Imagine sending your third grader to school only to find out that he is being handcuffed to a chair because of impulsivity related to the disability of ADHD according to the medical diagnosis of ADHD. Hard to believe? Yes, I couldn’t believe it either. But this just happened in a town in America! This child was accused of hitting a police officer that then decided to treat this child with a disability as a common criminal.
So I would ask why the police officer was even in the school building addressing the behavior of an 8 year old. Although pretty out of line for the officer, I really think the culprit here is the school. Sadly, there is a lawsuit pending regarding this incident that does not name the school. But they are the professionals who are supposed to know about ADHD in children and best practices to deal with behavior— a treatment plan for ADHD. Although this incident is outrageous, it speaks to the ongoing lack of understanding of ADHD, it existence, and symptoms of behavior that are not in control without supports in place.
There is no doubt that there had been previous incidents regarding this child’s behavior. In fact, something was said about him previously being sent to the office for some disability behaviors. So what should the school know and how should this be handled?
It is not known as to whether this child has an IEP, Individual Education Plan, for ADHD. There is a good possibility that it is needed. Its placement could be needed solely for the behavior affecting education. It could provide ADHD accommodations/modifications in the classroom. But also, it may be important to assess for any learning difference that co-exists with ADHD and could also be contributing to the level of frustration in this child. The behavior plan should be a part of the IEP, not an attachment. With this in place, it could be followed closely as to achievement of goals and how the incentives are working. Many times they have to be changed as the child becomes disinterested in them. Positive reinforcement is key to increasing the time of acceptable behavior and lessening the time of negative behavior.
It is tragic that this poor child had to go through such a negative experience because school officials who we should all be able to trust didn’t understand or accept his disability of ADHD and left him vulnerable to outright abuse! Yes, the lawsuit alleges his civil rights were violated. But how has this affected him long term as he continues to struggle through this journey of school?