International Coalition Against Restraint And Seclusion (ICARS)

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A collective of international parents and advocates seeking to expose and change the abusive practices of restraint and seclusion against children in schools internationally.

An international coalition against the abuse of children and adults with learning disabilities. Collectively trying to BAN the use of restraint and seclusion.

People To Know…

Beth Morrison is the founder and CEO of Positive and Active Behaviour Support Scotland (PABSS) Co-Founder of ICARS

In 2016 Beth was given a Special Award for Outstanding Achievement in Protecting Scotland’s Most Vulnerable Children in Schools. Beth is also a member of Enable Scotland’s Scottish Council and in 2017 was awarded their Outstanding Achievement Award for her contribution to Enable’s “Included in the Main” campaign.

Her campaigning is now UK wide and she co-ordinates with many interested parties including charities, professionals in the field of learning disability, and each of the Children’s Commissioner’s for Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland in ensuring the rights of the most vulnerable children in society across all four countries are respected and upheld. Beth was recently invited to speak in the House of Lords on the issues she campaigns for.

She has become a leading and passionate campaigner for the rights of learning disabled children, starting with a petition to the Petitions Committee of the Scottish Parliament which was widely supported and which led to the Scottish Government introducing new guidance on the use of restraint & seclusion in Schools. The main aims of her petition were also backed by the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC).

Tracy Humphreys, Founder and Chair BCED Access Canada

Tracy is a mom with ADHD and a parent of three children with disabilities. She has been an active volunteer in BC schools for over 20 years, as a board member on her local PACs, the District PAC in Victoria (VCPAC), and as a BCCPAC representative for VCPAC.

She served as Board Vice President of Elizabeth Buckley School for 3 years. She is currently a consultant CEO for beauty companies, a partner in CareQuadrant, and a full time volunteer advocate for children with disabilities in schools in BC, in her capacity with BCEdAccess.

Kate Sanger

Mother of three, my youngest daughter has a severe learning disability, complex communication disorder, and ongoing medical needs. My background is in nursing, having trained in Glasgow and worked within the N.H.S. in Scotland and England, I gave up my career to become a full time carer for my daughter, who requires 24 hour care. My daughter will display self-injurious behaviour, and behaviours described as challenging, when trying to communicate to others that something is wrong and her needs are not being met.

This has led me to training myself and all those who support my daughter in understanding the function of “challenging behaviour” and supporting strategies to support change in a positive manner. I became a trustee adviser to the Challenging Behaviour Foundation (CBF) and a co-presenter trainer.

I have given presentation on “Behaviours that challenge Addressing the barriers to inclusion” as a family carer at The Royal Society of Medicine at their conference at Dundee University, I also gave a presentation on behalf of the CBF and Mencap at “Excellence out of Adversity” conference in Glasgow, and for the last five years I have been part of a team that gives workshops and presentation as part of a self- selective component course in caring for people with learning disabilities and complex needs to trainee doctors at Ninewells hospital.

I have also sat on interview panels and parent forums, and recently the co-creator (with Jennifer Sanger) of I have worked tirelessly over the past twenty years to promote a better understanding of the reasons for challenging behaviour and it would be my dream that there would be mandatory training in ‘positive behaviour support’ for all those involved in the care of children and adults with severe learning disabilities.

Michelle Boshard

Lives on Vancouver Island on the west coast of beautiful British Columbia, Canada with her husband, daughter and son with autism. Early in her career, Michelle was keenly involved in community engagement in the environmental stewardship field, working on water quality, wetland, fisheries and habitat restoration with landowners, non-profits, First Nations, and all levels of government.

This work led her to Washington State, where she subsequently raised her kids on an organic farm. As a result, Michelle changed professnal focus to agrifood and bio-products, and started a social purpose enterprise restoring habitat with economically valuable renewable plants. Michelle became a senior administration officer for a federal Canadian bioproducts science innovation fund.

