Making PALS in Sunbury

Luke (3) at a PALS playgroup in Sunbury. (Damjan Janevski) 294960_03

Sunbury has secured a second Play and Learn Supported (PALS) playgroup, bringing together children of all abilities to connect through exciting, fun activities.

The first PALS playgroup began in Sunbury last year and was so successful that Playgroup Victoria inclusion coordinator Vicki McDonald was inspired to get another one up and running at Goonawarra Neighbourhood House.

“We’re working with the staff there to build their capacity to run inclusive community groups and programs, the need for early childhood [learning] for all kinds of abilities was clear,” Ms McDonald said.

The first group, running Wednesday mornings at Dulap Wilim Hub, works in conjunction with Elly’s Music Playtime to create an inclusive musical space for children up to five years old.

The new group will meet on Fridays from 10.30am to noon, facilitated by trained staff members to provide not only a playgroup, but a music and movement experience.

Playgroup Victoria chief executive Danny Schwarz said the programs gave children and their parents an opportunity to experience the fun “at the same time”.

“The outcome of this interaction is that parents who have children who don’t have disabilities are able to gain an understanding for other parents whose children have significant challenges in life,” Mr Schwarz said.

Ms McDonald said there were numerous, vital benefits to the program for all involved.

“It reduces stereotypes and discrimination, and children will start formal education with acceptance and understanding about difference within our community,” she said.