Since 2014 the Sydney Story Factory has been lucky enough to have known Bella. Bella has non-verbal autism, and a prodigious talent for creative writing.
In 2016, inspired by all that Bella has taught us, we ran a program that deepened and expanded our capacity to run workshops for children with autism, so that we could light the spark of creativity for many, many other children just like Bella.
In the first part of 2016 we trialed a progressive model where students had one term of one-on-one private tutoring then, having become confident with the Sydney Story Factory environment, processes and people, were invited to join a larger group workshop. We worked with Autism Spectrum Australia (ASPECT) to gain insight into best practice techniques for working with young people with autism, and trained volunteers in this specialist skill.
This very successful model, now continuing into 2017, allows young people with support needs to move at their own pace, feeling comfortable that the personalised support they need will be in place for them throughout. It also creates a very inclusive model where young people with support needs are encouraged in their writing alongside other young people from diverse cultural and social backgrounds.
Through 2017 we continued to tutor Bella (who has now published a memoir, no less) and had the privilege of getting to know many other fantastically energetic and creative young writers, like Marianne, Ricky, and brothers Hayden and Nicholas. We can't wait to meet more, and hear their stories, in the months ahead.
Thank you to the NSW Minister for Disability Services, Hon. John Ajaka, for his generous support, which allowed this program to continue July - December 2016.