After a resulting short stint in the intellectual property arena, her child with autism entered the school system. The focus and priorities shifted, as the need for her son’s support increased. As a result of government cuts to her job, her son’s school experiences, and family military history Michelle moved home to British Columbia, and took a social work job serving physically and mentally injured Veterans.

Her personal and professional experiences in supporting disability and trauma combined in 2016 when her son was isolated for 6 months at his public middle school. That life-changing experience resulted in a homeschool journey to healing and solution building.

Due to the lack of supports and predatory provider practices she experienced as a parent through the difficult journey, Michelle and her husband have now formed a homecare company specifically focused on-ground support for in-home respite, lifeskills, intervention and homeschool delivery that respects parents rights to choose for their child. They provide special needs parents cost-effective ways to alleviate administrative burdens of special needs parenting. Their company values are child-centered and tailored care, directed by the parents who know best, with fair employment supports to caregiving workers, and redirection of corporate profit back the special needs community.

Courtney Pugh

Educational consultant and owner of 4 PEAKS Educational Consulting, LLC. A graduate of Emory & Henry College with a B.S. in Business Management & Administration. She serves as a Governor appointed parent representative on the Virginia Interagency Coordinating Council (VICC) for Early Intervention/Early Childhood programs in Virginia.

A member of the Council of Parents, Attorneys and Advocates (COPAA) with over 16 years experience as a parent advocate. She worked for Parent Education Advocacy Training Center (PEATC), Virginia’s parent training center prior to opening her own advocacy and educational consulting business in 2018.

Having worked in a variety of corporate jobs prior to opening her own business her heart was/ has always been in advocating for others with special needs, particularly her two sons.

In her free time, she works with the Boy Scouts of America in a variety of roles. She is the committee chair of the ScoutAbilities Committee, a committee with the purpose and dedication that Scouting should be inclusive for all persons. She does trainings for staff and volunteers on inclusion and accommodating of all persons with disabilities in Scouting. She also helped to establish the first Cub Scout Pack and Boy Scout Troop for children with Autism in the Roanoke Valley.

She lives with her husband, two sons, and two dogs in Salem, VA.Trude Stenhammer, consultant for Autism Society Norway. She is a Learning Disability Nurse with a Postgraduate Diploma in Mental Health and Learning Disability from Kings College, London. Stenhammer has worked for people with learning disability and autism for over 30 years, in various settings in the UK and Norway. She is also a trained low arousal instructor and has trained groups of staff and carers for 10 years.

Stenhammer has written several articles about autism, neurodiversity and restraint. Here is one example in English:

She speaks at international conferences, the next one is the Neurodiversity conference at Isle of Wight in November 2019.

Zoey Read Parent Advocate

Co-Founder of International Coalition Against Restraint and Seclusion with Beth Morrison of Scotland. After becoming a parent advocate, working to pass a bill into law, she decided to form the coalition after her research revealed that this wasn’t just a local issue, but in fact an international human rights crisis. She met Beth Morrison in the process, a long-time activist in the cause of banning restraint and seclusion, and an inspiration in her work in Virginia.

Over the course of 11 months following a newspaper article in her county which exposed a child being secluded, she joined with other parent advocates, engaged with lawmakers across the state, their bill was passed unanimously through the Virginia state legislature, adding more protections for the children of Virginia.The bill originally drafted was to ban the practices of dangerous restraints and seclusion statewide.

The finalized law added amendments and stronger protections to Governors McAuliffe’s Executive order of 2015, directing that the VDOE implement regulations for restraint and seclusion and it’s use in VA schools.

The 2019 amendment to legislation has since led to a ban on prone restraint used against children in state schools, but still awaits the Governor’s signature.In doing the work of both county and state advocacy, Read found that they were indeed not alone in this cause, and next set out to unite parents and advocates in Australia, Canada, USA, UK and Ireland to strengthen the movement. She also wanted to center the voices of self-advocates fighting towards the same goals and unite in cause.

