The difficulties that his seriously autistic son encountered at school, including being restrained in a “holding cell,” were described in a heartbreaking narrative that was given by a father from Western Australia.
On Tuesday, while testifying before the Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect, and Exploitation of People with Disability in Canberra, Edward Croft recalled the emotional moment he first saw the closet that his son Ryan’s school had turned into a “time out” room that he dubbed a “holding cell” to lock his boy away.
Croft called the room a “holding cell” because it was used to lock his boy away.
This week, the commission is conducting an investigation into the experiences of children and young people with disabilities in a variety of educational environments.
Croft described Ryan, who is now 20 years old, as being completely non-verbal and stating that he “struggles to make sense of the world.”
According to testimony presented before the committee, he had a challenging time at the mainstream school in regional Western Australia that he attended, where his behaviour became increasingly disruptive with increasing frequency of meltdowns.
According to Croft, “The school did try…but they were unable and unprepared…not trained in dealing with a child of the sort of my Ryan.”
Due to Ryan’s disruptive behaviour in Years 3 and 4, his teacher isolated him from the rest of the class by placing his desk to a corner of the room surrounded by blackboards.
This ensured that he could not see any of the other pupils. Croft claimed that the instructor was “well-meaning,” but he was troubled by the fact that his son was merely placed in the corner for convenience’s sake. It was revealed before the commission that Ryan had no idea or understanding of danger; yet, he began running away from his education helpers, frequently exiting the school grounds and making it across the road.
The school decided to take action to address this issue by submitting a request to have an enclosed place that could be secured from the outside and where Ryan could be both isolated for “time out” in order to “calm himself” and punished for inappropriate behaviour.
“The enclosed area was a vacant walk-in closet that measured roughly 1.5 metres across and between 2 and 3 metres deep. The walls were coloured in a light pink.
The senior lawyer assisting the commision, Kate Eastman, described the room as having a bean bag and a window installed in the door.
Croft and his wife felt they had no choice but to go along with the idea because the school was having such a hard time controlling Ryan.
Croft explained that they felt they had no other option. He expressed his feelings by saying, “It truly saddened us a lot to know that our son was being put in this environment.”
Croft claimed in his testimony that the couple did not have the fortitude to speak out about the closet at the time, despite the fact that they were upset about it.
The statement was read aloud before the commision. He stated, “I remember my wife crying. We truly despised this.” “I remember my wife crying.”
But we couldn’t help but feel that we had no choice but to comply. ”
One day, our younger son came home from school really anxious, and we had to reassure him,” said one of us.
He related to us that he had witnessed two or three men educators carrying Ryan, who was wailing, by his arms and legs.
According to Croft, Ryan lacked the mental capacity to comprehend the reprimand and was unable to comment on how it had impacted him.
“Ryan is incapable of articulating his thoughts on his own; I am his only voice.”
For the purpose of preventing and better protecting persons with disabilities in the future, the commision is looking into widespread reports of violence against, as well as neglect, abuse, and exploitation of, individuals with disabilities.