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Distressed or Deliberately Defiant? Managing challenging student behaviour due to trauma and disorganised attachment

It is not unusual for educators today, whether in the early childhood, primary or secondary sectors, to be confronted with severely challenging student behaviour - students who fly into unexplained violent and oppositional outbursts with little warning; who respond poorly to tried-and-true behaviour management processes. Such behaviour has considerable impact on the delivery of teaching and learning programs and the emotional wellbeing of the teachers themselves as well as raising safety risks for the entire school community.
This book explains the basis for such behaviour as the neurological, physiological and behavioural outcomes of "disorganised attachment" due to prolonged exposure to a traumatic home life and provides practical advice to educators on ways that schools can effectively manage these students. By examining the science behind attachment theory, the neurobiology of behaviour, and the manifestation of disorganised attachment in the school context, this book will help educators:

  • minimise such challenging behaviour,
  • manage crises and disciplinary responses such as suspension and expulsion,
  • improve student compliance,
  • enhance education and overall wellbeing, and
  • deal with parents.

Covers early childhood, primary and secondary settings.


  • What we believe about managing these students' behaviour?
  • How these students present at school?
  • Rodney
  • Garry
  • Taylor
  • Let's talk about Attachment
  • Bowlby and Ainsworth: Two early theorists with important messages.
  • The neurological and physiological impact of disorganised attachment
  • The nervous system
  • The human brain
  • Neurons and synaptic activity
  • The early childhood brain
  • Fight, flight or freeze
  • Revisiting Rodney, Garry and Taylor
  • Relationships (both the problem and the solution)
  • Emotional self-regulation
  • Six-element model for student support
  • A list of recommended strategies and approaches
  • Preparing for and managing a behaviour crisis
  • Example of a crisis management plan
  • Helping teachers to understand and manage their own reactions and emotions during and after crisis
  • Considerations for school policy
  • Suspension and expulsion
  • Moving a student to a new school
  • Recognise difficulties with compliance for what they are
  • Physiological and social concerns in adolescence
  • A note on working with parents
  • A final word

Author Bio:

Dr Judith Howard is the Regional Manager for Behaviour Support Services for the Department Education Training and Employment in Queensland where she oversees a specialist intervention team, student support programs and training. She has previously worked as an educator, a child and adolescent behaviour specialist, a school counsellor and a researcher. Dr Howard has a passion for educating educators and other professionals from government and non-government agencies who are involved in the support of children and young people who present with challenging behaviour and attachment/ trauma related backgrounds, with the goal of enhancing collaborative child and adolescent support practices.


“This text is recommended to anyone who works with young people who have experienced trauma due to dysfunctional relationships with their primary carers. Teachers, school executives, special educators, social workers, educational psychologists and school counsellors will find this book a great addition to their professional libraries. The strategies presented are suitable for early childhood through to secondary settings. Moreover, this book would make an excellent and affordable secondary text in postgraduate education subjects focussed on managing challenging behaviours. The information presented in this book could easily be adapted to a valuable staff development session in raising awareness of disorganised attachment and productive intervention strategies that promote inclusion rather than exclusion” - Sue O’Neill - School of Education, University of New South Wales

“Dr Howard’s book provides a well-researched insight into the etiology and management of students who present with a trauma history and attachment disordered behaviours. The book considers the latest research on the impact of early trauma on the developing brain and then moves to practical support options for schools to consider. Her ideas on this topic have been shared with many school communities in Australia and overseas and she is considered a leader in the field of behaviour management in schools. As a psychologist working across schools in a Regional role, I have seen first-hand the positive outcomes for students (and staff) in schools that have benefited from Dr Howard’s practical advice and therefore strongly recommend her book to educators and parents” - Lex Bell (Psychologist) Guidance Officer - Intensive Behaviour Support

“Have you ever questioned your skills or abilities to manage a student’s complex behaviour - even after following the usual tried-and-true strategies? Or, perhaps you have felt frustrated by your many seemingly futile attempts to find a trigger or an explanation for the challenging, dangerous or disturbing behaviour which erupts out of nowhere in your classroom or the school playground? Then, this little book by Dr Howard is for you. In simple, easy to read language, this book provides the key for educators to unlock the theory and physiology of Disorganised Attachment due to trauma. It also raises awareness and understanding of the impacts of trauma and abuse. Most importantly, writing from her own professional experience and practice as well as current research, Dr Howard shares hands-on strategies and evidence-based approaches for the classroom teacher, the student support team as well as school management. Thanks Dr Howard for presenting a fresh lens for educators to view and respond to the behaviour and needs of some of our most needy and vulnerable students” - Cathy O’Connor, Queensland Department of Education, Training and Development

Distressed or Deliberately Defiant? Managing challenging student behaviour due to trauma and disorganised attachment

Author: Dr Judith Howard

$29.95 Add to Cart

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