To that aim, she’s engaged and created alliances with Autistic and Neurodiversity self-advocates internationally who she believes are the extraordinary and foundational voices that must be amplified in all of our discussions with lawmakers on both state and federal levels regarding the abuse of restraint and seclusion.

Zoey continues work on legislation at state and federal levels, working with other advocates, parents and experts to get HR7124, Keeping All Kids Safe Act, through the United States Congress. She continues to add, meet, and join other collaborators, parents, activists and advocates to the movement. Zoey realized early on, that we are stronger as a larger coalition of voices worldwide, rather than working tirelessly in disparate smaller pockets.

Originally from the London suburb of Pinner she moved to the United States in the late 90’s.

She is she a mother to three amazing children ranging from 19 – 6years old, two who are autistic. Running the Coalition while also working a full time job in Northern Virginia.

Nikki (Ninotschka) Putman. Parent Advocate

Nikki is originally from Panama and bilingual, married over 26 years and proud mama to three amazing kids: Joey; 24, John; 14 with ASD-Tourette’s, and Jennifer, 12, who is more impacted by her autism, and requires more supports than her brother, also OCD. The Puttmans are a military family who decided to settle in Oregon after the kids’ dad retired from the US ARMY.

Before she became a mother, she couldn’t imagine the pain and frustration of being a special needs mom. After the second autism diagnosis, that feeling intensified.

The main frustration isn’t the children themselves, but the constant struggle with every entity who sees them as lesser and denies them the equal treatment to which they’re entitled guaranteed by the 14th amendment.
As with most of us, she couldn’t fathom her child being targeted and discriminated against because of her disabilities or a parent for her advocacy. Retaliated against for speaking up against a very dysfunctional school system that treats special needs children as nuisances.

In October 2018, Nikki’s daughter Jennifer was unlawfully restrained and secluded by her teacher in the Hillsboro School District Oregon.

Staff conveniently omitted to notify her parents twice for two separate incidents. It wasn’t until Jennifer spoke and told them who hurt her that their family ordeal began. Jennifer was left not only with physical but also mental injuries of brutal flashbacks and detrimental regression. She has since been diagnosed with PTSD. Autistic children like Jennifer are some of the worst casualties of this corrupt dysfunctional school system. Our schools systematically violate IDEA, by under-funding it and fail to draft and implement a truly individualized education with the needs of the child superseding all else, also section 504 and enumerated constitutional rights.

Any parent like Nikki who dares to question the denial of rights enshrined in federal law and the US Constitution also suffers retaliatory aggression against them from the school system.

Nikki joins all of us at the Coalition demanding accountability from their school district and fidelity to the laws and protections to which disabled children have a right. Many schools not only gaslight parents who question their denial of FAPE, as they also enable and abet school staff in overusing dangerous restraints and seclusion in schools, not just as a “last resort” as they claim, but an end-run around accommodating a child’s needs.

Nikki fielded threats and harassment from school system lawyers and teachers’ union attorneys. Systems fight parent advocates because they know we have truth on our side, and modern behavioral science further corroborates our claims.

Nikki and her husband continued to fight as neither lawyers nor media were willing to intervene on their behalf. As frustrating as flying solo was, that did not quell their pain and outrage, only became the wind beneath Puttman’s wings. She found refuge in a fierce attorney who joined in her campaign to seek justice for her child. In the process, she came to realize, it was for all children like Jennifer that she felt she must contravene in the systemic cruelty and denial of personhood against disabled children,

Nikki’s family’s story was finally picked up after what seemed like inexorable prodding by NPR.

It hasn’t been easy, but a lonely very upsetting destructive uphill battle against mighty forces. As a result of the NPR story, the school district retaliated against the Puttmans yet again and punished the child for the actions of the parents and denied her daughter FAPE rights. Now the family home-schools both Jennifer and her brother.

