Contact us

News - Can ‘trauma-informed practice’ help turn things around and support kids?

31st August 2017

A QUT school behaviour expert has found that students who present with challenging behaviours can be expressing a call for help and is working with education authorities to better identify and support these students.

Dr Judith Howard is a senior lecturer at QUT and a child and adolescent behaviour specialist with extensive experience as a teacher and school counsellor.

“Studies in neuroscience are explaining why these kids behave in the way they do and what we can do about it,” Dr Howard said.

 Dr Howard is working with the Queensland Department of Education and Training through an Education Horizon research grant to develop a framework to assist schools dealing with issues of complex childhood trauma.

Supporting children affected by childhood trauma is another example of the many challenges that school principals face in their efforts to support the needs of the diverse range of students in their care.

Dr Howard recently presented her research at the North Queensland Child Protection Symposium in Townsville for National Child Protection Week, and met with education officers in five of the state education regions across Queensland to discuss findings.

She is soon to present at the Queensland Child Protection Interagency Symposium and will be running seminars based on the research in Townsville, Darwin, Melbourne, Sydney, Canberra and Hobart.

“Complex trauma involves repeated traumatic experience such as physical, emotional or sexual abuse, chronic neglect or exposure to ongoing violence,” Dr Howard said.

“Concerning behaviours of young people are not learnt or purposefully chosen, rather they can be due to maladaptive development and functioning of neural pathways in the brain during crucial periods of development,” she said.

“There is a clear and hopeful message that the early years provide a window of opportunity to remedy harm due to the changeable nature of the child or adolescent brain."

She said her work will help teachers and schools to support children who have experienced trauma in the classroom and improve their education and life outcomes.

Dr Howard is also a key organiser of the inaugural Trauma Aware Schooling Conference led by QUT, USQ and Queensland Department of Education and Training on 15-16 October.

Details of Dr Howard’s Education Horizon project can be found here.

Dr Howard is the author of a teacher resource book: Distressed or Deliberately Defiant: Managing Challenging Student Behaviour due to Trauma and Disorganised Attachment.

MEDIA CONTACT: Debra Nowland, QUT Media Officer, 07 3138 1150 or

Share this story

Share story

Find more QUT news on

For all media enquiries

QUT Media Team

+61 73138 2361

Sign up to QUT News and Events Wrap