur.  My social stories are simple, short and full of visuals for my students.

Try some positive reinforcement strategies.  I use my "working cards" for those students that need a little extra motivation throughout the school day!

Lastly, for those noisy kids try my "voice-o-meter"

I also think it's important to pick and choose your battles with some students.  For those super challenging students, allow certain accommodations and modifications within their day to allow them to become successful.

and I end with the same statement I started with…..
**Restraining a child in the school setting should only be done if the child is an immediate danger to themselves or to others around them*****


  1. Great post! I agree with you completely. Restraint should never be used to get compliance, ONLY to keep the student or others safe. I think we all have those stories of THAT kid with the scars and destroyed classrooms to prove it. It's just stuff... It's just an assignment... It's just a little thing in the big scheme of things.

    Thanks for touching on this touchy subject.

  2. Fully agree with everything.

  3. Thanks, Melissa. As a mom to a child just like the students you describe, I appreciate your knowledge and professionalism. More than that, I appreciate your willingness to share solutions on a hot-button issue. There are no easy answers in our worlds, but there are absolutes. I appreciate you pointing them out.

  4. I can totally relate to your stories! I also teach students with emotional and behavior disorders- in a separate facility. The whole school is trained on how to handle students with these disorders and we only restrain as a last resort- if the student is in immediate danger to himself or to others. So many times when a student throws a chair, desk, or book a substitute thinks we should restrain the student, but it depends if it was done with intent to harm another person or not. Thanks for sharing your experiences with everyone.

    Teaching Special Kids