Hassan is 10 years old and recently arrived in Australia as a refugee from the Middle East. After years of conflict, occupation and the economic and social conditions in the refugee camp there is a high risk of clinical depression and/or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) 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, 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. Hassan finds recess and lunchtime particularly difficult, and school staff are aware of the impact that people in uniform, sirens, fireworks, sudden loud noises, and authoritarian or threatening behaviour might have on Hassan. At times, Hassan will withdraw and shut down completely. His teachers believe the difficulties he has been experiencing at school could possibly be as a result of feeling anxious or fearful.
His classroom teacher sought permission from Hassan’s parents to refer him to the school psychologist shortly after he commenced at the school due to her concerns that Hassan might be at risk of developing a mental illness as a result of the trauma he had experienced. The psychologist meets with Hassan every fortnight and liaises with his teachers regarding how they can support him in the classroom and playground, but no formal diagnosis has been made at this stage.
The psychologist, the Wellbeing Leader and Hassan’s class teacher worked together with Hassan’s parents to develop an individual learning support plan that they revise each term.
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 communication skills 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 in consultation with the school psychologist, including providing a safe and structured routine. The class teacher has placed the daily planner as well as additional instructions on the whiteboard to assist Hassan with memory recall.
Hassan’s teacher recommended to his parents that he join the social skills group that the Wellbeing Leader runs each Friday morning for an hour. The focus for each student is different and in Hassan’s case, the psychologist has recommended some goals around meeting and greeting other students and adults, along with some strategies around how to join in activities with the other children during break times. As a result, he has recently started playing soccer with some of the other children at lunchtime. The Wellbeing Leader provides feedback to Hassan’s psychologist once a fortnight.
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 30 minutes three times a week to assist with his spoken and written language.