Monash and Wallara leading the way

Wallara provides support, training and advocacy for people with intellectual disabilities.

Wallara provides support, training and advocacy for people with intellectual disabilities.

The University has collaborated with community organisation Wallara on a new initiative for adults with intellectual disabilities – the Keep on Learning (KoL) program.

Spearheaded by Dr Sarah Hopkins, as well as Drs Penny Round and Pearl Subban from the Faculty of Education, the program will employ the skills of first-year Bachelor of Education students to enhance the literacy and numeracy skills of Wallara clients. At the same time, the program prepares students as pre-service teachers for working in inclusive classrooms.

Dr Hopkins said the program, funded by a grant from The Ian Potter Foundation, addressed the growing demand for teaching staff with working knowledge of the needs of students with intellectual disabilities.

“The majority of Australian students with disabilities now attend regular or special classes in mainstream schools,” Dr Hopkins said.

“It is critical that pre-service teachers destined for mainstream schools are well prepared to support the participation and learning of students across the full range of aabilities. Having authentic experiences of working with students with intellectual disabilities is an important part of this process.”

The KoL program is scheduled to take place in the second half of the year at Berwick, with clients travelling in by bus to attend their tuition sessions. Monash students are currently preparing for their roles as tutors, learning to teach foundational skills such as decoding words and handling money. The voluntary program has proved popular with pre-service teachers, with over 60 students signing up.

Wallara CEO, Phil Hayes-Brown, said the organisation looked forward to exploring the potential of working with Monash to address disability and social inclusion.

“Wallara is thrilled to be partnering with Monash University on this exciting initiative to expand capacity of the mainstream education sector,” Mr Hayes-Brown said.

“It’s long been a goal of ours to work with other education leaders to see pre-service teachers have more exposure to disability and to build their confidence and capacity regardless of where they end up in their teaching career.

“Hopefully programs like this with Monash will inspire more clever ideas which can raise capacity and build greater social inclusion. We are very grateful to The Ian Potter Foundation for making it possible.”

The outcomes of the KoL program will be used to advocate for universities to play a greater role in promoting social inclusion and positive contact with people with intellectual disabilities.