Having an autistic child is not the end of the world--far from it. It is my hope that through this blog, at least a handful of people will get to understand that. My child is amazing, she brings us tremendous joy. We have good days & bad days, but we CHOOSE to focus on the good. Our belief is that by loving our daughter, giving her the most comfortable environment we can, and by most of all accepting her differences, she will continue to blossom--in her OWN way.

6/27/08

Gabriel Poirier - We Cannot Forget

I wrote about the death of Gabriel Poirier the other day, but this article was emailed to me, and I wanted to post it here. I wanted to write more about Gabriel, for one because many (like myself) had not heard about his death until this week (he died in April). Also, and most importantly, because I don't want any of us to forget him--a nine year old boy, innocent, simply attending school. We have to remember Gabriel, and his parents. Please visit this article by Graeme Hamilton at the National Post.

MONTREAL - After nine-year-old Gabriel Poirier was discovered lifeless in his classroom last April 17, his parents were told their autistic son had stopped breathing after hiding under a heavy therapeutic blanket.

Now a coroner has revealed that Gabriel's teachers had tightly wrapped him in the buckwheat-stuffed blanket, leaving only the tips of his ears sticking out, as punishment when he became disruptive. They left him unsupervised in a corner for 20 minutes, returning when a timer sounded.

Gabriel was unconscious and blue in the face. He was rushed to hospital, where he died the following night surrounded by his family.

It's pointed out in the article that weighted blankets can have therapeutic benefits. Our eldest happens to use one, it helps her sleep issues. Our youngest has used weighted lap pads, backpacks, and utensils. She also enjoys being "squished" by two pillows, bean bag chairs, etc. It is very calming. But, as Gabriel's father points out, what this school did to his son was not therapy, it was abuse.

"He was only 53 pounds, he was so small," Gilles Poirier, the boy's father said at a news conference yesterday. "How can they wrap him up like that in a 40-pound blanket? How can this treatment be tolerated?"

Not only was he wrapped four times by such heavy weight, but his entire face was covered, and obviously, he was trapped. Even more disheartening were the lies the school told the media and to Gabriel's parents. More from the family's lawyer, Jean-Pierre Menard:

Mr. Menard said the parents were surprised to learn Gabriel had been placed in the blanket as a punishment. The school board had initially said it was a natural death and that Gabriel had gone under the blanket on his own.

"The principal said they found Gabriel under the blanket and he wasn't breathing. The parents thought that something had happened while he was sleeping and that was how he died," Mr. Menard said. He said the school board later told the media that Gabriel had hidden under the blanket.

How a school could lie about Gabriel's death is beyond me. I hope they will be held accountable, and that real change is made regarding restraints. The article ends with this:

Mr. Poirier said he cannot understand why his child was placed in a restraint. "He was a very gentle boy," he said. "Sometimes he was loud, but he was never aggressive or violent. I just don't understand how this happened," he said, tears streaming down his face.

We can't sit idly by while such tragedies occur. My heart goes out to the Poirier family. I have not seen a picture of Gabriel, but there is a picture of his parents here--I feel images are so crucial to making an impact. We have to vow to never forget Gabriel.

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

I don't know if I commented on this story yet, but yes, this was a heinous act of abuse, accomplished on a platform of ignorance, and thoroughly stinks of dishonesty when it comes to obstruction of justice when the school LIED about how it happened.

Patrick

If there are not criminal charges then just like Tariq, there will not be Justice.

Isn't it sad to be in a country where we are supposed to have Justice for All, and we don't?

Club 166 said...

...We can't sit idly by while such tragedies occur. ...

No, we can't.

Thanks for updating this story, and also for all of those links that you provided the first time you blogged on this.

Joe

jypsy said...

So what has the reaction been....?

"Autism Society Canada has received a notification from Dr. Louise Nolet, Chief Coroner in Québec urging us to make our members aware of potential dangers associated with the use of weighted blankets for children with autism. On April 18th 2008, a young boy with autism died in the province of Québec. This incident was not in the media, but there was reference to the use of a “weighted blanket” (French: Couverture proprioceptives, Création Messim) in his school classroom.

This intervention is also referred to as "proprioceptive" input or "deep pressure" technique. Deep pressure is used to assist the individual to self-calm and relax so that sensory stimulus can be processed. The use of a weight blanket is thought to provide the child with unconscious information from the muscles and joints. This therapeutic technique is used in schools, clinics, homes, and communities.

Coroner Catherine Rudel-Tessier, Québec recommends;

“Because the therapeutic value of weight blankets does not seem to be proven scientifically, and because of the fact that they pose a risk for children’s lives, we could be tempted to prohibit their use altogether. However, I believe that it is possible to manage usage in a strict manner in order to minimize the danger. I believe that certain ground rules must be respected by those who wish to use this sensory pressure technique, namely:
 A health professional’s advice must be obtained to ensure that the use of the blanket is suitable for the child;
 The weight of the blanket must be in proportion of the child’s physique and weight;
 The child’s head must never be, or be able to be, covered by the blanket;
 Vital signs should always be observable;
 The child must never be rolled in a blanket (unless a therapist is constantly at his or her side);
 A child must never be left unsupervised;
 The child must be able to easily slip out of the blanket if he or she wishes to do so (it is not a confinement);
 The child must express his or her consent to this, even if it is not verbal.”
Autism Society Canada has been working for over thirty years to increase awareness and understanding, and to promote evidence-based services/treatment, best practices and standards for Autism Spectrum Disorders. We agree with recent recommendations made by la Fédération québécoise de l’autisme et des autres troubles envahissants du développement (FQATED), the Québec provincial autism society, that more training and protocol be implemented in the education system when using these weighted blankets."


It was the blanket that killed him, not the obvious abuse.

Sharon said...

Yes, we must not forget Gabriel. My deepest sympathy to his family as they are only now learning of the culpability of the school in their son's death. This is just so sad.

The Canadian autism society have nothing more than that to say? Can't they say anything about the proper treatment of vulnerable autistic children, or about the danger and cruelty of restraints?

www.la-rioja-3d.com said...

This cannot really work, I feel so.