I don’t write very much about what Chris does for a living, but I may have mentioned before that he teaches autistic children in a special school. While I’m always aware that he does ‘good work’, often I don’t think about it much beyond that. But yesterday he said something to me that really brought home that he does good work and it is very admirable.
Chris came home and told me that he’d had a bad restraint that day. Sometimes their kids freak out and get violent – often not maliciously, it can be more due to frustration and an inability to express themselves than any intent to do harm – and when they do the staff have no real choice but to restrain them. Restrain is a harsh word, but they’re trained to do it safely, and essentially it means holding the child securely until they give up and calm down. They do it to protect the child, and to protect the other staff and students. If the child is especially strong, it can take several people to restrain them, and if they are especially determined the restraint can last for hours. Yes, you heard me, they have to hold them, struggling and screaming, for hours.
So Chris had been part of a bad restraint. He hurt his back, he has big red friction burn/bruise on his forearm, and another purple bruise on his elbow. He’d only held the child for 20 minutes or so, because when a restraint is really bad and protracted it’s actually too tiring to do for long, and staff have to ‘swap out’ and let other staff take over. How the child has enough energy to carry on I don’t know, but they do, and it was about the third day in a row where they’d had to restrain this one child for an inordinately long time.
Seeing him bruised and injured – and in the past he’s had scratches and had children spit in his face – my immediate protective reaction is that he shouldn’t have to put up with that. He shouldn’t be coming home physically damaged and exhausted, it’s not fair.
But then he said to me “Well, the thing is if we don’t do this, if we don’t restrain him over and over, he won’t learn that he’s not going to get what he wants by being violent. If what he wants is not to be at school, and that’s why he’s become violent, we can’t just send him home and say we can’t deal with him – because then he’s got what he wanted.”
This bit was the clincher.
“And if we don’t do it, and put up with it, this particular child is one step away from being sent to a secure unit. That means he’ll spend the rest of his school life in a secure environment, with other violent children, and with all the consequences of that for the rest of his life. So this is his last chance, and we have to try to reach him otherwise that’s what will happen.”
And I thought God, that’s AMAZING. The work they do there, and in all schools like that, is amazing. And people don’t even realise it; half the time the parents of the children themselves don’t even realise it.
What do I do with my day? Sit at my desk and bitch about how I’m bored. Make some webpages. Drink tea.
Other people are actually out there changing people’s lives, and not because they have to, because they choose to.
I think that’s awesome.