Can-Do-Ability: Answers and Solutions from my personal experiences of living with a disability

Disabled Boy Abused By School

4 Apr 2012
When you send your children off to school, you expect them to be looked after, especially if they have a disability. For Mathew Wright’s mother, Janice, her trust was shattered when she walked into her son’s school, and saw him being mistreated by the school’s own staff members.

Mathew, who is 14 years old, was born with a neuro-genetic disorder, called Angelman Syndrome. Children with Angelman Syndrome usually suffer from a severe intellectual disability, they can experience seizures, disturbed sleeping patterns, they can also have physical difficulties with walking and stability, one of the more positive effects of the syndrome, is that they almost always have a happy demeanour about them, and Mathew’s mother says that he’s no exception.

Janice says that Mathew will walk, but when he stops, he’ll sit down. He doesn’t hurt anyone, or himself, and doesn’t appear as a threat to anybody else, he just sits down. This was causing issues with getting him to and from classes at his John Archer School, in Bel Air, so to overcome this, his mother met with school staff, and together, they devised an Individualized Education Program, or IEP. The terms they all agreed on in the IEP, was to place Mathew in a wheelchair, or on a bicycle if he wanted to sit down when he was supposed to be walking.

Only ten days after the IEP was agreed upon, Janice walked into Mathew’s school, where she discovered that he’d been restrained on a Tumble Form Grasshopper, which is a mobile paediatric positioning support system, which aids in seating those with severe physical disabilities, and mobility issues.

Mathew was positioned face-down, strapped to the Tumble Form board, with his hands restrained with velcro, to his back.

Due to Mathew’s inability to verbally express himself, and control his body movements, Janice was concerned that he could suffer from positional asphyxiation, because of the incorrect way they had him restrained, on the Tumble Form board.

Janice said that when she saw Mathew, he had a blank stare on his face, and he didn’t seem to even recognize her, which broke her heart.

Janice discovered that this wasn’t the first time Mathew had been restrained on the Tumble Form board, and said that this may clarify some unexplained bruises that she had found on her son earlier on in the school year. Janice also claimed that she never gave permission for her son to be restrained on a Tumble Form board at all.

She made a formal complaint and attempted to press charges, but investigators declared that, although the school staff used the positioning device incorrectly, and they weren’t properly trained on how to use it, they didn’t intentionally abuse Mathew, so no charges could be laid, and the case was closed.

Since the incident, Janice has removed Mathew from John Archer School, and transferred him to another one in Baltimore County. In the meantime, a meeting has been arranged with members of the school board, and parents of other students, to discuss if anything can or needs to be done, to resolve the issue, and make certain, that this type of incident doesn’t occur again.

John Archer School, in Bel Air, has been in the limelight before, with allegations of another student being dragged by the principal, down the school’s hallway, and out the doors, by their arms and legs, when they refused to walk to the car, to go home.

If you’d like to see the original article, with some video footage, click on this link: http://www.abc2news.com/dpp/news/region/harford_county/mother-takes-on-school-board-over-disabled-childs-restraint

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