'They're a lot cleverer than I thought': challenging perceptions of disability support staff as they tutor in an adult literacy program
Being literate empowers individuals to be effective consumers, to be informed about lifestyle options, to read aesthetically for relaxation and enjoyment and to further their knowledge of people and places that can enable them to participate more fully in communities. However, there are limited literacy opportunities and programs specifically designed to meet the needs of individuals with intellectual disabilities across their lifespan. The aim of this Australian National Training Authority funded project was to develop and implement a training, teaching and resource package for the development of literacy for adults with intellectual disabilities. The aim of this project was to assess, develop, train and assist support staff in two community-based services for clients with intellectual disabilities to act as literacy tutors for their clients. The project was undertaken within two disability-service programs using an applied action research approach. The results indicated that the tutors learnt much about tutoring and about the literacy abilities of their clients. There was some initial resistance from the tutors about the value of literacy learning for their clients. However, resistance decreased as tutors developed confidence, and clients demonstrated interest, engagement and skills in the activities. Implications for the effectiveness of such programs lie in the needs to tailor any training specifically to the needs of the support staff; and to provide time for implementation, on-going support and access to appropriate resources.
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