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EDF 4322 Issues in Child Development Assignment 1

Qi Hui Tai ID: 22444645

Supporting Refugee Children in the Early Childhood Settings


Abstract In recent times, there is an increase number of refugees arriving and settling in Australia. This has changed the face of Australian society in terms of cultural diversity and also the classroom environment. The newly arrived refugee children not only have to deal with their traumatic past experiences, they also face the challenge of settling into the early childhood settings, new culture and new language. The aim of this paper is to explore how educators in the early childhood settings can support and cater for the needs of refugee families and children in their service. In my findings, I outlined the main challenges that refugee children face and the teaching strategies that educators can adopt to overcome those challenges.

Introduction
Every year, the Australias humanitarian immigration program welcomes around 13,000 refugees to resettle in its country. One in three of these refugees are children (Department of Immigration and Citizenship, 2013). As the number of refugees resettling in Australia is increasing each year, the Australian community is becoming more diverse in terms of cultural and linguistic background (Department of Immigration and Citizenship, 2013). Hence, it is not unusual for educators to encounter children who are refugees in their classroom, who had to flee with their family from countries such as Iraq, Bhutan, Sudan and Afghanistan due to prosecution (Department of Immigration and Citizenship, 2013). These children who are experiencing trauma have to deal with their terrifying past life experiences of persecution and exile. They also suffered emotional and physical deprivations in addition to having to cope with the cultural and linguistic differences in the classroom. Therefore, these children require special attention from educators because of their unique life experiences. As a result, educators are challenged once again to cater for these additional needs, on top of catering for the diverse cultural and linguistic needs in the classroom. This paper will focus on how educators can support the needs of refugee children and their families in the inclusive environment in the early childhood settings.
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EDF 4322 Issues in Child Development Assignment 1

Qi Hui Tai ID: 22444645

Refugee experience and its impact on education


The arrival of refugees is still considered as a fairly new phenomenal in Australia. Statistics show that this phenomena will continue to persist as the as the number of refugees has proven to increase over the years in Australia (Department of Immigration and Citizenship, 2013). Hence, the increased number of refugee children in the classroom has become a persistent problem and a critical issue in education primarily for educators as they are the working first hand with refugee children. The Victorian Department of Education and the Australian Immigration Department identified this issue as critical as both departments have created resources to support educators in this aspect. (Department of Education and Early Childhood Development [DEECD], 2008).

Although this is a persistent issue in education, there are certain aspects of this issue that can be considered as short term problems such as managing the behaviour of refugee children due to trauma and assisting them to a successful transition to new educational settings. Though coming from diverse backgrounds and cultures, most refugee students share the common experiences of disadvantage which will impact on their capacity and readiness to learn (Foundation House, 2007). For example, the separation from family member or the loss of a family member. Moreover, the process of seeking asylum in another country has significantly interrupted their education and some children have little education prior to coming to Australia (DEECD, 2008). All these issues should be taken into account in educators teaching practice. Furthermore, this issue is also deemed as critical as many educators feel inadequate and not prepared to address the needs of refugee children particularly the emotional stress experienced by them. (Szente, Hoot and Taylor, 2006).

The Australian Early Years Learning Framework (EYLF) sets high standard for educators in terms of inclusion. As define in EYLF, inclusion involves taking into account all childrens social, cultural and linguistic diversity in curriculum decision making (DEEWR, 2009, p. 24). EYLF expects educator to go beyond respecting diversity in the classroom. As a result, educators are challenged once again in catering for refugees children in an inclusive classroom. Educators need to ensure that the refugee children are experiencing meaningful learning and have equitable
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EDF 4322 Issues in Child Development Assignment 1

Qi Hui Tai ID: 22444645

access to participation as much as their Australian counterparts. Undoubtedly, educators will need to adjust their teaching practice to cater for their needs. According to various research (Vinning, 2007; McArdle and Spina, 2006 & Szente, Hoot and Taylor, 2006), two main issues that refugees children face when resettling in Australia are trauma from past experiences and adjustments to the early childhood settings.

Young refugee coping with trauma


McArdle and Spina (2007) states that for refugee children and their family, the resettling process is defined as a secondary trauma. Challenges such as entering the new education system, job market, communication barriers are inevitable for families and young refugees. As mentioned, many refugee children faced traumatic past experiences and many of them suffered from significant psychological deprivations (Norvakis and Ferguson, 2007). According to Vinning (2011), sometimes it takes years for a traumatised child to resettle in Australia. Since everyone reacts to life experiences differently, each refugee child reacts to trauma differently too depending of the personalities and the extent of the exile. McArdle and Spina (2007) states that refugee children demonstrate a range of behaviours from withdrawn behaviours such as alienated and vulnerable to aggressive behaviours such as and paranoid to violent and angry. The critical role of an early childhood professional is to help children regain security in their environment and their relationships (Powrie, 2006). According to Powrie (2006), when thinking about how trauma affects young children, it is important to consider their relationships with the primary caregivers. Children who have secure relationships with their carer are more resilient and are able to recover easier that those who do not experience that. However, it is quite likely that refugees parents are traumatised themselves, experiencing mental health problems and ongoing stress due to resettlement issues and language barriers (Powrie, 2006). Parents will poor mental health will affect their relationships with children and their attachment with their young child. The younger the child is, the more vulnerable they are to parental distress. Hence, supporting families in the resettlement period can also protect children from additional psychological distress (Vinning, 2011). This includes

EDF 4322 Issues in Child Development Assignment 1

Qi Hui Tai ID: 22444645

connecting families to other refugees who can offer friendship and support, particularly those who are from the same origin country (Vinning, 2011). On the other hand, there are some strategies that educators could adopt to help refugees children cope with trauma in the classroom. One strategy is for educators to remove trigger reminds children their traumatic past. As trigger can be hard to indentify, daily observations of the child is the first step to identifying the trigger. Educators can gauge the body language and emotions of the child to identify the trigger, usually when the child shows a stress response (Powrie, 2006). This trigger can even be an action such as mimicking the action of a gun. For example, a refugee child may feel distressed when another child mimics the action of a gun due to traumatic past experiences. Therefore, educators need to be sensitive the refugee child and explain to other children the special circumstances of refugee children.

