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.