Lifelong Learning With Friends

Welcome to

Lifelong Learning With Friends

A postsecondary education program aimed at adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities.  

It is our pleasure to introduce Lifelong Learning With Friends, the newest iteration of what was previously known as Informal Classes for Adults with IDD at the University of Texas at Austin.

Lifelong Learning With Friends will provide the same excellence that students and families have come to expect and shares its predecessor’s mission: to provide adult learners with intellectual and developmental disabilities access to stimulating, diverse and fun post-secondary opportunities. Reverse inclusion is still at the program’s core – meaning – that neurotypical college-age students will learn and have fun alongside their neurodiverse peers. This semester we offering both in-person and online options, allowing our courses to be open to individuals across the entire country for the first time. This unique opportunity to make long-term friends with students near and far is an exciting one! In addition to widening access to courses, Lifelong Learning With Friends will be expanding the number of courses offered each semester by over double what was previously available through the University of Texas, guaranteeing there’s a course (or three!) to fit every student’s area of interest.

LLWF partners with The University of Texas to hold some of its courses in person on campus. Students should meet at the Littlefield Cafe – click here to learn more about the cafe and a map – at the start of each class. Here, they have the option to purchase a snack or meal during our social time at the beginning of class. In-person classes take place at the BME Building on the UT campus – click here for the address and a map. Students may be picked up opposite the cafe. Please do not linger in the cul-de-sac more than 5 minutes before the end of class to keep the road clear for emergency vehicles.

The University of Texas has established guidelines to keep visitors, students, and staff safe on campus. UT encourages visitors to screen for symptoms before arriving on campus using the COVID-19 Screening Tool or other methods. Vaccination against covid is encouraged for everyone’s safety. Masks are strongly recommended indoors regardless of vaccination status. See the university’s health behavior guidance for the most current information on who should mask and when. Please check Protect Texas website for up-to-date information regarding staying safe during the covid pandemic.

LLWF reserves the right to shift our in-person courses to online-only format if The University of Texas imposes new restrictions.

The skills obtained through the Lifelong Learning with Friends courses represent building blocks for future higher education and employment opportunities. Social skills and professionalism are built into the curriculum and expectations of every class regardless of subject matter. These attributes are crucial to acquiring and maintaining a job. Students will learn how to follow multi-step directions, be accountable for their work, take direction, self-advocate and how to express themselves in a professional manner. The ability to communicate with a variety of people is an essential tool for employability across fields. LLWF gives students the opportunity to hone and practice these skills that they will carry with them long after the course concludes. 

Watch the video to learn more about Lifelong Learning With Friends

Fall 2021 Schedule: Options for Online and In-Person Classes, Instructors, Dates, and Times
(Central Standard Time)

Course TitleInstructorEnrollmentClass FeeDayDatesTimes
Lights, Camera, Music! (Online)Julian Falco13$125Mondays9/13/21-10/18/216:00-8:00 p.m. CST
Fun with Science: Dangerous Animals! (Online)Jon Pierce13$125Tuesdays9/14/21-10/19/216:00-8:00 p.m. CST
Fun with Movies and Art Class (In Person)Judith LeBlanc13$125Wednesdays9/15/21-10/20/216:00-8:00 p.m. CST
Flirting Faux Pas (Online)Lucy Gross13$125Thursdays9/16/21-10/21/216:00-8:00 p.m. CST
Longhorn Nation – A Living History (In Person)Lori Duran13$125Sundays9/19/21-10/24/212:00-4:00 p.m. CST
Movie Appreciation: Film Study of Animated Disney Movies (Online)Joshua Levy13$125Mondays10/18/21-12/06/21 (No Class 11/22)6:00 p.m.-8:00 p.m. CST
The Fantastic World of Fashion (In Person)Briana Syed13$125Tuesdays10/19/21-11/30/216:00-8:00 p.m. CST
Cheers! From Margaritas, Shirley Temples, Cold Beers and More – What’s in Your Cup? (Online)Kaelin Rubenzer13$125Wednesdays10/20/21-12/01/216:00-8:00 p.m. CST
Movie Appreciation: Film Study of Animated Disney Movies (Online) – SECTION 2Joshua Levy13$125Thursdays10/28/21-12/09/21 (No Class 11/25)10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. CST
Mindfulness Matters (Online)Emily Yisa13$125Sundays10/24/21-12/12/21
(No Class 11/21)
2:00-4:00 p.m. CST
Occasional absences due to vacation and illness are accepted.

