In everyone's life, at some time, our inner fire goes out. It is then burst into flame by an encounter with another human being. We should all be thankful for those people who rekindle the inner spirit.
~ Albert Schweitzer

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

A Time Out For The Use of "Time Out Rooms" in our Schools

Update: Care to know how many "time out" rooms your school board has?

And by the by, you will be happy to know (or not) that as it turns out that Windsor-school-storage-room-turned-time-out-room is not a part of any student's IPP at the school.
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The story of the 8-year-old boy placed in a "time out" room by the Annapolis Valley Regional School Board (AVRSB) raises more questions than it answers.

Or, perhaps, less questions, than issues.

At least, Dylan Gale's mother apparently knew that he could be placed in such a room, even if she had a different understanding of what type of room it might me. As in a classroom as opposed to a storage closet. So, what's next? The janitor's closet, perhaps?

Forgive my cynicism, but I have heard more than a few stories about so-called "time out" rooms over the past few years. And the fact that the Nova Scotia Department of Education tells us that they have guidelines in place, "adopted by the Council of Atlantic Ministers of Education and Training from a New Brunswick document", somehow fails to warm my heart.

The only document I could find online is entitled "Time Out Guidelines For New Brunswick Schools", dated November, 2002. I suspect this, or one very similar, is the document referred to in the Chronicle Herald.

So-called "physical considerations" for the use of such rooms include:

􀂉 Having prior approval of the Facilities Branch Manager of the Department of Education
􀂉 Meeting Fire Marshall standards (consult the Assistant Fire Marshall in your geographic region)
􀂉 Not being locked from either the outside or the inside Be supervised at all times
􀂉 Not containing items or fixtures that may be harmful to students
􀂉 Being well ventilated, clean and well lit
􀂉 Being conducive to self quieting behaviours and not overly stimulating or busy
􀂉 Allowing students to exit should there be an emergency
􀂉 Providing the means by which adults can monitor the student, both visually and auditorily, at all times.

But here's thing. It's one thing to say that such rooms must be "supervised at all times, well-ventilated, clean and well-lit", for example. It's another to hear horror stories as to how such rooms are, at least on occasion, being used. Both from around the Province and elsewhere.



Anonymous said...


The Registered Disability Savings Plan (RDSP), Grant and Bond information session is April 17th and not the April date that you posted.

The date you posted is when registrations need to be in by.

Michelle Morgan-Coole said...

Right you are.

Anonymous said...

This is a comment on the "Time Out" rooms that are sanctioned by the school boards and used in the public schools . I for one am appalled and think that they should be banned. First of all...there are many ways to work with a student to calm them down if it is necessary. Often finding the route cause is the best way. I find often in my dealings with schools that the first choice is time out rather than using any other methods such as " gentle teaching" known to be quite successful.

Time out is less for the student and more for the frustrated EPA or teacher.

These rooms are isolating, archaic and degrading with no respect or dignity accorded the student. If I am venting it is because they should have been banned a long time ago.

It is my personal mission when working with parents of students with disabilities in school to encourage them not to agree to the use of these rooms.

If we say no...then the school will come up with dignified and creative ways to support students who are in need of a break for whatever reason.

Thank you for commenting on this issue. It sickens me in this day and age that this still continues. It goes on in vocational settings, residential settings and definitely in institutional settings. This I know for a fact. We treat animals sad!!!and I love animals very much.

Michelle Morgan-Coole said...

There are sensory rooms (brain won't come up with the correct name at the moment) that seem to work well for some kids. But those are worked into the IPP and, as I understand it, not used as a form of punishment or discipline.

The time out rooms that concern me most are the ones the parents know nothing about. Depite the Dept of Ed's position that such rooms are only to be used with parental approval and as part of an IPP, I know in the past there were many cases where parents haven't had a clue ... simply the last ditch efforts of desperate school staff. Who need to learn to do proper programming for these kids in the first place.

Anonymous said...


I think that you are speaking about snoozelen rooms...which are entirely different..I think. I also think that when parents are told about time out rooms that they should ask to see them, that they chart how often their student is in one, how long they are in them and what triggered their use. Because...if they don't ...then changes aren't made or won't be considered, and their use goes on forever which may not be necessary.

Michelle Morgan-Coole said...

Yes, I think snoozlem rooms was the term I was looking for. They are different than time out rooms but I think some people might confuse them. And I agree completely with your suggestion that parents should ask to see these rooms if their use is suggested and chart how often and for how long they are used. That's a great idea.

You're obviously very knowledgable in this area. Do you mind me asking what your background/connection is here? Are you a parent or an advocate?

ladebug40 said...

great site ...interesting topics. i'm not sure what the answers are but society has come a long way from the days kids were beat with straps, metre sticks and other corporal punishment in schools for misbehaving, including disabled and those with learning disabilities. i don't believe there are more autistic kids in today's world just more diagnosed with the disorder. maybe it's time to rethink inclusion at schools and establish schools with expertise in teaching children with special needs in an environment that's more healthy for them overall.

Michelle Morgan-Coole said...

Thanks, I am glad you like the site. But I am pretty sure that the answer is NOT to move back to segregated schools. Although a small minority of children with significant challenges might well do better in segregated classes or in a separate setting (although many in the disability community would heartily disgree with even that) it's inclusion that's healthier for these kids long-term. Where to the maximum extent possible all children are included in their classrooms. In their schools. In their communities. With the proper supports it can be done. But it will only happen if we demand it.