Tasmanian children suffering from complex trauma are an educational priority, according to the chair of the Northern Early Years Group who wants to see government commitment to trauma-informed care.
Trauma-informed care uses trust-based interventions and is believed to be the best way to help Tasmanian children with complex trauma caused by neglect or emotional, physical or sexual abuse.
NEYG chair Diane Nailon said teachers who feel unequipped to help these children are calling out for more support.
“Teachers want support but are unable to access it when they need it, simply because there is not enough,” Ms Nailon said.
“I know the department is trying as hard as it can to get this out there, and I understand that you have to balance all the funding needs, but from time to time we need to prioritise.
“We really need to acknowledge that unless we jump in with support now, when children are young, then we will have adults unable to take charge of themselves...who may act out against society, or against themselves.”
The education department has introduced a wellbeing strategy to address issues such as resilience, depression, anxiety and cybersafety among students, but only select schools currently have access to these resources.
Wellbeing surveys are being trialled in 16 northern schools, which will allow the department to see if wellbeing measures are working.
Ms Nailon said it would be beneficial for both wellbeing and trauma informed practices to be used in schools.
“Teachers need to pick the best strategy for each individual circumstance, but at the moment there is often only one approach used in our schools and in some situations is not appropriate for some children,” she said.
She said behavioural management approaches use procedural strategies based on retribution theory or positive reinforcements, but these often do not work for with complex trauma who revert to the fight or flight response in times of stress.
“Halting the disruptive action and getting children to think about alternative actions does not work for those in meltdown [and] positive reinforcement does not work because they see other children getting stars and stickers when they are not.”
Ms Nailon added one-off teacher training sessions were not enough, and instead, funding is needed for trauma informed care.
“We need a commitment over time, to give ongoing support to schools. Teachers need follow up support, people working alongside them so they can trial things, get feedback, and keep it going.”
She said NEYG is committed to raising awareness in the community and with government agencies to build trauma-informed networks for those needing support.