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What an attention-grabbing topic right?! Donโ€™t worry, no one is in a headlock, especially an autistic person.ย This blog is about physical intervention and I promise, by the end, you willโ€™ve learnt a lot.ย 


As a professional working in special schools, I too have had physical intervention training over the years. I remember the first time I went for my training; I was excited to learn how to physically intervene when someone is in crisis. To my surprise, the training was all about how not to intervene physically when someone is in crisis. Yes, you read that right.ย 


Physical intervention training is based on 95% of implementation of positive strategies to avoid physical intervention and only 5% of training is based on intervening physically. I bet you are shocked at this.ย 


From my first training till my recent one a few months ago, I have noticed there is more emphasis on avoiding physical intervention as much as possible. It may sound strange to you but trust me it is possible even with the most behaviourally challenging autistic person.ย 

Everyone who has had this training must feel like James Bond with a licence to physically intervene and I must admit I certainly felt like that. But thatโ€™s wrong. We donโ€™t get a licence to intervene as and when we want to, but we are taught to safely physically intervene only when deemed necessary.ย 


Necessary = when the autistic/disabled person and others around them are at risk of harm.ย 

Training is based on laws of physics and body mechanics that teach us to achieve physical compliance with minimum force. The restrictive holds and techniques are fascinating but that does not mean we should be always using them.ย There is a lot of legal framework that comes in place when anyone is physically restrained. It needs to be above board and law-abiding, it's no joke.


When Afiyah was 4 years old, I had a choice to either use physical intervention with Afiyah at home when she presented behavioural challenges or to avoid it completely. I decided the latter because I knew she was a growing child, and I didnโ€™t want to get into a habit of using physical intervention. Yes, it is a habit that adults and autistic people get into. We need to teach autistic people positive ways of managing their behaviour rather than relying on physical intervention whilst avoiding getting into a habit of using physical restraints.


Looking back now, I can say hand on my heart that it was the best decision I made and doesnโ€™t matter how challenging things get at home, I have never used any physical intervention with Afiyah. This is why I say it is possible to avoid physical intervention.ย As a parent, carer or professional, when we come across any challenging behaviours, we make dynamic risk assessments in that moment to make sure everyone is safe. After the incident, itโ€™s our job to work out the trigger behind the behaviour. Once we know the trigger, we can put positive strategies in place to avoid similar behaviours in future. We may not always be able to avoid all behaviours, but we can perhaps use distraction strategies when the behaviour starts rather than waiting till the crisis point. All of this takes a lot of time, effort, a positive mindset and being a detective to find triggers behind each behaviour. Once you are on this path and you get into a positive cycle of avoiding/minimising behaviours, you will see a huge decline in needing physical intervention.ย 


Let me simplify this...


Work out the trigger => put strategies in place to minimise trigger => put strategies in place to predict behaviour => work out distraction techniques => have positive mindset => less behaviours => less/no need for physical intervention.ย 


The above is not easy but itโ€™s possible. Physically intervening is a shortcut with no long-term teaching for the disabled person whereas by using the above method, you are teaching the disabled person positive skills.ย Also remember my previous blog about underlying anxiety, by implementing the above, you will be minimising their anxiety too.


A few years ago, one family member could not understand why I didnโ€™t want physical intervention to be used with Afiyah. I tried to explain to them but 5 minutes into the conversation I realised that they had no interest in understanding what was in Afiyahโ€™s best interest. Let me clarify this person is highly educated and yet had a mental blockage to understanding a simple strategy. A lot of people out there still believe that disabled people like Afiyah should be physically held by 2 adults for every behaviour. This was practiced maybe 20 years ago but not anymore. Things have changed, thereโ€™s more research, more knowledge, and better training and itโ€™s up to us to evolve our mindset too. If you have a mindset to physically intervene for every behaviour, you will find several justifications to do that, but would you be okay if your child or loved one was held by 2 adults? How would you feel if your child is being restrained several times a day? Would you not question why they are being restrained and would you not want to put positive strategies in place to minimise these restraints? The answer is simpleโ€ฆ we all want the best for our children so why should I not want the best for my child too. Just because Afiyah is autistic and non-verbal, it doesnโ€™t mean she should be physically restraint several times a day especially when there are ways to avoid it, and this is what most people I come across donโ€™t seem to understand. Luckily, they are not involved in Afiyahโ€™s care, so it doesnโ€™t affect her directly but their mindset and attitude towards disabled people is certainly very upsetting.ย 


So, if you are new to this topic, please read up on the law and legislation on physical intervention to educate yourself or if you ever come across a parent like me explaining why/how physical intervention can be avoided, please listen rather than labelling us parents as โ€˜crazyโ€™ or โ€˜paranoidโ€™.


Iโ€™m here if you have any questions. All the best everyone and stay safe ๐Ÿค—


Disclaimer - none of the physical intervention trainings have a headlock move, this was just to grab your attention ๐Ÿ˜‰

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