Contact Us

Please do not hesitate to reach out to with any questions and concerns, and one of our team leaders will be in touch with you.

Be sure to watch our Program Director, Lucy Gross, discuss the program on our orientation video (scroll up this page to watch the video).

Thank you for sharing your enthusiasm for elevated and continual learning for all with us! We are excited to meet all of you soon!

Individuals with Down syndrome may apply for a $1,000 scholarship with Ruby’s Rainbow to take LLWF courses!
Click here to apply.

Fall 2021 Classes – Options for Online and In-Person

All Classes are
Central Standard Time

Lights, Camera, Music! Taught by Julian Falco, Online
Mondays 9/13/21 to 10/18/21, 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. CST

Have you ever watched a movie with a soundtrack that pulls you deeper into the plot? Movie music is often the key element that immerses the audience to create a whole new kind of viewing experience. From John Williams’s Star Wars soundtrack to Hans Zimmer’s Oscar-winning music in The Lion King, movie music contains a fascinating variety of techniques that add to the experience of watching a movie. In this course, we explore the world of movie music and how it is influenced by different styles including classical music. Join us to discover the wonders of your favorite soundtrack and more!
Click Here to Enroll

Fun with Science: Dangerous Animals!, Taught by Jon Pierce, Online
Tuesdays 9/14/21 to 10/19/21, 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. CST
Animals are not just cute and cuddly – some are outright dangerous. In this course, we will learn fascinating facts about some of the most dangerous animals on earth including fanged snakes, sharks, and crocodiles. Aside from these popular predators, we will also learn about dangerous creatures such as poisonous cone snails, shocking electric eels, and deadly mosquitoes. Guest expert zoologists will visit classes to discuss these intriguing animals. Students will share stories of their favorite dangerous animal with homework assignments alongside college student volunteers each week.
Click Here to Enroll

Fun with Movies and Art Class, Taught by Judith LeBlanc, In-Person
Wednesdays 9/15/21 to 10/20/21, 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. CST
THIS CLASS IS CANCELLED – we hope to offer it again in a future semester.
Does your room feature a poster related to your favorite movie? Do you get excited for the newest movie poster in the theater lobby? If so, this class is for you! Each class we will be examining movie genre posters and artwork. Students will examine themes, colors, and design of cinema’s best artwork. After each lesson, students will be invited to create their own movie poster inspired by works they have analyzed. Bring your paints and popcorn to this art and cinephile class!

Flirting Faux Pas, Taught by Lucy Gross, Online
Thursdays 9/16/21 to 10/21/21, 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. CST

Many of us are interested in dating and romantic relationships but where do we begin?? Unfortunately, there’s no “how to flirt” guidebook but this class will explore what situations are appropriate for flirting, what people are potential partners (and what people are not) and how to approach someone you’re interested in without making them uncomfortable. All relationships are complicated during the pandemic and dating is no exception. We will explore these dynamics in a fun and safe environment, incorporating clips from movies, reality shows, role playing and open discussion with other adults in similar life stages. Together we can help navigate the mystifying challenge of flirting and dating.
Click Here to Enroll

Longhorn Nation – A Living History, Taught by Lori Duran, In-Person
Sundays 9/19/21 to 10/24/21, 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. CST

