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Monique’s winning streak – improving lives through innovation

The WA Disability Support Awards recognises individuals who go above and beyond ordinary standards to make a difference to the lives of others. Nominations come from parents.

The annual event which takes place in June usually involves a gala dinner, but this year with COVID-19, announcements took place via Facebook.

Everyone appreciates acknowledgement of effort they’ve put into their work and we were delighted with our success this year.

Congratulations to Monique

Speech Pathologist Monique Ziegelaar was nominated for three accolades in this year’s Awards and won for ‘How I Learn’, a pioneering project which empowers youngsters at school. She was in the running for Excellence in Innovation, Excellence in Leadership and Excellence in Advocacy and Rights promotion. The latter nomination incuded other team members including Ryan Honschooten, Sebastian Della Maddalena and Davinia Lefroy.

Monique, smiling and laughing holds the Excellence in Innovation Award.
Monique received an accolade for Excellence in Innovation

The announcement for Excellence in Innovation was made by Secretary of the Insurance Commission of Australia, Kane Blackman – the sponsors of the award and we were over the moon to learn we’d been selected as a joint winner.

It was a total surprise to learn of this success. ‘How I Learn’ is unique, it’s an invaluable tool for many young people. We’ve had 1000 people visit the site since its launch in September 2019.

Monique Ziegelaar
Speech Pathologist

“People across the globe are scouring the website and in addition we have thirty students with profiles. Students, therapists, parents, and teachers are all making use of ‘How I Learn’.”

Monique’s win secured media coverage in The West Australian where she was interviewed alongside Emily Prior, one of the students who trialled the platform.

A great innovation – How I Learn

‘How I Learn’ is a free platform which encourages students to use their voice at secondary schools so they have greater control of how they’re taught. It’s the first time youngsters with disabilities are telling us what they require. They helped with the design and creation of the platform and were comperes at the launch event last year.

Watch our video on Monique’s win with the NDS Awards

‘How I Learn’ is the brainchild of VisAbility Therapy Manager Seb Della Maddalena. In 2015 Seb attended a conference about vision impairment and education. While there he listened to an inspiring presentation by a young woman living with blindness and disability. She read Braille notes and as a result was very careful at articulating how she advocated for herself. From that conference the idea of ‘How I Learn’ was born.

I remember thinking such a simple concept but so empowering. Meeting Alice O’Sullivan, a girl with cerebral palsy and cerebral vision impairment, gave us the momentum to make this project a reality.

Sebastian Della Maddalena
Therapy Manager

“From there we managed to receive funding and shortly after that we appointed Monique,’’ outlines Seb.

Parliamentary Secretary for Disability Services, Reece Whitby sits alongside Alice O Sullivan, one of the students involved in 'How I Learn'.
Parliamentary Secretary for Disability Services, Reece Whitby met Alice O’Sullivan, one of our younger clients at the launch

How I Learn launch

Funding for ‘How I Learn’ came from Non-Government Centre Support for Non-School Organisations. It was launched last year at an event attended by Parliamentary Secretary for Disability Services, Reece Whitby. Two of our younger clients Caitlin Hannen-Williams and Chloe Van Kaschke acted as comperes for the night.

Caitlin and Chloe at the stand with microphones addressing the audience at the launch event last year
Younger clients Caitlin and Chloe compered the event

In addition to the award Monique, receives $2000 and VisAbility, as an organisation, receives training vouchers for staff. We were also finalists in the other two categories.

What next for Monique?

The 24-year-old graduated with a first class honours degree in Speech Pathology from Curtin University in 2017. She was a member of the Vice Chancellor’s list three times over – something of a hat trick for Monique. To be on the list you have to be in the top 1% of students in your cohort each semester. 

Monique in her snowsuit and snow goggles on the slopes in Japan
Monique is a self-confessed adrenaline junkie

Monique says she loves anything to do with neuroscience, claiming above all it’s the nuts and bolts behind the way we speak and the language we use.

“It’s at the centre of conversing, learning, informing and sharing, so that as human beings we can think, do and be anything.’’

Outside of work, Monique is a champion ultimate frisbee thrower playing for WA at a competitive level. To sum up she’s a self–confessed adrenalin junkie, listing snowboarding and skiing among her loves. She enjoys open water swimming, took part in the Rottnest Channel Swim this year and now has her sights set on a triathlon.

“I enjoy fitness, I am always up for a challenge and having fun, so a triathlon’s ideal for all three.’’

Perfectly said Monique – and with three award nominations this year it seems that three is your magic number.

Find out more about the services we provide to young people or visit the How I Learn website for more.