Trauma-Aware Education: Essential information and guidance for educators, education sites and education systems

Dr Judith A. Howard



This title is selling fast!

How to embed awareness and management of
complex trauma in school systems
to help vulnerable impacted students
achieve better lives.

"Judith Howard opens the door for all educational professionals and policy makers to an international movement for trauma-aware schooling. Her book shows compassion for educators by suggesting practical and commonsense measures for taking action.”

Professor Michael Gregory. Clinical Professor of Law at Harvard Law School and Senior Attorney at the Trauma and Learning Policy Initiative in Massachusetts, USA.

"A pioneer in the emerging and much needed paradigm of trauma-aware education. Judith Howard’s book should be mandated reading for pre-service teachers and university teacher training courses.”

Dr Tom Brunzell, Director, berry Street Education Model & Honorary Fellow, University of Melbourne Graduate School of Education.

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Now, more than ever, in a world of stress, disadvantage and unpredictability, schools struggle to manage the confronting needs of some of our most disadvantaged and vulnerable learners — those suffering complex trauma. This type of trauma stems from repeated interpersonal harm done to children, including physical, emotional, or sexual abuse, significant neglect, and the experience of family or other relational violence. These learners require a ‘trauma-aware’ response. Behaviour management techniques that may work for most learners often fail when used with trauma-impacted children.

This book assists educators from an individual and system perspective in developing trauma-aware education frameworks to enable learners and educators to avoid the devastating effects of complex trauma on mental health. It examines and discusses the impacts of complex and other trauma on learners and how trauma-aware education provides an informed approach to remedy these concerns.

Topics covered include:

the impacts of complex trauma

the evidence-base for trauma-aware education

a paradigm shift in the way learner behaviours are ‘managed’

effective strategies for a trauma-aware education response

working with learners who live with disability

a trauma-aware approach for early childhood education and care

maintaining well-being for educators

leadership of trauma-aware education in sites and systems.

You might also like Judith's first book:

About the Author

Dr Judith Howard is an Associate Professor in the Education Faculty at the Queensland University of Technology. She has an extensive career history with schooling in Australia and has worked as a teacher, school counsellor and behaviour support specialist. She has held both regional and state positions overseeing work in student behaviour support. Dr Howard’s work has a keen focus on the concerns of young learners who have experienced complex trauma. She promotes a neuroscience-informed approach — to which she believes every educator and worker in every school and early childhood service needs access. Dr Howard oversees pre-service and post-graduate teacher education in trauma-aware education, is the principal chair of the biennial Trauma-Aware Schooling conference in Australia, has developed online courses reaching thousands nationally and internationally, and continues to research, write, speak and train on this vitally important topic. She is the author of the highly popular teacher resource Distressed or Deliberately Defiant: Managing Challenging Student Behaviour due to Trauma and Disorganised Attachment (2013).


"In Trauma-Aware Education, Judith Howard effectively opens the door for all educational professionals and policy makers to enter into what has become an international movement for trauma-aware schooling. At once comprehensive and accessible, Prof. Howard’s book carefully delineates the neurobiological and psychological underpinnings for a trauma-aware approach to teaching and learning, showing that it is indispensable in our current age. Most importantly, the book shows compassion for educators by suggesting practical and commonsense measures for taking action on the insights provided by research. Prof. Howard’s book is a gift to education sites and systems — and the children they serve — in Australia and around the world."
Professor Michael Gregory, Clinical Professor of Law, Faculty Director, Trauma and Learning Policy Initiative at Harvard Law School, Massachusetts, USA.

"Dr Judith Howard’s new book is an essential guide for teachers, school leaders, allied professionals, and educational systems leaders. While certainly practical for education professionals, this book has the rigorous breadth and depth required to be mandated reading for pre-service teachers and university teacher training courses.  As one of Australia’s pioneers in the emerging and much needed paradigm of trauma-aware education, Dr Howard calls us into action by providing the developmental story of the field itself, the growing evidence base, and the need to frame trauma-aware education as a multi-disciplinary and interconnected practice approach."
Dr Tom Brunzell, Director, Berry Street Education Model & Honorary Fellow, University of Melbourne Graduate School of Education.

