Part one

Martin is an eight-year-old boy who recently commenced school in Australia. He arrived with his parents and three brothers from Turkey, having fled Iraq and then Syria.

The family experienced multiple traumatic events prior to arrival in Australia, including bombings and attacks on family members. His mother has significant physical and mental health impacts from being attacked by a militia group while walking home one day and all the family are impacted by this event.

Martin’s Grade 2 teacher reports that he is struggling to make friends and doesn’t join in with other students during activities, always preferring to stay on the outside of groups. He struggles to take turns during games and activities, and has angry outbursts when asked to follow instructions. He is learning English, but at a slower rate than his peers and often mixes English in with his home language. He has difficulty concentrating on tasks and working at the same level as his peers who arrived in Australia around the same time. Martin frequently draws pictures instead of completing his work.

The family reported that Martin’s speech was developing as a toddler, but slowed after a traumatic kidnapping. He was kidnapped for seven days when he was three years old and was released after a ransom was paid. He can speak in his first language but is difficult to understand and speaks in short bursts of words. He has not been to school prior to arrival in Australia as schools would not accept him because of his speech difficulties.

His parents have reported that Martin often gets angry and will not follow instructions at home. If any loud noises happen, he wants the whole family to hide under the table with him. He also experienced nightmares but these are reducing over time in Australia.

Martin’s teachers are concerned about his behaviours, his inability to concentrate on tasks, and that he is learning English at a slower rate than other students. They are aware he has experienced significant trauma but are concerned that after six months of schooling in Australia there have not been any significant improvements.


Part two

After a further 12 months, a referral is made for further assessment of Martin. While he appears happier at school and his English is slowly improving, he is still far behind his peers. His teacher noticed that he was having difficulty interacting with other students and has concerns there may be some underlying issues impeding his development.

Martin was referred to and assessed at the Royal Children’s Hospital by a team including a paediatrician and a psychologist. After undertaking cognitive, speech and medical assessments, he is diagnosed with a moderate intellectual disability and speech delay. They also take into account the impact of significant trauma he experienced in his early years in making these diagnoses. This process takes approximately one year from referral to conclusion.

Martin’s family are distressed by the diagnoses and fear that Martin may experience lifelong challenges and experience significant grief. They are confused about what supports may be available to them and what the best decisions are for his future.

With support, they decide to enrol him at a special education school as recommended by his medical team, who provide support through the transition. Six months later, Martin reports that he likes school and is proud of the work he is doing. While he still experiences some challenges, the school are able to support him in these and his parents report that they feel it is the best environment for him and that he is much happier. They have engaged with services to help support his behaviours at home and, while they are concerned about his future, they now feel that they can access support as needed.