March 2016

Recently, a video popped up on my Facebook feed that was utterly heart wrenching: a home care giver was pushing, kicking and pulling the hair of a frail 94-year-old woman suffering from Alzheimer’s. This was so disturbing to watch that I found myself unable to get through the entire one minute and forty-three seconds.

As I read the comments in response to the video, unsurprisingly, not a single person articulated any level of support or understanding for the caregiver. There is no justification for that kind of behavior. When we see a scenario like this, our thoughts go immediately to the vulnerable, elderly woman and we are flooded with compassion. Why, then, do we not show the same level of compassion when it comes to another vulnerable population – children?

 In This Issue 

Recent Highlights

In the Media

Upcoming Events

Shining a Spotlight

It seems as though nearly every week we see another instance of someone in a position of authority — for example, a health care giver, an educator, a school resource officer — putting their hands on a child in an attempt to physically manage their behavior. Several such videos have gone viral in recent months and illustrate how traumatic these scenarios are. 

When I look at the comments related to videos of children being physically restrained, there is a decidedly more mixed reaction. Many respondents take the side of the authority figure, putting the responsibility for the situation on the child saying “he/she needs to get control of themselves and have some respect. ” Others put on the burden on the child's parents with comments like  “this child needs to be better disciplined.”

This leaves me wondering: Where is the compassion for children?

Perhaps there is a sense that such hands-on methods might be necessary so that a child is neither a harm to him or herself or others in the nearby vicinity. But the data proves the opposite is actually true; physical restraint is not only ineffective, it can lead to further trauma for those both directly and indirectly involved. It also puts everyone at a greater risk for injury.

With proper training in communication, de-escalation and trauma informed care, caregivers and others who work with vulnerable populations can do so safely and effectively without the use of physical methods like restraints. Because no one – whether they are elderly or a child – deserves to be treated with such a lack of compassion.
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 website. We hope you find this newsletter helpful and look forward to hearing your feedback!


Kim Sanders, President, Ukeru Systems


In late February, Ukeru participated in a Hill Day, organized by the Autism Society. A key area of focus for the volunteers and staff who traveled to Washington D.C. from across the country was advocating for specific legislation related to eliminating unnecessary restraints and seclusion.

In advance of these discussions, Ukeru developed an infographic, illustrating the impact of restraints and seclusions and highlighting the benefits of eliminating these practices.

We were proud to partner with the Autism Society and were excited for the opportunity to speak with Members of Congress about the benefits of eliminating restraint for those both receiving and providing care.

On February 2, Ukeru hosted a Twitter chat with subject matter experts from TASH, the ARC U.S, and JBS International. The topic of conversation was trauma informed care and the elimination of restraints and seclusions. If you were unable to join us, be sure to check out the highlights from the conversation available here.

In the third in a series of webinar’s hosted by Georgetown University National Technical Assistance Center for Children's Mental Health and JBS International, Ukeru answered questions raised by attendees on eliminating seclusion and restraint in child-serving organizations and systems. Playback of the webinar, as well as presenters’ slides, can be found here.


In response to a number of cases of restraint and seclusion in Ohio schools, Ukeru System’s Kim Sanders urged legislators to protect the state’s children by completely eliminating the use of these discipline techniques, explaining that, “By creating regulations that prohibit all use of restraint and seclusion and offering other physical alternatives to manage aggression, you are acting in the best interest of all parties involved.” Kim’s comments appeared in the Morrow County Sentinel.
Similarly, as allegations of abuse of autistic students in a Clover, South Carolina elementary school became public, Kim responded, telling the local Fox affiliate “If the allegations of abuse are true, especially as it relates to seclusion, these teachers likely caused extensive emotional trauma to the children that could have been handled much differently had they been properly trained.”


Later this month, Ukeru will be exhibiting at the annual conference of the Association of Children’s Residential Centers. If you will be traveling to Chicago for the conference, please be sure to visit us at booth number 23.

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.
  •  April 5-6

  • May 10-11

  • June 7-8

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


Speaking with an Autism Specialist Working with Elementary and Middle School Students

To ensure confidentiality, we are not using the name or any other identifying information related to our Spotlight interviewee.

Q: Have you used restraint and seclusion prior to adopting Ukeru?

A: The approaches I used, though they involved de-escalation, did have a restraint component. As an educator, I don’t like to use restraint; it is something that can retraumatize a student. And, in my experience, it never benefits anyone involved.

My goal has always been to teach in restraint free classrooms. Ukeru is in alignment with the methods —such as conscious discipline and mindfulness — I had already been using to help teachers in their classrooms and to provide students with the necessary life skills.

Q: What has your experience been using the Ukeru approach?

A: Ukeru is focused on trauma-informed-care. There is a lot coming out now about trauma; a lot is said about how many diagnoses (OED, ADHD) can be caused because of trauma.

The way a student is behaving may have nothing to do with what is going on immediately in the classroom, but everything to do with the trauma he or she has experienced in the past. When we as teachers realize this, we are able to take it less personally which makes the job easier. Ukeru requires me to check myself; to be mindful and in control so that I’m not a variable in an escalating situation.

In the past, I had students who needed a safe space in the classroom. Ukeru’s core of trauma-informed-care creates that space. Using restraint is really an interrupter, or Band-Aid. It doesn’t help students to acquire the tools they need to learn. In contrast, if a student is scared or feeling unsafe, Ukeru offers options to create a safe space and maintain a focused learning environment.

By using the Ukeru approach, I am not spending hours and hours with a student who has to be restrained and retraumatized – neither of which is productive OR educational. I can now spend more time on working with students on social skills. Once those are in order, I can then work on helping them to develop life skills.

Ukeru is also focused on student growth and helps them realize more progress – two things that are extremely important to me. Now, I get to work with students guiding them to become productive members of society so they can pursue what they want. That’s my favorite part of my job.

Q: What would you say to those that think restraints are necessary in schools?

A: I would ask: what skills are we teaching by using restraints? We are trying to make citizens and educate people who can go out in the world and function. If you have someone who is always “controlling” you in an effort to manage your behavior — a behavior that could be prompted by the very restraints that are being used — you are not learning the control or skills to manage yourself.

Besides being ineffective, restraints have had lethal consequence; students have died. Parents should be able to send their kids to school in the morning expecting that they will be safe and come home. These kids didn’t. That’s not something you want to be involved in as an educator.

In addition, using restraint and seclusion breaks trust. Imagine you came to school every day — a place where you’re supposed to learn ­— and every day something goes wrong. Because you are unable to manage under those circumstances, and instead of finding safety and comfort, you are restrained. As an educator, I can’t see how putting your hands on someone will enhance the educational setting. It’s not going to enhance your social relationships or your academic relationships; it’s going to put a strain on them.

Q: Why would other schools benefit from using Ukeru?

A: Restraint retraumatizes students and begins a negative cycle, where students become treatment resistant. This creates bigger problems going forward. There is huge benefit of maintaining trust with students, and moral overall, through the Ukeru approach. In addition, it resulted in less injury and increased cost savings.

And, in answer to a question I get frequently, the method works and does not reinforce bad behavior.

How would you describe Ukeru in one word?


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