Restraint of People with Autism and Developmental Disability

by John Elder Robison: My Life With Asperger’s

Restraint is emerging as a hot-button topic among autistic self-advocates and some parents.

People on both sides feel their position is obviously correct: Restraint leads to abuse, and should be banned; or restraint is necessary for the safety of some people, and those who deny it are crazy or idealistic.

Whenever people are restrained against their will there is always a risk of abuse and cruelty. The sad truth is, many staff working with developmentally disabled people are poorly trained and poorly paid – a bad combination that can lead to horrific outcomes. The condemnation those incidents receive is certainly deserved. Unfortunately, it’s just the tip of the iceberg and most abuse involving restraint is never reported.

Many if not most autistic individuals who are restrained cannot talk freely about their experience. Either their disability precludes free public communication, or they are under guardianship and not free to speak publicly when caregivers control social or internet communication opportunities. There is a risk those people will be mistreated and have no voice with which to seek justice. Such a thing is awful to contemplate, yet all too real.

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