Two Autistic Boys shut in ‘cupboard sized’ calm room

Abbey Hill School, Stoke-on-Trent, UK –  Parents of two autistic boys have threatened legal action against Abbey Hill School claiming that  students were shut in a room for hours at a time. The two stuents were aged  12 and 14 at the time.

BBC News reports that lawyers representing the families said that  they were kept in a “cupboard-sized” “calm room”.

They also report that Stoke-on-Trent City Council found no evidence that the door was closed for long periods.

The room is now no longer being used.

Merry Varney, from law firm Leigh Day, said:

“Although the use of seclusion and ‘calm rooms’ are recognised, positive tools to use to assist autistic children, these must be used appropriately with effective safeguards in place to prevent inappropriate use,”

Paula Rowcliffe, a former teacher at Abbey Hill School,  said she had raised concerns about the way the room was used, but that her concerns were ignored.

“It could have been used as a store room. They were very much deprived in there,” she said. “There was a bean bag and nothing in there to stimulate anybody. It was like being in a cell.”

On 10 October 2010 a log reports that Jozsef Bickerton, now 16, spent the majority of his school day in the room.

His mother Johanna Bickerton said she  had consented to the use of a “nice chill out room”, but had not realised exactly what this meant.

 “I had this feeling in my guts that something wasn’t right, but you put your trust in them to do the right thing. It was only when I met Paula that I realised what had gone on.”

In a statement, the local authority said:

“We take any child safeguarding allegation extremely seriously, particularly those relating to disabled or vulnerable children.”

The original article by on the BBC News website can be read here