Mother Supports Controversial Autism Technique

Wednesday, March 21st 2007, 4:35 pm
By: News On 6

On Tuesday, an Owasso school was accused of child abuse for restraining a boy with autism by rolling him up in a mat. The 7-year-old boy's mother called police saying her son had gotten so upset he injured himself because of the restraint. Now another mother is speaking out. Her son got the same treatment, but the News On 6’s Heather Lewin reports she says it was the right thing to do.

7-year-old Marshall Prisella has autism. His mother Sherry says while most days are good, sometimes Marshall loses control and must be calmed down.

“I get kicked. I get punched. I get scratched. I've had my eyes gouged. I've had my hair pulled. It’s not fun," said Sherry.

Marshall attends the same class as the boy whose mother contacted police after teachers used a technique on him called "roll up", wrapping a mat around the boy's body so he couldn't move. Sherry says she feels like this is the right response with an out of control child.

“Autistic children sometimes like that deep pressure, it's a calming effect," said Sherry.

Tulsa Public Schools Autism Specialist CC Canfield agrees, saying TPS teachers use various techniques, one involving a weighted vest to help comfort the child.

“A school system, or a teacher or a parent may need to use restraints if the student is a danger to themself or a danger to other students; if they are actively aggressive toward another student or they're injuring themselves," said Canfield.

But she says TPS does not use the roll up method.

"We don't recommend it," she said.

Still, Sherry says she stands behind the Hodson teachers. She says a roll up mat is sometimes necessary for the safety of both the child and adult.

The Owasso Schools' superintendent has not returned calls for comment. Whatever the proper response, parents and experts agree more must be done to educate the public. Incidents of autism are on the rise, experts estimate about 1 in 150 children are diagnosed with the disorder in the U.S.

For more background on this story:

03/20/07 Owasso School Accused Of Child Abuse