"Dr. Judith Howard is cultivating leading-edge work in the areas of trauma awareness and trauma-informed education. In this book, she not only defines what trauma is in its varying degrees and complexities but explains the need for higher education to prepare pre-service teachers to deeply understand how adversity and trauma impact the developing nervous systems of learners. This book is critical for practitioners in education but also a lighthouse for faculty in teacher preparation programs, along with all those who sit beside our children and youth in our communities."
Dr Lori Desautels, Assistant Professor in educational neuroscience and trauma at Butler University, Indianapolis, USA.

"Dr. Judith Howard, a leader in trauma-aware education, utilises her knowledge, experience, and research in this book to ensure the reader can make a change in whatever role they fulfill.  This is a must-read book for anyone who works with children and young people! "
Mathew Portell, Director of Communities (PACES Connection), Founder of the Trauma-Informed Educators Network, and Nashville Public Schools 2022 Elementary Principal of the Year, USA.

Table of Contents

Terminology used in this book

Author Note


CHAPTER 1 Becoming Aware of the Impact of Trauma and Trauma-Aware Education

Understanding Trauma          

Who are these trauma-impacted learners?

The Costs of Unresolved Trauma

Understanding Trauma-Aware Education



CHAPTER 2 The Research Informing Trauma-Aware Education

Is Trauma-Aware Education Evidence-Based?

The Adverse Childhood Experiences Study

Romanian Orphanages Studies         

Studies Examining Attachment

Prevalence Studies

Longitudinal Studies

Systematic Reviews



CHAPTER 3 The Neuroscience of Learning and Complex Trauma

Research Powerhouses: Sources for the Science

The Nervous System

The Human Brain

Human Altriciality and Human Potential       


The Mirror Neuron System    

Genetics, Epigenetics, and Intergenerational transmission

Hyperarousal and Hypoarousal         

The Endocrine System and the HPA Axis

The Immune System  



Executive Function4

Oral Language

Sensory Issues




CHAPTER 4 Behaviour Management (Behaviourism verses Neuroscience)

Considerations for Classroom Behaviour Management

Considerations for Whole-School Behaviour Management

Considerations for Intensive Behaviour Support

Considerations for Crisis Management

The Process of Co-Regulation

Suspension and Time Away from School

Re-Entry Meetings

Exclusion from School            

Behaviour Management Policy

Case Management and Individual Support Planning



CHAPTER 5 Trauma-Aware Strategies (Safety, Relationships, Emotional Regulation)

The Mentor, Check In and Check Out

Safe Spaces

Emotional Regulation Strategies

Check Curriculum and Assessment Triggers

Pick Your Battles

Non-verbal Messages

Exploring Exceptions

Relational Rewards

A Better Way to Use Detention

Use Inclusive Education Strategies

Cognitive Scripts        

Look for the Gold!

Model and Coach

Whole Class Lessons

Brain Breaks


The Assistance of Animals



CHAPTER 6 The Complex Intersection Between Trauma and Disability

Legislation and Models of Disability

Problems with Diagnosis of Complex Trauma ‘Disorders’

Prevalence of the Intersection

What about Universal Screening for Trauma?          



Chapter 7 Trauma-Aware Early Childhood Education and Care

Play and Brain Development

Secure Base and Safe Haven

Serve and Return

Investing in Early Brain Development



CHAPTER 8 Trauma-Aware Staff Support: Looking after our Educators

A Team Approach

Vicarious Trauma

Vicarious Trauma and Supervisors    

Responding to Vicarious Trauma

Research of Vicarious Trauma           

Prevention is Better than Cure: Initial Teacher Education


CHAPTER 9 Leading Trauma-Aware Education

Leaders in Education Systems            

Complexities and Opportunities


Building a Staff Leadership Framework


Leaders of Education Sites

The School Counsellor

Spheres of Influence

Leading People in a Trauma-Aware Manner



CHAPTER 10 A final word from the author