SCHOOLS expelling children for out-of-control behavior have often failed to help give voice to the harm or neglect inflicted at home.
That is a warning expert Judy Atkinson AM will give teachers in Bendigo today at a La Trobe University conference on the latest trauma research.
Schools often suspend or expel students grappling with trauma inflicted by family members, Ms Atkinson said.
"I'll be unpacking the lives of these children (during the presentation) ... the school does not understand that their behavior is their language," she said.
Teachers in Bendigo and around Australia are rethinking how they help the estimated one in 33 children who suffer repeated abuse or neglect as their brains develop.
Three schools in town are starting a groundbreaking trial to help teachers share the knowledge needed to heal trauma, conference organiser Anne Southall said.
"The way back (from early childhood trauma) is through attachment to another person. So that student-teacher relationship is really critical," she said.
The two-year trial will help schools steadily introduce new teaching methods and allow teachers time to reflect on what can often be challenging, long term work.
Ms Atkinson has worked with Queensland children whose behaviors include cruelty to animals, fighting and bullying. They can often be destructive, violate rules and engage in deceitful behavior.
Many of those children had been on the receiving end of aggressive, sometimes incredibly brutal, behavior at home, which was surfacing at school, Ms Atkinson said.
She said Victoria was far ahead of the other states when it came to dealing with children and trauma.
"The big question here is about how to speed up the skills that we need to work with these kids," Ms Atkinson said.
She works with Indigenous children in Queensland, helping them to express themselves through art, music, dance and cultural understanding.
It is a whole different way of dealing with children and, when put into place, could see their behavior change, Ms Atkinson said.
"Once we started using this teaching/learning practice based in Aboriginal cultural healing, we saw the changes happening."
Often, the setting made it safe for children to speak about their experiences, Ms Atkinson said.
"These kinds of approaches work for non-Aboriginal kids too," she said.
"When we do theatre they can, for example, be the growly animals and get rid of a lot of their aggression. Then when they feel safe, we hear the stories that nobody has wanted to talk about."
She hoped teachers, school psychologists and others would walk away from the conference and look for '"trauma-informed" skills they could use to work with, and help heal, children.
"I think schools should be the places where children are allowed to heal. We need special, special teachers for these amazing little kids who are surviving out there," Ms Atkinson said.
La Trobe University's Hard Yards Conference takes place in Bendigo today and is a ticketed event.
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