Hassan is 10 years old and recently arrived in Australia as a refugee from Nablus in the West Bank. After years of conflict, occupation and the economic and social conditions in the refugee camp there is a high risk of clinical depression in the population. Hassan sometimes experiences bedwetting, disturbed sleep patterns and recurrent nightmares, and is often fearful about leaving his home.
Hassan had no formal schooling before arriving in Australia six months ago, so a structured environment had social and behavioural challenges for Hassan that his primary school needed to consider.
Hassan has difficulty with concentration and memory, which his teacher believes affects his ability to learn and acquire new skills and could possibly be as a result of feeling anxious or fearful. Hassan finds recess and lunchtime particularly difficult, and school staff are aware of the impact that sirens, fireworks, sudden loud noises, people in uniform and authoritarian or threatening behaviour might have on Hassan. At times, Hassan will withdraw and shut down completely.
Building trust and secure relationships with Hassan is considered essential by the school staff. Hassan has a mentor – a local football club coach – who he sees every week and with whom he has established a secure bond. Hassan’s mentor is actively working on restoring Hassan’s sense of safety, as well as his skills communicating with people in authority. The mentor is also aiming to build Hassan’s connection to people in the football club.
The school has implemented strategies for the classroom and playground, including providing a safe and structured routine. The class teacher has placed the daily planner and additional instructions on the whiteboard to assist Hassan with memory recall.
If there is a change in routine, Hassan is provided with an explanation in advance. Staff are aware that, if an alarming or strange noise occurs in the playground, Hassan may need to go to the quiet play area.
Hassan sometimes has difficulty participating in activities, and is provided with alternatives such as writing, art and dance to express his feelings. He receives a graded approach to unfamiliar activities and exemptions from very difficult tasks. Hassan is provided with additional EAL support for half an hour, three times a week, to assist with his spoken and written language.