Young refugee adjustment to the early childhood settings


According to McArdle and Spina (2007), the resettlement period is significant to young children. One of the major challenges for young refugee is settling into the new education settings- the early childhood settings. McArdle and Spina (2007) believe that for a country like Australia which has a high rate of migration and refugees, early childhood care and programs are key sites for enacting national goals for social inclusion and creations of new citizens (p.50). Hence, educators in the early childhood settings play an important role as the early years are critical to the development, and future, of refugee children and their families. EYLF states it is integral to human existence to experience belonging (DEEWR, 2009). In early childhood and throughout life, relationships are crucial to a sense of belongings (DEEWR, 2009). Powrie (2006) mentions that researches have proven that childrens social competence predict success in school and this is linked to early relationships and environmental experiences. Hence, it is vital for educators to ensure that refugee children are adjusting to the environment holistically, not just physically but also socially, emotionally and spiritually. However, refugee children usually face the issue of communication due to language barrier and this affects their social development with the other children in the settings. In addition, when refugee families enrol their children in the settings, they often realise that there is a cultural clash (Szente, Hoot and Taylor, 2006). It is crucial for
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EDF 4322 Issues in Child Development Assignment 1

Qi Hui Tai ID: 22444645

educators to demonstrate cultural competency (DEEWR, 2009) and find out the cultural beliefs of the families as it affects the behaviour of a child. For instance, a child who comes from a paternalistic society might find it difficult to take direction from a female teacher (Vinning, 2011). Educators could adopt a few strategies to overcome communication barrier. One of the effective strategies is to utilize basic sign language when communicating with children (Szente, Hoot and Taylor, 2006). Likewise, Educators can also teach the other children sign language to communicate with the refugee children. Besides that, Facella, Rempino and Shea (2005) found that using visual cues to support children who are learning English are proven to be an effective strategy. Flash cards could be used to explain basic routines such as meal time and outdoor play. Furthermore, creating visual timetable with movable pictures of the activities to be displayed is useful for refugee children (Pim, 2012). As activities change throughout the day, pictures can be moved around. By doing so, it helps refugee children to know which activities are in progress and what will be coming later. When educators use these simple yet effective strategies, educators are demonstrating inclusion in their teaching practice as they takes into account the childrens social, cultural and linguistic diversity in curriculum decision making process (DEEWR, 2009).

Conclusion
The circumstances of refugee children in the early childhood settings are fairly unique particularly due to their traumatic past experience. These additional needs can be catered more effectively through the assistance of families. Therefore, building positive relationships with parents is essential to support refugee children in the early childhood settings as successful transition for young refugee in the early childhood settings involves a two-way collaboration between families and educators. As refugee children are on the road to becoming the new citizen of Australia, it is crucial for educators to ensure that they feel a sense of belongings in the country, starting from creating an inclusive classroom environment.

EDF 4322 Issues in Child Development Assignment 1

Qi Hui Tai ID: 22444645

References
Australian Government Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations (DEEWR). (2009). Belonging, Being & Becoming: The Early Years Learning Framework for Australia. Retrieved from http://rti.cabinet.qld.gov.au/documents/2009/jun/national%20early%20childho od%20development%20reform%20agenda/Attachments/Framework.pdf Bourke, L (2011). Settling and supporting newly arrived families into an early childhood service. Every Child, 17(2), 28-29. Department of Education and Early Childhood Development. (2008) . Strengthening outcomes: Refuges Students in Government Schools. https://www.eduweb.vic.gov.au/edulibrary/public/teachlearn/student/Strengthe ningOutcomes-rpt-v1.pdf Department of Education and Early Childhood Development. (2008). Support for Refugees. Retrieved from
http://www.education.vic.gov.au/school/teachers/teachingresources/diversity/eal/pages/e alsupportrefugee.aspx

Department of Immigration and Citizenship. (2013). Fact Sheet 60 Australia's Refugee and Humanitarian Program. Retrieved from http://www.immi.gov.au/media/factsheets/60refugee.htm Facella, M.A, Rampino, K.M. & Shea, E.K. (2005). Effective Teaching Strategies for English Language Learners. Bilingual Research Journal, 29(1), 209-223.

EDF 4322 Issues in Child Development Assignment 1

Qi Hui Tai ID: 22444645

McArdle, F., & Spina, N. (2007). Children of refugee families as artists: Bridging the past, present and future. Australian Journal of Early Childhood, 32(4), 50-53. Norvakis, L., & Ferguson, D. (2007). School as a Refuge. Teacher Learning Network, 14(3), 10-11. Pim, C. (2012). 100 Ideas for Supporting Learners with EAL. London: Continuum International Publishing Group. Powrie, R. (2006). Young Refugee Children: Memory, trauma and the influence of supportive relationships. Every Child, 12(4),6-7. Foundation House. (2007). The Education Needs of Young Refugees in Victoria. Retrieved from www.foundationhouse.org.au/LiteratureRetrieve.aspx?ID=25058 Szente, J., Hoot, J., & Taylort, D. (2006). Responding to the Special Needs of Refugee Children: Practical Ideas for Teachers. Early Childhood Education Journal, 34(1), 15-20. Vinning, L. (2011). Instead of guns, I see smile: Integrating Refugee and Asylum Seeking Children into Our School. The Australian Educational Leader, 33(1), 29-31.