September 2016

I began working in behavioral healthcare in 1989, as a 19 year old. Looking back now, it takes my breath away that such a young person would have that kind of responsibility. It similarly takes my breath away to think about the archaic and ineffective methods that were being used by many behavioral healthcare organizations at that time.

Today, it is Ukeru’s mission to change the way the world thinks about and uses restraint and seclusion. At the same time, I understand the mindset of those who continue to use these approaches. When I began my career, they were commonplace and happened all over the country. It was not right, but it was the norm. What we politely referred to as “behavior modification” could more accurately be defined as coercive, high-risk techniques.

In This Issue

Recent Highlights

Upcoming Events

Shining a Spotlight

We have since learned that what we believed was appropriate at the time doesn’t work. Evidence shows that restraint and seclusion are ineffective behavior modification techniques. They have potentially deadly — and, without question, trauma inducing — consequences. Neither are evidence-based practices and there is no data to suggest that either leads to reduced violent or uncontrolled behavior. In fact, research indicates that restraint and seclusion actually cause, reinforce and maintain aggression and violence.

Even so, as I travel across the country, I continue to encounter individuals and organizations who have yet to understand the facts: preventing restraint and seclusion not only enhances the quality of treatment but also increases satisfaction for those both receiving and providing services.

I see it even in my own “backyard.” One of my peers here in Virginia, where Ukeru is located, has a child with special needs. This little girl attends public elementary school and, in the course of one year, she is restrained more times than all 125 young adults living in a Grafton residential facility. It’s troubling for me to compare my experience, working each day at an organization that has nearly eliminated restraint, with that of this parent, deeply concerned about her daughters’ ongoing traumatic experiences. I can’t help but wonder how in the world this is still happening. Why would we continue doing what we’ve been doing since the 1980s if we know it doesn’t work, particularly if we are hurting children in the process?

Over the years, I’ve had to forgive my 19-year-old self. I used the tools I had at my disposal at the time. But we’re smarter now; we know better. So we need to make sure that children like my friend’s young daughter or 10-year-old Alex Campbell, our “Spotlight” interview this month, no longer have to suffer unnecessarily.

To stay informed in between issues of this newsletter, please be sure to follow us on Twitter @UkeruSystems or on Facebook. Current information is also available on our our website. We hope you find this newsletter helpful and look forward to hearing your feedback!


Kim Sanders, President, Ukeru Systems


Five local service agencies in New York State are working with Ukeru to support care provided in youth and special education facilities. Allegany Arc, Autism Services, Gateway Longview, Randolph Academy, and another local agency will implement Ukeru techniques in settings with various aged clients across multiple programs.

Gateway Longview will pilot the program with select youth age 12-18 residing at one of the agency’s residential campus. Youth enrolled in the structured residential treatment program often struggle with social, emotional and behavioral challenges as the result of traumatic experiences at young ages.

“Ukeru initially appealed to us because their methods are focused on reducing restraints that can be emotionally and physically draining for youth and staff alike,” said Carolyne DeFranco, President and CEO of Gateway Longview. “When we were invited to collaborate with like-minded local organizations, we were all in. By working together, we can learn from, support and share best practices amongst one another.”

We are honored and grateful to have been recently featured in the "What Works" column in Behavioral Healthcare. With so many children heading back to school, the article's timing is perfect for shining a spotlight on the important need for eliminating restraint and seclusion as acceptable behavior management techniques in classrooms and other learning facilities across the country.


In early 2016, Ukeru will be hosting a series of training events  including a one day User Certification and a two day Train-the-Trainer certification course  at its Winchester, VA campus.

  • October 4-5
  • November 8-9
  • December 6-7
During the sessions:
  • Conceptual training will be provided on:
    • Verbal and nonverbal communication;
    • Managing and de-escalating conflict by converting/diverting aggressive behavior;
    • Building an environment focused on comfort rather than on control;
    • Taking into account the high prevalence of traumatic experiences in individuals who receive services for developmental, behavioral and mental health needs.
  • Physical techniques will also be taught by including the effective use of protective equipment to keep both the caregiver and client safe.
For more information or to register, please contact
Please join us for our next webinar:

Ukeru will be participating in several conferences throughout the fall and into 2017:


As part of our efforts to share information and help support the elimination of restraints and seclusions, we want to shine a spotlight on individuals and organizations driving change. This month, we share a particularly compelling story – that of Alex Campbell, a young man who experienced first hand the effects of restraints and seclusion.

As detailed in a recent Richmond Times Dispatch article, during first grade, Alex — a 10 year old on the autism spectrum — was often restrained and secluded by his principal. Many days, he spent time in a converted closet, the teachers’ desk blocking the door, so that he was unable to get out.

