Least Restrictive Behavioral
Interventions: A need for guidelines
on the use of aversives, restraint and
seclusion in Louisiana Schools
Louisiana State University
What are aversive
Aversives include any stimuli / environmental
event intended to be unpleasant, cause physical
pain, or humiliate.
Many things can be aversive to an individual and
it is probably impossible to eliminate all of them
from a person’s life!
It is possible and advisable to limit the use
Some aversives have
Nationwide, federal data indicate that 41,972
special education students received corporal
punishment in the 2006-2007 school year.
Special education students receive corporal
punishment at disproportionately high rates. For
instance, in Texas, the number of special
education students who were paddled in the 2006-
2007 school year amounted to 18.4 percent of the
total number of students who received corporal
• Restraints involve the forced restriction or
immobilization of a child’s body or parts of the body to
achieve a designated behavior using physical,
mechanical or chemical means, or seclusion.
• Physical restraints involve the use of physical force by
one or more individuals that reduces or restricts an
individual’s freedom of movement, often involving
various holds designed to immobilize a person or bring
them to the floor.
• Mechanical restraints include straps, cuffs,
body/blanket wraps, helmets and other devices to
prevent movement and or sensory perception, often by
pinning a child’s limbs to a splint, wall, bed, chair or
Rifton chairs are
not intended for
• Seclusion, also considered a form of
restraint, involves involuntary confinement
in a room, box, structure or space from
which the individual cannot escape.
• Seclusion does not include allowing an
individual to take a break from an activity,
to move to a quieter or less stimulating
location or to enjoy privacy.
• In emergencies, school personnel are
permitted to act to control a student’s
behavior posing a clear and present danger
of serious physical harm to the student or
others, and which cannot be immediately
prevented by a less restrictive response.
Common myths about
seclusion and restraint
Myth: Aversives, restraint,
seclusion are effective treatments
• Our professional literature, research, and
clinical experience would support that they
represent the FAILURE of intervention and
Myth: Punishment procedures
are more powerful than
reinforcement based procedures
• Fact: Powerful punishers may decrease problem
behavior rapidly (it’s a fact)
• punishment does not teach appropriate
• can serve as an inappropriate model
• can make the punisher punishing!
• has problems with maintaining and
Myth: Punishment will keep
Fact– procedures are misused and abused; children are
being hurt and are dying
142 deaths found from 1988 to 1998, reported by the Hartford
50 to 150 deaths occur nationally each year due to seclusion
and restraints estimated by the Harvard Center for Risk
Analysis (NAMI, 2003)
A growing list of additional children on the on the Restraint
DEATH List maintained by the COALITION AGAINST
INSTITUTIONALIZED CHILD ABUSE
Myth: If everything we (schools)
have tried has failed that is sufficient
to use punishment or restrictive
procedures proven safe,
• Fact – Decades of research have
positive methods of changing and re-directed
behavior to be successful regardless of a child’s
diagnostic label, degree of disability, or severity of
• School personnel need to be trained in and use
research-validated methods for promoting positive
behavior change and crisis de-escalation.
Just because it might work doesn’t mean you
should do it!
There are interventions / treatments
that should be rejected :
Because they dehumanize and stigmatize
Because they violate community/ family /
Because they inflict intentional emotional
or physical pain
Because they do not leave the individual
“better off” , more independent, and/or
9 Year Old Arrested at School
(WINK News 10/15/08)
A 9-year-old girl was
arrested at Royal Palm School
on Tuesday and is now facing
two felony charges for battery
on an education employee. The
report says the girl purposely
spit on her two teachers while
they tried to control her.
State of the States
forty-one percent (41%) have no laws, policies, or
guidelines concerning restraint or seclusion use in
almost ninety percent (90%)still allow prone
only forty-five percent (45%) require or recommend
that schools automatically notify parents or
guardians of restraint/seclusion use
(National Disability Rights Network, 2009)
Ryan, Peterson, and Rowalski
Fifty percent (12 of the 24) policies which were
identified required school systems to develop written
procedures for the use of seclusion
16 (67%) established requirements for rooms used for
seclusion. A smaller number banned the use of locked
Fifteen (62%) required parental notification of the use
of seclusion timeout, and an even larger number (21 or
87%) required documentation of each timeout event.
Fifteen (62%) also recommended or required staff
training if seclusion timeout was to be employed.
Ryan, Peterson, and Rowalski (2008)
Fifteen of these state policies also addressed the length of time
students would be in timeout.
Four (17%) specified 12-15 minutes maximum (at least for
elementary aged students)
six (25%) required a 20-30 minute maximum or that students
must at least be reassessed after that period of time. Four
more specified 55-60 minutes as the limit.
A call for action
Because there is no monitoring on a national level, the full
extent of death, injuries, and harm from the use of these
techniques is unknown.
Although some states have standards and regulations
regarding restraints, seclusion and aversive interventions,
the existing laws are not uniform and may not be enforced.
Other states provide little or no protection for children at all.
Districts could restrict procedures (several do) through local
policies and procedures . Key is not to wait for a situation to
Currently Louisiana provides no policy or
guidelines for schools in:
Aversive Interventions with students
Principles that Guide the
Selection for Behavior
• Principle of least intrusive alternative
• Select the intervention that is least
intrusive and still effective
• Selected intervention should be based
on the identified function of the
Hierarchy of Procedural Alternatives
for Behavior Reduction
Level I Strategies of differential reinforcement
A. Differential Reinforcement of Low Rates of Behavior (DRL)
B. Differential Reinforcement of Other Behavior(s) (DRO)
C. Differential Reinforcement of Incompatible Behavior (DRI)
D. Differential Reinforcement of Alternative Behavior(s) (DRA)
E. Noncontingent Reinforcement
Level II Extinction (terminating reinforcement)
Level III Removal of desirable stimuli
A. Response-cost procedures
B. Time-out procedures
Level IV Presentation of aversive stimuli
A. Unconditioned aversive stimuli
B. Conditioned aversive stimuli
C. Overcorrection procedures
Principles for Developing Legally Correct Seclusion
Timeout or Physical Restraint Policies (Rozalski et al.,
2006; Ryan, Peterson & Rowalski 2007)
1. State Education Agencies should require public school districts to develop policies
and procedures regarding the use of aversives, seclusion timeout, and physical
restraint with all students.
2. Aversive procedures, seclusion timeout and physical restraint procedures should
be included in a student's IEP or Section 504 plan.
3. Seclusion timeout and physical restraint should be used only when a student's
behavior poses a risk of injury to the student, to peers or staff members.
4. Aversive procedures, seclusion timeout and physical restraint should be used only
after less restrictive interventions have documented to not have been successful.
5. State education agencies, teacher training institutions, and public school districts
should develop appropriate pre-service and in-service training experiences so that
staff members who may be required to use seclusion timeout and physical restraint
receive thorough and continuous training in the appropriate use of the procedure.
6. Teachers should continuously collect meaningful data to document the efficacy
of seclusion timeout and physical restraint.
7. Teacher should keep thorough records when seclusion timeout or restraint are
8. Administrators should develop methods to periodically review and summarize
teacher and school-level data on the use of seclusion timeout and physical
9. State education agencies should collect data on the frequency of use of
seclusion timeout and physical restraints in the public schools.
10. State education agencies should explore system-wide alternatives to
seclusion timeout and physical restraint and develop appropriate teacher and
Modified from Rowalski, et al., 2006