Raqiya fled Sudan with her parents and brother when she was 2 years old. She and her family lived in a refugee camp in Kenya for 9 years and arrived in Australia when Raqiya was 11 years old. She commenced school (Year 6) in a rural town at the beginning of the academic year. Prior to arriving at the school Raqiya was diagnosed with a mild hearing impairment.
The school determined that Raqiya would require considerable support as she settled into the new environment, given the language and hearing barriers she faces and the trauma she has experienced. The school staff have worked hard to develop safe and positive relationships with Raqiya and a welcoming atmosphere for her parents. The staff employ a multi-disciplinary team approach and have strong connections to outside agencies that support their students and their families.
Raqiya has limited capacity to communicate in her home language. She is also unable to read or write in that language. When she commenced school, she appeared confused and anxious and was unable to communicate with staff and students. It was difficult for her to learn about the routines and expectations of the school. Raqiya was found to have delays with producing speech sounds, hearing and understanding language, understanding new concepts and interacting with other students and this was partly attributed to her hearing impairment.
The school psychologist worked with Raqiya’s teachers and her family to develop wellbeing and settlement goals. She was also assessed by the school’s visiting speech pathologist, who collaborated with the school psychologist to develop an individualised sociolinguistic profile. This helped to identify Raqiya’s interests and to support her to engage in play with her peers with similar interests. This involved the use of social scripts and assisting with the development of social vocabulary for interacting with peers.
As part of the Refugee Education Support Program, Raqiya has been referred to an external specialist refugee trauma service for a formal assessment resulting in a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The service provides her with regular, ongoing counselling outside of school hours and liaises with the school psychologist to plan strategies to best support Raqiya at school. The school has also arranged for her teachers and support staff to receive some professional learning to support Raqiya’s learning and wellbeing needs.
Based on recommendations following an assessment by an external audiologist, Raqiya was fitted with hearing aids. A soundfield amplification system was installed in her classroom and her teacher uses an FM system. Raqiya now sits at a desk at the front of the classroom near the teacher. Where possible, the teacher tries to keep background noise to a minimum. The teacher ensures that captions are used for videos shown to the class and that Raqiya is also provided with visual supports to supplement the captions while she is still developing her reading skills. Where possible, verbal instructions are also provided in writing, instructions are written in numbered steps on the whiteboard and the teacher checks in regularly to ascertain whether Raqiya has understood the key points and instructions. A teacher assistant is employed by the school to provide general support in the class and to explain instructions and provide additional visual supports for Raqiya when necessary. Raqiya is comfortable asking for clarification and reassurance from the assistant, and she usually requests this assistance at least once a day, particularly with writing tasks. The school also accesses support from their regional visiting Learning Consultant (Hearing impairment) twice per term who works with Raqiya and her teachers to check on their use of assistive technology and provides advice to teachers on how to make suitable adjustments to support Raqiya’s learning.
To further support Raqiya’s language development, the school’s New arrivals/EAL teacher developed a program with her class teacher which involved daily individualised sessions with a focus on the explicit teaching of English.
Raqiya continues to present as shy and withdrawn and often disappears from her classroom. She can often be found hiding in the toilet or under tables and on several occasions attempted to run away from the school. Because of this, the school has created a safe place and a safe person for her to access when she feels overwhelmed. She is beginning to employ the self-regulation exercises she has learnt through her trauma counselling. Staff members are also assigned to monitor her movements during recess and lunchtimes.
Raqiya’s teacher, the Deputy Principal, the New Arrivals/EAL teacher, the Learning consultant (Hearing impairment), the school psychologist, a representative from the refugee trauma service, an interpreter and her parents developed an individual learning plan (ILP) to address her complex and diverse support needs. The group meets once per term to discuss Raqiya’s progress and revise her ILP.