Schools in Germany are reportedly asking “naughty” and hyperactive children to wear heavy sand-filled vests to calm them down and keep them in their seats.
The controversial sand vests, which weigh between 2.7 and 13Ib, are used by 200 schools in the country – despite reservations of some parents and psychiatrists.
Supporters of the vests, which set parents back between £124 and £150, say they are very effective at curbing children’s restlessness in many cases.
Increasingly more and more children are being diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) each year in Germany, as it is elsewhere.
Schools that are using the vests say they are a straightforward way of tackling the problem and a kinder and less complex form of therapy than drugs such as Ritalin.
Gerhild de Wall, head of the inclusion unit at the Grumbrechtstrasse school in the Harburg district of Hamburg, says that children love wearing the vests and they are never forced into putting them on.
She first came across the vests while teaching in the US, where they are referred to as ‘compression vests’ or ‘squeeze jackets’ and sometimes used for autistic children.
De Wall thinks that the vests help children feel centred and concentrate better rather than acting as a constraint.
But she says that even though the weight is evenly spread over the child’s upper body, they should not be worn for longer than 30 minutes at a time.
Barbara Truller-Voigt, whose 9-year-old son Frederick has worn a 2kg sand vest at his Hamburg school for the past 3 years to treat his ADHD, said her son thinks it helps him and doesn’t mind wearing it.
‘He can concentrate better and is more able to take an active part in lessons because he’s not spending the whole time trying to keep his arms and legs under control,‘ she said.
Critics on the other hand say they are similar to straitjackets worn by violent patients in psychiatric hospitals and could stigmatise their wearers.
One parent said that she thought people had ‘lost the plot’, writing on Facebook: ‘It would be best if we avoided such torture methods.
‘How can you say to a child, ‘You’re sick, and as a punishment, you have to wear this sand-filled jacket which is not only physical agony but will make you look like an idiot in front of the rest of the class.”
And many psychiatrists are rather sceptical about the vests, especially because the long-term effects of wearing them are unknown.
Michael Schulte-Markwort, director at the Child and Youth Psychiatry University Clinic in Eppendorf, Hamburg, told German newspaper Die Tageszeitung they were ‘ethically questionable’.
He also noted they could be seen as a one-size-fits-all remedy for attention deficiency disorders and schools should instead focus on the child’s individual problems.
What are your thoughts on these vests?
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