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Impact of Torture and Trauma on the Neuro-development and Attachment of People from Refugee Backgrounds with Disability

Lesley Whatson , Katrina Halpern, Sejla Murdoch

This clinical evening will explore the impact of complex trauma on the area of developmental delay and intellectual disability. Children who have a history of adverse life experiences can develop intellectual disability affecting not only individuals but their families and caregivers, which often requires multilevel interventions. On the other hand, what are the impacts of refugee trauma on people with pre-existing intellectual disability and how this individual is seen and supported in a traumatised family? How do we work clinically with this client group? In this clinical evening Lesley Whatson and Katrina Halpin will share their expertise with us on the impact of torture and trauma on the Neuro-development and attachment of people from refugee backgrounds with an intellectual   disability. This will be followed by a case presentation by a STARTTS counsellor who will demonstrate how to work with traumatised clients with from refugee backgrounds with an intellectual disability. The evening will focus on assessment, intervention and therapy to individuals. There will also be a focus on working with organisations on consulting around case-specific issues, and working with families, carers and support staff. This will also include providing lifestyle and behaviour support plans, and coaching and mentoring to families.

To view the live broadcast, please click on the following link :

LIVE WEBINAR presented by Lesley Whatson

To post a question to this evenings presenters, please click on "chat as guest" to the right of the video screen under "Join the chat".

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Lesley Whatson
Lesley Whatson
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icon pdf.gifTrauma, the Refugee Experience and Intellectual Disability: A Complex IntersectionLesley Whatson 
icon pdf.gifEvery child mattersSejla Murdoch 

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Lesley Whatson

Portfolio Manager, Clinical Practice, SAL Consulting

Qualifications / Professional Associations:
Bachelor of Education and Master of Arts (Special Education)

Summary Professional Experience:
Lesley has been working in the disability sector since 1987 and has a special interest in the mental health of children and young people with intellectual disability.  Lesley has been actively involved in the development of practice relating to interdisciplinary collaboration, family and systemic practice and trauma-informed frameworks for supporting people with intellectual disability; she has been providing training, supervision and mentoring in these areas for many years.  Lesley has also worked at an organisational level, across government and non-government agencies, contributing to the development of policy and practice guidelines, and building the capacity of the sector to deliver Positive Behaviour Support.

Lesley has published a number of pieces of work in this and allied areas of practice including co-editing the Mental health of children and adolescents with intellectual disability: A framework for professional practice (2011).

Lesley was a Project Manager of the development group that produced Taking Time: A trauma-informed framework for supporting people with intellectual disability and Taking Time: A Literature Review.  These resources are available to download:

Katrina Halpern

Portfolio Manager – Therapy & NMT Services / Psychologist
SAL Consulting

Qualifications / Professional Associations:
Bachelor of Science (Psychology), 1992, University of Newcastle

Summary Professional Experience:
Katrina is a professional psychologist with over 20 years of experience delivering complex assessment and intervention for children and adults with disabilities and / or a history of complex trauma.   Katrina has experience with Mental Health, Parenting Capacity and other complex assessments. Katrina is a therapist working with children and adults with a history of complex developmental trauma and / or disabilities utilising modalities including DBT, neurosequential and somatosensory approaches.  Katrina as part of the Therapy Portfolio provides supervision to therapists and support to Marie Pinter, Partner in the further development of this important part of work provided by SAL Consulting.

Katrina has a strong interest and commitment to developing and delivering training across both Out of Home Care and Disability Service Sectors to aid understanding and practical application of intervention with people with a history of complex developmental trauma and or disability. Katrina has a passion for educating others in the neurodevelopmental impacts of trauma as well as the development of interventions based on a sequential understanding of the brain.  Further Katrina is committed to the application of Attachment Theory and Polyvagal Theory to understanding impacts of trauma and in intervention design. SAL Consulting is trained in the use of the Neurosequential Model of Therapeutics (NMT). Katrina is an NMT practitioner and practice leader as part of SAL Consulting’s Phase 2 Accreditation in the Neurosequential Model of Therapeutics with the Child Trauma Academy. Katrina provides supervision, support and training to SAL consulting clinicians undergoing Phase 1 Training.  Katrina provides education and training to a range of service providers across a number of sectors to increase awareness of the benefit of intervention design based on a thorough understanding of sequential brain functioning.

Katrina Halpern

Sejla Murdoch

Sejla Murdoch is a senior psychologist with 20 years of clinical experience working with trauma. Sejla has extensive experience in providing therapy to survivors of domestic violence and refuge trauma. Later in her work as STARTTS’s clinician trainer she was given an opportunity to gain her experience in organising seminars and clinical master classes as well as providing support and training to others clinicians. Since 2007 Sejla has assisted on development of the Neurofeedback (NF) Clinic at STARTTS; the first clinic in the world to provide such treatment to refugees survivors of torture and trauma. Sejla has presented nationally and internationally on topics related to Biofeedback and NF in work with trauma. Sejla is providing clinical supervision and mentoring program to a number of STARTTS Neurofeedback counsellors. Her passion is in understanding how trauma impacts early development and how NF combined with other modalities can assist children and their families. Currently, together with the clinic’s management she is working on establishing a Neurofeedback clinic that specialises in work with early childhood and trauma at STARTTS. Sejla is BCIA-A accredited Neurofeedback provider.

Sejla Murdoch
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