Are you a fan of history and the University of Texas? If so, join us for this course where we will study the first 100 years of UT’s history. Learning history will be FUN as we walk around the campus guided by the instructor who will describe historical sites. You will learn about the development and the traditions of UT. Each class will be outdoors, informative and fun! Please bring $20.00 to the first class to purchase the instructor’s “University of Texas at Austin: The First One Hundred Years” book. Please be sure to bring your mask and walking shoes or wheelchair. Then get ready for an adventure!
Click Here to Enroll

Movie Appreciation: Film Study of Animated Disney Movies
Taught by Joshua Levy, Online
Mondays 10/18/21 to 12/06/21, No Class 11/22, 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. CST

Do you just love the magic of animated Disney movies? Do you want to learn how the movies were made? We will study several well-known Disney animated movies that include elements such as friendship, adventure, humor, overcoming challenging moments, family dynamics, and more. In this course you will become an expert film study analyst for each movie that we learn about. This course will include film study, interactive discussions with your classmates and volunteers, engaging activities, and meaningful homework assignments.
Click Here to Enroll

Movie Appreciation: Film Study of Animated Disney Movies – SECTION 2
Taught by Joshua Levy, Online
Thursdays 10/28/21 to 12/09/21, No Class 11/25, 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. CST

Do you just love the magic of animated Disney movies? Do you want to learn how the movies were made? We will study several well-known Disney animated movies that include elements such as friendship, adventure, humor, overcoming challenging moments, family dynamics, and more. In this course you will become an expert film study analyst for each movie that we learn about. This course will include film study, interactive discussions with your classmates and volunteers, engaging activities, and meaningful homework assignments.
Click Here to Enroll

The Fantastic World of Fashion, Taught by Briana Syed, In-Person
Tuesdays, 10/19/21 to 11/30/21, 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. CST
Fashion is not only fun, but a world unto itself. Students will explore the rich history and evolution of fashion, dive into modern clothing styles and design techniques, and appreciate the complementary use of cosmetics and makeup. We will even have the unique opportunity to learn from guest experts in textiles and apparel from Paris! Students will implement their fashion design skills learned over the weeks to lead their own unique version of the New York Fashion Show at the end of the course. Come join us as we explore the world of fashion!
Click Here to Enroll

Cheers! From Margaritas, Shirley Temples, Cold Beers and More – What’s in Your Cup? Taught by Kaelin Rubenzer, Online
Wednesdays 10/20/21 to 12/01/21, 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. CST

Tired of sodas? Why not pair your fancy meal with a fancy drink? In this class, we will learn some of the fascinating stories of iconic drinks, from non-alcoholic ones like Shirley Temples and daiquiris, to margaritas, wines and beers. Each drink has its own unique story! Students will learn about the farming and brewing practices of popular drinks, while also gaining an appreciation for the rich history, culinary contributions, and cultural influences of the drinks we know and love. An important part of this class will discuss appropriate and safe drinking practices. Join us for a fun and unique opportunity to dive into the world of fancy drinks.
Click Here to Enroll

Mindfulness Matters, Taught by Emily Yisa, Online
Sundays, 10/24/21 to 12/12/21, No Class 11/21, 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. CST

Do you ever feel stressed or anxious? Is it sometimes hard for you to focus? Has the past year with COVID-19 made you even more stressed? In this course you will learn how to better deal with your stresses/anxieties through the practice of mindfulness. You will learn about and engage in various mindfulness practices including breathwork, yoga, meditation, and more. You can expect to leave this class feeling calmer and with tools to help you when you are feeling stressed. Come join us to have fun relaxing your mind and body with new and old friends.
Click Here to Enroll

Love our program? Get your own LLWF T-shirt shipped directly to you!

When you register for a course there will be an optional add-on $30 charge for a LLWF T-shirt. After ordering, expect an email from our main LLWF email account to confirm your shipping address and T-shirt order details.

