Service Spotlight: Happy Haven OSHC, Christies Beach
Happy Haven Christies Beach accessed support from Connect.Ed to better understand children’s behaviour through a trauma-informed lens. Here’s what Tracy, Service Director, had to say about the project:
“It was such an amazing experience... From the first day that Kerra-Lee stepped into our service, [she] could instantly understand and identify some of the complexities within the service. From that day forward we learnt so much and were able to start understanding the impact trauma can have on children.”
The service had numerous strengths - the main one being educator’s relationships with children and their ability to co-regulate with them. Tracy says, “It was just such an eye-opener to understand just how important it is to build connections with the children and how this can have such a positive impact.” Through the professional development sessions with their Child Development Practitioner, they had the “science to back it up”.
During staff meetings, they explored topics such as brain development, developmental trauma, understanding children’s behaviours using the ‘Iceberg Model’ and the Window of Tolerance. This allowed them to“observe and reflect as a team and try to understand what those needs were and how [they] can help children get those needs met”. They were also able to notice children’s cues to escalation before they ‘flipped their lid’, meaning they were able to respond quicker, connect and redirect prior to them becoming dysregulated.
"We learnt that by having these connections with children we could read their signs easier and could then redirect children if we could see they were becoming dysregulated”
One of the key take-aways for Tracy and the team was understanding that offering relational and regulatory-based strategies to regulate children (and help them to remain regulated!) was not “rewarding ‘bad’ behaviour”, but rather fulfilling their underlying needs.
During their fortnightly mentoring sessions, the team and their Child Development Practitioner reflected on the service’s physical care environment.
“The Connect.Ed team discussed with us the impact a ‘busy-looking’ environment can have on some children and how overwhelming it can be. [They shared] why changing the OSHC environment could benefit the children at the service.” Tracy reflected, “this was something I had not thought of before and when it was discussed it all made sense as to why this can have an impact on children’s behaviours.” “Calming children’s physical environments can make it easier for them to manage.”
Without delay, Tracy and her team painted the walls in a neutral white, covered the ‘loud’ pin-board with more neutral tones and incorporated only purposeful posters on the walls. The team also took this one step further, creating a calm corner to meet the sensory and emotional needs of the children.
“We also set up a calm corner that children could access anytime they were feeling overwhelmed, anxious, angry, tired, or just needed to chill out by themselves for a bit. Once children learnt what the area was for, we saw children who before may have tried to abscond or become dysregulated now go and use this space.”
This inviting space included a tent, comfy neutral pillows, blankets, books, sensory/calming items, and a couple of egg chairs. Children were observed using the space to play quietly with soft toys and read books and also regulate their emotions during ‘tricky times’. The service even explored a secondary calm corner due to the need of the children and the positive impact this simple strategy had on meeting their overall needs.
"These are just a few of the things we have learned and putting them into practice had such a positive impact on our service. I cannot recommend the Connect. Ed team enough. If you have the opportunity to have them run a program at your service, it will be well worth it.” - Tracy Powell
The Innovative Solutions Support (ISS) funding is available through the Inclusion Support Program (ISP) to assist eligible early childhood education and care services to fund innovative, flexible and responsive solutions to barriers to inclusion and embed inclusive practices.
Innovative Solutions Support provides flexible funding to empower services to carefully consider their inclusion challenges and take on an active role in finding solutions and build their capacity and capability to include children with additional needs.
For more information about the funding, please contact the South Australia Inclusion Agency email@example.com
Connect.Ed can support early childhood education and care services to implement trauma-informed practice, using a regulatory and relationship-based approach. This approach is different to a ‘traditional’ behaviour-management approach and, instead, focuses on supporting children to regulate their emotional experiences using their emotional connection with Educators.
For more information about accessing support from Connect.Ed, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Words: Tracy Powell Tracy is the service director at Christies Beach OSHC and Mitcham Primary School OSHC
Originally published in Connected Caregiving Autumn 2023