Schools' use of seclusion very different to 'time-out' - psychologists

  • 24/10/2016
Schools' use of seclusion very different to 'time-out' - psychologists

Psychologists say the use of a time-out to manage children's behaviour is effective, can include being sent to a room, and should be used by schools for severe behaviour.

It's different to seclusion, which is when a person is placed in isolation from others in a room or area from which they cannot freely exit.

The NZ College of Clinical Psychologists says it's necessary to clarify the difference between the two. It's commenting in the wake of a debate about the use of such practices in schools sparked by the treatment of an autistic child at Miramar Central School.

The college says it doesn't support or approve of the use of seclusion as it can have negative impacts on wellbeing and undermines their basic human rights.

The use of time-out is an appropriate, effective and safe strategy for managing children's behaviour.

Still, a school should only time-out for cases of severe behaviour where the well-being and safety of other students and staff are at risk and where other strategies have not been effective.

Children with autism spectrum disorder more frequently require a low stimulation space to calm down in, the college said.

Time-out is where, in a planned way, a child is verbally prompted or gently guided away from a situation for a period of time so that they can calm down.

It is not a punishment. It should occur in a predictable, comfortable place with a familiar supervising adult close at hand. If there is no better alternative it may require a separate room and only for short periods of time.

If schools do not have a mechanism to manage extreme behaviour, they should suspend students. This could well reverse what has been an increasingly higher rate of inclusion of children with special needs in the mainstream education system, the college says.