Today, Alex is experiencing a restraint-free education. But more than that, he has become a vocal advocate for change. Alex and his father, Sean, school district specialist in Virginia, sat down with us to share the story in their own words.

Can you tell us about your experience in 1st grade? How did the teacher treat you?
Alex: I was constantly secluded by the principal. My teacher would have me in a “time out” in the corner and the principal would come and move me to the seclusion room. I don’t know why he would do this, he wouldn’t tell me.

Sean: The principal would actually drag Alex into this room and we noticed that he would come home with bruising and bloody knees. We couldn’t get a straight answer as to why he was coming home like this from the school or from Alex. In fact, I am still learning things about what he experienced, even today.

The seclusion area was really just a retrofitted closet with a concrete floor, wire mesh and a little window that the principal covered with aluminum foil. More often than not, he would drag a desk in front of the door so Alex couldn’t get out. Alex would call for someone and no one would answer. The principal was using the “room” as a form of discipline as opposed to crisis management, as it was intended.

How did it make you feel when the teacher treated you this way?
Alex: I was confused and I didn’t learn anything. I didn’t know what was going on. At first, I didn’t tell my parents. The principal threatened me if I said anything, but after a while, I eventually told them.

Sean: Alex didn’t know any different. He thought it was status quo; that if you said or did something that the teacher or principal didn’t like, this is what happened.

Every day it was a 50/50 chance, when we sent Alex off to school in the morning, as to whether or not he would learn or end up in detention. He spent so many days in in-school detention that he learned to work the phones. And ultimately, the school was cited for inappropriately disciplining a child with disabilities and not providing a Free and Appropriate Education. But as I said, it took us awhile to realize exactly what was happening behind those school doors.

We also saw a trickle down effect at home. For example, Alex would put his brother in a walk in closet, saying “He was bad today. This is where bad kids go.” That’s when the red flags started going off.

One time Alex came to work with me. We were walking through the loading dock that has caged areas for equipment. Alex said, “This is where your bad children must go.” That’s when it dawned on me that he believes that all "bad children" get locked up and treated like he was treated.

You have shared your story with important people like state and national members of Congress. What do you tell them?
Alex: I wanted to tell them about my experiences and what happened. I wanted to get the message out to support fully funding IDEA and to support Congressman Beyer’s Bill, called Keeping All Children Safe Act.  The Bill keeps children from being restrained and secluded like I was secluded.

[Editor’s note: Alex is being modest. His involvement, including sharing his testimony with multiple legislative committees, were invaluable contributions to the development of three bills over the course of two years. He has earned accolades, including the 2016 Council of Exceptional Children’s “Yes I Can” award and the “Catalyst for Change” award from the Arc of Virginia.]

Sean: A lot of the people Alex has met refer to him, rightfully so, as the poster child for this movement. It’s very powerful for Alex and other students to tell their stories, first-hand. Legislators really take the message to heart. For example, Alex recently had the opportunity to speak with Virginia Senators Tim Kaine and Mark Warner. Subsequently, the pressure on Virginia’s Department of Education to develop recommendations on the use of restraint and seclusion has been increased.

My wife and I both work for school systems - she’s a second grade teacher; I was a math teacher and am now central office staff. In 2012, I went through a program called “Partners for Policy Making.” It taught us about different resources in Virginia.

Through the program, I met people and shared Alex’ story. The response was usually, “Oh, there’s something in place for situations like this, right?” But there isn’t. Even today, there is no legislation on restraints and seclusion in the Virginia public school arena, only guidance.

Through this group of people, we were put in touch with Delegate Patrick Hope who subsequently commissioned a study on restraint and seclusion, and another on youth into which Alex got involved.
We then formed the Keeping School Safe coalition and are, collectively, challenging some of the bigger organizations to make changes related to restraints and seclusions.

What would you say to other parents in terms of changing state laws, either in Virginia or in other states?
Sean: The first thing I would ask them is, “What is your local school board policy?” Right now, in the public education environment, that’s all we have. Surprisingly enough, many school boards don’t even have a policy. In that case, parents need to call their legislator and need ask the State Board of Education about the current status of Alex’s Bill.  It was signed into law a year and half ago and the Board is still not making it a priority.

What is school like for your now? How is it better? 
Alex: I think I’ll enjoy school this year. I enjoyed the part that I was in public school last year. I thought it was really fun.

I like being in public school, I am in a larger size class.  Friends at my public school live closer and it’s easier for us to see each other.

Do you know how Ukeru helps teachers and kids avoid situations like those you went through? What do you think about how Ukeru works?
Alex: I think the system would really help kids.

Sean: Finding like-minded people is so important. You don’t know how great it feels to know that there are people out there who support what Alex is trying to do. It’s very uplifting.

What seems like common sense is oddly controversial. There’s a hill to climb. But it helps to know that there are other people to help us climb it. It’s a good thing. It’s a great thing.

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