Course Title: Working with Support Networks

Part A: Course Overview

Course Title: Working with Support Networks

Credit Points: 12

Course Code




Learning Mode

Teaching Period(s)


Bundoora Campus


150H Health Sciences

Distance / Correspondence or Face-to-Face

Sem 2 2006,
Sem 2 2007,
Sem 2 2008,
Sem 2 2009,
Sem 2 2010


Bundoora Campus


150H Health Sciences


Sem 2 2011,
Sem 2 2012,
Sem 1 2013,
Sem 2 2013


Bundoora Campus


360H Education


Sem 2 2014,
Sem 2 2015,
Sem 2 2016

Course Coordinator: Dr Phil Doecke

Course Coordinator Phone: +61 3 9925 7864

Course Coordinator Email:

Course Coordinator Location: 220.03.01

Course Coordinator Availability: Please e-mail with several suggested times

Pre-requisite Courses and Assumed Knowledge and Capabilities

The knowledge and generic capabilities reflected in the course will have been previously been considered at the introductory or foundation level in the following courses:  Students are to have attempted the following courses:

First year

  • Lifespan Opportunities for People with a disability

Second year

  • Practicum A
  • Practicum B
  • Disability Access and Equity 

Course Description

All people need a range of informal support networks in their lives. People with disabilities who receive support through paid service delivery are often at risk of isolation from sources of informal support. Family members or friends can disengage because they feel they are excluded or ignored in the decision-making processes or they may feel intimidated within the service delivery system. Consequently, people with disabilities can become socially isolated. This course will assist students to develop their capabilities to foster, or where necessary help establish people’s support networks independent of the service system.

Objectives/Learning Outcomes/Capability Development

Reflective practice
1.1 Ability to reflect on experience and critically evaluate the contribution of personal and professional practice to the goals and aspirations of individuals, organisations and communities.

  • Historical approaches, myths and stereotypes.
  • Contemporary attitudes, policies and practices.
  • The issues associated with human relations for people with disabilities.

Evidence based practice
2.1 Ability to employ a variety of approaches and procedures to inquiry and research that permit judgements and decisions to be clearly substantiated

  • Parent stress and coping.
  • Parent training programs.
  • The principles of behaviour change and skill development.
  • Best practice in parenting education
  • Clinical strategies in assessment and skill development programs

Problem diagnosis and solving
3.2 Ability to work independently and with others to identify and resolve problems of mutual concern in constructive and creative ways.

  • Understanding families: a systems perspective.
  • Promoting positive parental involvement.
  • Giving effective feedback and advice

4.2 Ability to communicate in a range of forms (written, electronic, graphic, oral) and to tailor the style and means of communication to the circumstances of the situation and the capabilities of the audience.

  • Communicating with families.
  • Supporting families and significant others in participation and decision making.
  • Working in ways that promote empowerment rather than dependence.

Integration of personal values with service values
7.1 Ability to maintain tolerance and respect for individuals and groups from diverse backgrounds and holding diverse values.

  • Family dynamics.
  • The effects of having a child/sibling with a disability.
  • Legal frameworks.
  • Families’ adaptation to disability
  • Working with parents with learning

8.2 Ability to build the capacity of others.

  • The services available in relation to human relations education and counselling.
  • Approaches to educating people with cognitive impairments
  • Community education and public awareness
  • Strategies for changing attitudes in the community

At the completion of the course, students should be able to:

  • Recognise and evaluate his/her own and society’s attitudes toward the sexuality of people with disabilities
  • Provide support and training that develops the skills of parents of children with disabilities.
  • Describe the elements of a conceptual framework used to understand families of children with disabilities.
  • Examine and describe current research underlying current practices in working with families
  • Implement family sensitive support practices.
  • Develop family support plans.
  • Negotiate with families and people with disabilities to achieve their personal aspirations.
  • Educate people with disabilities about aspects of human relations, sexuality, and social skills.
  • Engage in community education to promote the ability of people with disabilities to live normal lifestyles and exercise their personal rights and responsibilities.

Overview of Learning Activities

Learning will be facilitated through the use of case studies, audiovisual resources, demonstrations, group work, role plays, self directed experiential exercises, lectures, and online resources. The emphasis will be on the development of a deep understanding of the issues facing people with disabilities and their families and friends. Students will be encouraged to reflect upon their own values, assumptions, and lifestyle expectancies so that they can put aside their own inherent values and judgements when working with others. Discussions will be held with people with disabilities and their families so that the students can gain the perspectives of service users. Students will explore the resources that are available to support people with disabilities and field visits will facilitate this process. This course will involve lectures, examination of case studies, small group discussions in class, and personal study. Students will also conduct research which will assist in the examination of critical aspects of working with families and people with disabilities. Guided and independent reading, and practical exercises will supplement all of these activities.

Overview of Learning Resources

Lectures delivered by RMIT staff from a variety of areas as well as by visiting specialists.  Students will be expected to research relevant literature, given preliminary references. 

Overview of Assessment

Assessment will be based on the students’ ability to explore, analyse, and assist people with disabilities and their families to achieve a lifestyle that meets their expectations while keeping informal support networks intact and empowered. This will be achieved through responses to case studies and scenario’s. Students will also be assessed on their ability to critically evaluate the resources available for people with disabilities to enhance their knowledge in the human relations area and their ability to utilise such resources. A critical understanding of the issues of the range of issues relevant to this course will be assessed through written work such as essays and examination of case studies where the student is required to identify and display the professional skills to address the issues at hand.