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  • Writer's pictureHelen Haydock

Trauma as a Barrier to Inclusion

When we think about barriers to inclusion we often think about disability, developmental delays, medical or mental health issues but we can often forget the impact complex childhood trauma can have on inclusion.

Recent research from the Australian Child Maltreatment Study reports that about 62% of the Australian public have experienced at least one form of maltreatment prior to the age of 18. The latest child protection statistics report that 1 in 32 Australian children came into contact with the child protection system here in Australia between 2021 and 2022.

Many children across Australia have experienced trauma yet educators and teachers often lack the training and resources to support these children, leading to these children falling through the gaps and under resourced staff experiencing distress or burnout.

Over the next few weeks we will be exploring how childhood trauma creates a barrier to inclusion both in terms of the impact on children and the impact on staff. We will also start to explore some key considerations organisations can make when supporting children who have experienced trauma.

This week lets define what we are talking about when we say trauma. First lets make the distinction between simple and complex trauma.

Simple Trauma

Firstly its important to note the use of the word “simple” does not minimise the impact of these types of trauma. Simple trauma is often associated with diagnoses of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and can have lifelong consequences. Simple trauma generally involves experiences that are life threatening or have the potential to cause serious injury. It tends to be one of incidents like car accidents, sudden death of a loved one or a natural disaster.

Complex Trauma

Complex trauma tends to involve trauma within interpersonal relationships that is ongoing and repeated. Complex trauma often impacts the way a person sees the world, particularly how they see their safety in the world. People who were emotionally, physically or sexually abused or physically or emotionally neglected, bullied, cyberbullied or exploited or trafficked as a child or young person often experience complex trauma. So can people who experienced or witnessed violence in the community or in the home and family when they were growing up.

Complex Trauma and Children

Both adults and children can experience complex trauma but in children it is occurring at a time when the brain is still developing alongside other processes such as attachment.

In our next blog we will discuss some of the behaviours you might see in children who have experienced (or are experiencing) complex trauma.

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