IN 2010 my son Calum who has epilepsy, cerebral palsy, autism and learning disabilities, was restrained by four staff in his “special school” face down on the floor until he passed out and urinated.

Then the teacher picked my child up off the floor and strapped him into a wooden chair (still soaked in his own urine) and stood over him with an egg timer for further punishment.

Calum’s “crime” was not wanting to come off a specially adapted bike he was riding in the school gym hall, which they called non-compliance.

An expert witness report said that his injuries were usually seen only in a mortuary.

Calum was 11 years old but wore clothes for a 7-year-old. He had very little expressive language.

The school didn’t think they’d done anything wrong and were surprised I complained.

The police were not interested in pursuing any kind of criminal case against teachers in a school.

I became vocal in my local community and soon other parents began to contact me to say they also had concerns about the safety and wellbeing of their children.

It wasn’t just the use of restraint that was worrying. Some children were being dragged along school corridors and left in small “rooms” sometimes called cool down or quiet rooms, or blue rooms.

Parents sent me pictures of what I can only describe as cupboards where their children were being held, sometimes for many hours.

I realised that the use of restraint and seclusion went unrecorded, and that there was no national guidance for local authority day schools.

There was robust guidance for children who were in secure units and young offenders’ prisons, but nothing for disabled children in our schools.

In February 2015, PE01548 (National Guidance on Restraint and Seclusion in schools) was lodged in the Scottish Parliament (

The petition has been debated many times.

It was supported by every children’s and disability charity in the country. Esther Rantzen sent me a personal letter of support.

In June 2015, the issues in my petition went to the UNCRC in Geneva, and in 2016 the UNCRC made a series of recommendations to all four of the UK governments/assemblies. So far not one has implemented these recommendations.

In 2016 I was awarded an outstanding achievement award from The British Institute of Learning Disabilities for my campaigning to protect children in Scotland’s Schools.

I spoke at their International Conference in Liverpool, which took my campaign out of Scotland and made it UK-wide.

In June 2017 The Scottish Government produced Included, Engaged and Involved Part 2 (

Within this, there was guidance on the use of restraint and seclusion. I knew that this would not go far enough but saw this as the first step towards statutory guidance.

Unfortunately by waiting to consider “statutory measures” many more small, disabled children have been hurt and traumatised because we have insufficient legislation to protect them.

I now have 605 cases involving children who have been subjected to the use of restraint and seclusion in schools.

I decided to look at the numbers behind those stories in more detail. I was shocked to find that 26% of those 605 children were just six years old.

The youngest child I had in my study was 2 years old, restrained prone in a nursery because she did not want to take her nap!

A total of 97% of those children were 12 years old and under, with most of the problems occurring in our primary schools.

I have no boys in my study over the age of three and literally a handful of girls aged up to 16. These things are not happening to big burly teenagers, they are being used on tiny children with disabilities who cannot “tell”.

These children have disabilities ranging from developmental delay, autism and sensory processing disorders to profound and multiple learning disabilities.

They ALL have communication deficiencies, and many are completely non-verbal.

When a child has no words to say “I am hungry/thirsty/in pain/not coping” they communicate their distress through their behaviour.

If a child’s needs continue to go unmet, then of course they will challenge and lash out.

What are we saying to those poor souls if our response is to use force to hold them down or carry them along the corridor and throw them in a cupboard, alone and traumatised because the teacher considers them to be “out of control”?

If we meet the needs of our children, they don’t become distressed. This is called “positive behaviour support”. It’s about understanding behaviour as communication.

If we give our education staff the skills, training and support they need to pro-actively meet the needs of children, schools would be safer and happier as a result.

I now have a very small organisation called PABSS (Positive & Active Behaviour Support Scotland) We have very little money and everything we do is voluntary, but we provide low-cost training for families and carers of children and young people with disabilities and challenging behaviour.

IN our training session in Arbroath last month, for the first time, education staff outnumbered the families attending – there were 35 people in that room.

In October this year, I was delighted to be chosen by the Saltire Society as one of their “Outstanding Women of Scotland 2018”.

My work is far from over, there is so much more to do.

In 2019, I will continue collecting the family stories and I will be looking at how we can use the law to uphold our children’s human rights.

I also want to look at why children with disabilities don’t have access to criminal law when they are abused.

Right now, if a disabled child is non-verbal or has little expressive language, they cannot be interviewed by police.

They are automatically considered “not credible” and in the absence of their child witness testimony there is no possibility of reaching the standard of evidence required by the crown to bring these cases to court.

Which is why, of those children subjected to barbaric levels of restraint and seclusion in our schools, not a single one has had any kind of accountability. Where is the outrage?

This month Bruce Adamson, Scotland’s Commissioner for Children and Young People released the report on his formal investigation on the use of restraint and seclusion in schools.

It is hard hitting and supports everything I’ve been saying for the last eight years. For the first time I feel our children have been heard.

However, we now need to make sure that all four of the UK governments take whatever steps are needed to protect these children.

There is a large body of evidence that the methods I advocate make life better not only for children, but for teachers too.

Those who object simply refuse to listen and because some hold influential positions they can put doubt into the minds of ministers and others who might help make meaningful changes for the better.

Times have changed, we must do more to support our teachers and education staff, giving them the right skills and the right resources to truly get it right for every child.