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May 2011



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Article Date: 20 May 2011 – 2:00 PDT

Urgent action must be taken to ensure Australians with disabilities – including children and young people – are protected from unnecessary restrictive practices that put their lives and wellbeing at risk, along with those of the people working with and caring for them, according to the Australian Psychological Society (APS).

Training is urgently required to ensure that those working in residential homes, disability services, prisons, special and mainstream schools and aged care facilities are able to use simple strategies which research has shown are safer and more effective in dealing with the challenging behaviours that can result when individuals with disabilities become distressed. The strategies are contained in expert guidelines which have been researched, developed and recently released by the Australian Psychological Society in collaboration with leading disability experts. The guidelines were highlighted in a recent investigation into the use of restrictive practices on children with autism on ABC’s 7.30.

Dr Rebecca Mathews, psychologist and manager of practice standards at the Australian Psychological Society said: “Challenging behaviours in people with disabilities can arise for a number of reasons and we need to take the time to assess each individual’s social, emotional and psychological needs to ensure that they receive appropriate support to avoid these distressing incidents. It is misguided to just blame staff, who deserve better training and support to help them provide the best possible care and services to people with disabilities.”

It is believed that at least a quarter of all people with an intellectual disability will be subject at some time to some form of restraint, including physical restraint (someone holding them down) chemical (through the use of sedatives or other drugs), mechanical (by harnesses or straps) and seclusion (which can include confinement and withdrawal of privileges or special objects).

Yet proactive interventions as simple as providing appropriate activities and stimulation, skills for communication or reducing noise in the environment can significantly reduce instances of stress and difficult behaviour.

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