Project to make education more inclusive for non-typically developing kids

Media release
26 August 2019

Victorian educators now have access to a world-leading program to support children and teens with neuro-developmental disorders such as autism and ADHD, thanks to a collaboration between the Deakin Child Study Centre and the Victorian Department of Education and Training.

'AllPlay Learn' includes professional learning courses and a one-stop-shop of online resources enabling teachers and early childhood educators to effectively implement evidence-based strategies in the classroom.

Director of the Deakin Child Study Centre Professor Nicole Rinehart said the initiative was an important extension of her ground-breaking AllPlay program, which also includes national projects to support local footy clubs and dance schools to become more inclusive for non-typically developing children.

"Our vision for the AllPlay program is to make the world fit for all kids," Professor Rinehart said.

"One in five Australian kids will be affected by a neuro-development disorder, so we want more of these children and their families to feel safe, active and valued in mainstream schools, learning alongside their peers."

Deakin was supported to develop the AllPlay Learn program through a $1.7 million Victorian Government grant.

AllPlay Learn is designed by experts to support children and young people with developmental challenges and disabilities to be better included in the classroom, through the provision of practical online, evidence-based resources targeted at teachers. It also includes resources for parents, children, health professionals and the broader community.

The program is now available online, supporting non-typically developing children and teenagers from early childhood - including kindergarten, childcare and day care settings - through to primary and then secondary school.

"The focus of the resources is on specific disabilities and common issues faced by children and young people, with a particular emphasis on social and behavioural challenges," Professor Rinehart said.

"There's still a lot of stigma for kids with the most prevalent neuro-development disorders like ADHD, they're still often seen as just 'naughty kids' and they're not getting the support they need.

"This means they can have a really difficult time at school. And we then see a lot of people in their 20s and 30s with ADHD who missed out on effective early-interventions as children, didn't get help they needed, and feel like they haven't been able to succeed because of that.

"AllPlay Learn provides practical advice and resources to help create inclusive education environments. It has been co-designed with multiple stakeholders including teachers to ensure that it provides a flexible and accessible learning package to complement the needs of the education sector's training and professional learning requirements."

In 2016, the Victorian Government conducted a review to investigate how schools could best maximise the learning of all students with disabilities. Its key findings identified that there was scope to improve teacher capability in supporting students with disabilities.

Professor Rinehart said AllPlay Learn aimed to help meet that gap.

"Over the past decade, clinical researchers have taken great steps forward in understanding how best to support the learning journey of children who experience developmental challenges such as autism and ADHD," she said.

"The issue has been that while these great advances are being reported in scientific journals, they have not been delivered to where they are needed most - the places where children learn, play sport, dance, and connect to the community.

"The AllPlay solution is to take years of important research in this space and present it in a simple format that’s accessible to teachers, coaches, parents and children.

"With just the click of a button, educators and teachers can now access the right knowledge at the right time to best promote meaningful learning outcomes for a child or young person.

"For the first time, AllPlay Learn will provide a consistent approach to supporting young people who face developmental challenges in our community, giving families and teachers access to a resource that is unparalleled internationally."

For more information about AllPlay Learn, please visit www.allplaylearn.org.au.

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