Fall 2021 Instructors

Julian Falco is in his fourth year at UT Austin majoring in Neuroscience and minoring in Social Work. He has been volunteering for LLWF (formally UT Informal Classes for Adults with IDDs) since 2019 and has enjoyed interacting with the students while learning about diverse topics like classical art, the history of Austin, and Harry Potter. He loves playing flute and piano, writing music on the piano, and listening to music — his favorite genres are indie pop and indie rock, but he’ll jam out to almost anything! He also enjoys swimming, cooking Vietnamese food, and binging cartoons like She-Ra and The Dragon Prince on Netflix.

Jon Pierce is the father of an adult with Down syndrome. He obtained his PhD at the Univ of Oregon followed by a postdoc at UCSF Medical School. He conducts research on Down syndrome, autism, Alzheimer’s disease, and more as Associate Professor at the Univ Texas at Austin. He founded Lifelong Learning With Friends and its predecessor programs so that adults with IDDs could access the sophisticated learning and deep friendships unique to the college experience. Over the past decade, he offered over 120 unique courses to hundreds of adults with IDDs to learn alongside college student volunteers.

Judith LeBlanc has a Masters in Special Education and has worked with students with disabilities for over 10 years. She lives in Austin with her three wild dogs and one stinky cat. She is inspired by all types of art and design. If she could invite anyone to a dinner party, Andy Warhol would be on the top of her list. 

Lucy Gross is a practicing social worker with over eleven years of experience working with adults with disabilities. She co-founded SAGE Studio, a studio and gallery for Texas-based artists with intellectual and developmental disabilities in Austin. She currently works at AISD’s Go Project, a transitional program for special education students ages 18–22, and as the Program Director for Lifelong Learning With Friends. She earned her undergraduate degree at Emerson College and her master’s of social work at Texas State University.

Lori Duran loves history and the joy of a good story. She has a Bachelors in History and a Masters in Latin American Studies and Business Admin from UT Austin. She captures history with photos and tales in her work including her new book “The University of Texas at Austin: The First One Hundred Years”. She is also a proud mother of an adult with autism and has brought history alive for adults with IDDs over years with our program.

Joshua Levy has been teaching individuals with disabilities for over 30 years. He is the Founder and Executive Director for Joshua’s Stage, an enrichment program for individuals with a wide range of special needs featuring after-school programs, camps, and workshops through activities in the performing arts. He is the President of Joshua Levy Educational Consulting; facilitating parents, educators, and children’s museums to strengthen their relationships with individuals with disabilities. He is the author of The Creative Outlet Method: At-Home Activities for Children with Special Needs. Joshua enjoys cooking, running, spending time with family, and dog time. 

Briana Syed has both volunteered with and previously instructed an exciting course on The Art of Makeup for Lifelong Learning with Friends! Originally from Arlington, Texas, Briana is a senior at UT Austin studying neuroscience. She is a published researcher in pediatric neurology at Dell Medical School, and conducts research on Down syndrome at UT. Briana loves exploring new coffee and dessert shops around Austin, going on hikes with friends and family, and listening to alternative R&B music in her free time. She is excited to instruct again with our program to build relationships with new students! 

Kaelin Rubenzer is a recent graduate from the University of Texas at Austin with a Bachelor of Science in Neuroscience and has worked with adults with disabilities in vocational and educational settings for over 5 years. After volunteering more than any other volunteer in the program, Kaelin began teaching courses ranging from Global Cultures Culinary Arts to Adaptive Outdoor Activities. Kaelin loves to cook, garden, listen to true crime and science podcasts, go car-camping, and learn a new crafting hobby every month.

Emily Yisa has 10 years of experience working with individuals with IDDs. She has volunteered and taught classes through UT’s Informal Classes for adults with IDDs. She started a book club for adults with Down syndrome through DSACT in 2013 and continues to facilitate it today. Emily taught life skills for 6 years at Crockett Early College High School. In 2017 Emily received her 200 hour yoga certification. Emily is excited to combine her love of yoga and her passion of working with individuals with IDDs! 

Outreach Team

Kaelin Rubenzer
Natalie Osterlund
Shilpa Rajagopal
Elizabeth Rodriguez
Haity Yu Qin
Courtney Williams

Check out our program’s previous courses.

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