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Handling and Moving Disabled Pupils

Are manual handling policies in schools restrictive? 

Unfortunately for some disabled pupils the risks involved in manual handling equals certain activity exclusion, but should this be the case? With the correct training equipment, selected pupils should not be disadvantaged and should ideally be included rather than excluded from certain activities.

However, some manual handling policies in schools can be restrictive particularly if they have been introduced into an environment, such as mainstream, where unfamiliar territory is broached or created without including an assessment of ‘emotional, mental or social benefits and needs’.

Sometimes policies that have been adapted from adult guidelines and rigid approaches can limit a child’s interaction in activities and leaves pupils feeling excluded.

The fear of moving can result in a pupil being left In-situ, the desire to protect staff and pupil during transfers can sometimes not cater to a child’s needs and can emphasise a difference between the able and disabled.

There is a fine line between managing risk, and creating a balance between the risk and development needs of a child.

Silvalea believe that moving and handling of pupils within the school environment requires an optional approach to school specific scenarios during assessment.

Health and Safety matters for special education needs: Moving and handling guidelines state:

‘There should be a balance between the health and safety considerations of employees and individual students’ rights to dignity, autonomy and privacy. Health and safety of employees should be sustained, but it is not an excuse for denying disabled students and students with SEN access to educational opportunities.’

By combining the above with legislation (HSE, MHOR etc.) and assisted assessment by OTs, physiotherapists, families and schools, help is provided for different options in each scenario, then evaluated using ‘cost and risk’ assessment practices which allow all involved to make a balanced decision on the best option to suit a pupil’s needs.

Paediatric handling is often overlooked; for instance, the Guide to Handling of People which is seen as the definitive guide to patient handling, whilst being incredibly informative with clear descriptions and evidence based text/pictures, unfortunately has very little information on how these scenarios apply to smaller children.

In practice this means for example; a pupil has some floor mobility and is able to self-propel their wheelchair, however teachers have some reticence to involve the pupil in the afternoon’s daily floor activities including small reading groups and/or are scared to lift the pupil on and off the changing table for personal care in case they are breaking the law by lifting the child illegally.

Are you excluding this child from activities which could aid development? Are there choices or options which could be taken into consideration to aid decision making? Have all options been explored and assessed for risk and cost implications? Can these risks be practically managed? Do you require specialist equipment such as a hoist or sling?

Having access to valuable resources which are more paediatric bias, speaking to industry experts in assessment training specifically in ‘child handling’ rather than assuming that ‘one size fits all’, will provide school and pupil with the best possible handling options and help schools select the correct and most appropriate equipment. Involving OTs who have specific paediatric experience and talking to the pupil and their family are always good starting points at the beginning of any risk assessment.

There are paediatric handling special interest groups which have been formed to provide guidance, methods and detailed descriptions for helping children to move; such as the Paediatric Handling Interest Group founded in 2005 who have published ‘Guidelines for Assisting Disabled Children and Young People to Move’ which is certainly more focused with great methods. The Scottish Government produced a very informative guide entitled ‘The Common-Sense Approach to Moving and Handling of Disabled Children and Young People’.

Silvalea are very proud to collaborate directly with over 25 mainstream and residential/special needs schools across the UK.