Children who have experienced trauma may face difficulties in academic achievement, working memory and language development. They may also exhibit behavioural issues and mental health challenges.
Autistic students are particularly vulnerable to trauma. They experience higher rates of bullying compared to non-Autistic peers and are more likely to have experienced multiple adverse childhood experiences, which can negatively impact their health.
Aspect Education staff has the potential to play a crucial role in supporting students who have experienced trauma. However, limited research exists on trauma-informed practices in specialist school settings, particularly autism-specific schools.
The Berry Street Education Model (BSEM) is a trauma-informed positive education approach. It focuses on professional development for teachers and has shown promising results in improving student behaviour, engagement and academic outcomes.
The Berry Street team has engaged with Aspect Education to provide training in trauma-informed education for all school staff (teachers and teacher aides) in nine Aspect schools. The Aspect Research Centre for Autism Practice (ARCAP) team will evaluate the BSEM training and implementation to explore:
• What impact BSEM training has on teacher knowledge, confidence, wellbeing and attitudes
• What changes, if any, are made to teacher practice after completing the BSEM training
• How the BSEM is implemented in autism specific schools
• Any facilitators or barriers to implementation
• Whether BSEM training is associated with any changes in incident reports or attendance.
All Aspect school staff will be invited to complete an online pre-training survey, post-training survey and six-month follow-up survey.
Two teachers and one teacher aide from each of the nine schools will be invited to participate in an interview with ARCAP researchers at the six-month follow-up.
Making a difference
This is the first study investigating the use of the BSEM in an autism-specific school. The findings will measure the impact of BSEM on teachers and teaching practices and gauge the suitability of BSEM in Aspect Schools.
Dr Vicki Gibbs, Lead Researcher ARCAP
Dr Abbey Love, ARCAP
Dr Ru Ying Cai, ARCAP
Dr Chris Edwards, ARCAP
Dr Tom Brunzell, Berry Street
Autism Spectrum Australia (Aspect)