Nikki told us her fight is not over. Her passion and advocacy educating other parents and hopefully recruiting more to join forces shall not subside until dangerous restraints and seclusion abuse are banned nationwide. The coalition is grateful for Nikki’s passion and especially her humor. Most of us began by advocacy for our own children, then came to realize the abuse is indeed systemic, not only county-wide, statewide, and nationwide, but an international human rights crisis of abuse and torment of disabled children in schools and facilities. Nikki joins with other parents, advocates, and self-advocates to fight for schools that fully accommodate all children, especially our most vulnerable.

We welcome Nikki to the coalition and are invigorated and inspired by her fight.

Emma Van Der Klift Author, Advocate, Neurodivergent Speaker, Activist

Recently diagnosed as Autistic, she has embraced the diagnosis with a sense of relief, recognition and confirmation. Although she worked in the non-profit sector supporting individuals with developmental and intellectual disabilities for many years, like many other autistic girls and women, she did not recognize her experience as represented in the common societal narratives. Since discovering a supportive and vibrant community of other autistic adults and allies, she has become an active member of the Neurodiversity movement.

Emma and her husband Normn Kunc are well known speakers and advocates within the disability rights community, they prefer to think of themselves as modern day storytellers, continuing the long held tradition of using humour and narrative to initiate self-reflection and social change.
Norman and Emma travel extensively throughout North America and abroad providing in-service and training in the areas of inclusive education, employment equity, conflict resolution, and other disability rights issues. Norman and Emma have a book , several journal articles, and three book chapters to their credit.

They also have developed and operate “Conversations that Matter,” an online values training platform consisting of over 120 videos of conversations with the leading voices in the field of community living and disability rights.

Emma holds a Master’s degree in Conflict Analysis and Management from Royal Roads University and was certified as a mediator and negotiator through the Justice Institute in Vancouver. She sometimes wonders if she might be the only autistic mediator!

Her full resume, her work at Broadreach Training and “Conversations That Matter can be viewed at:

The books she has authored can be viewed on Amazon at:

Her conference presentations include:

  • Inclusive Education
  • Disability Rights
  • Autism as Neurodiversity
  • Collaborative Behavioral Support
  • Respectful Support
  • Narrative Approaches to Difficult Behavior
  • Managing Conflict
  • Her advocacy and volunteer affiliations are:
  • Autistic Women’s Network
  • Committee to close Pearson Hospital
  • Inclusive Education Summer Institute
  • CLS Revitalization Committee
  • Associate – Facilitated Communication Institute, Syracuse University, Syracuse, NY Say No to Institutions, Vancouver BC
  • Port Alberni Women’s Resources Society (past president)
  • Port Alberni Society for Training in Aids Awareness (PASTA)
  • Family Court Advocate – Legal Services of British Columbia
  • Haven House Shelter for Battered Women and Children (member)
  • Runner’s of Compassion
  • Middle Eastern Dance Association
  • Women’s Business Network
  • John Howard Society (Restorative Justice Program)

Tracy Bono Parent Advocate

Based in St. Charles, Missouri. She is adjunct faculty at a community college, a horticultural therapist and is getting her certification to become a master naturalist. She is married with three children. A few years ago, after her youngest son was abused by the barbaric practices of restraint and seclusion in public school, she had no choice but to find alternative education for him and became an outspoken advocate to end this systemic child abuse.

She is currently working with state legislators to get legislation passed that would put more restrictions on the practice and require more accountability. It is not for an all out ban, which is much preferred, but a beginning. Tracy is also working with her local school district to change current policy (suggestions were presented to committee this past week and have moved on to the school board) and also for a plan to phase out seclusion rooms. She works with local advocacy groups, such as People First and the Missouri Developmental Disabilities Council, and helps with events where she is often an invited speaker.

Recently the local NBC affiliate ran a story on her son and the abuse he suffered. It helped to expose the school district and made others more aware. She is a proud member of this movement!

By Eve Reiland

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