Tech club for young people with autism expands in Victoria
The Lab, a tech club built for young people with autism to socialise, have fun and develop new skills reaches a new milestone in Victoria, with 20 local community-based Labs now offering after school sessions across the state.
The Lab announced that new places are now available at most metro and regional Labs, following their long hibernation due to COVID-19. Local Labs in inner metropolitan and outer suburbs, from Moonee Ponds to Highett, have new places available for neurodiverse young people aged 10 – 18 with interests in coding, social gaming, digital design, programming and more.
The Lab Mildura and The Lab North Fitzroy are two of the newest additions to the network of Labs across Victoria and beyond and will join existing clubs in providing young people who identify as being on the autism spectrum with an inclusive environment to explore their interests, develop new skills with help from professional mentors and make new friends.
The Lab’s National Coordinator, Alan Morgans, emphasised the importance of such facilities for young people with autism. He thanked the local community organisations and mentors who operate Labs and the major philanthropic organisations that continue to support the Lab’s efforts to provide its world-first service to young autistic Australians wherever they live.
‘’Victorian’s faced a particularly tough year in 2020 and it is likely that feelings of isolation were amplified by extended lockdowns across the state. One of the Lab’s core aims is to help young people, who are often socially isolated from their peers because they are seen as different, connect with others in a safe and inclusive environment,” he said.
The social setting of the Labs focuses on technology, not on the individual, so that young people are empowered to share and explore their passion for gaming and coding with one another. The social benefits young people receive from these Labs are immeasurable and The Lab Network has successfully grown a supportive and dedicated community of organisers and mentors.
“As we enter the recovery phase of the pandemic, it feels particularly important that youth with autism have access to services that can help facilitate this. We are fortunate to be working with fantastic community organisations right across the country and our major supporters, Gandel Philanthropy and Equity Trustees, to re-open the doors of local Labs and provide new opportunities for neurodiverse young people to thrive,” Morgans said.
Mentors across the 20 locations are looking forward to welcoming back regular attendees and hope to welcome new faces as the sessions recommence in a physical setting. One of The Lab Highett’s current mentors, Jake Aronleigh, is among the youngest mentors in the national organisation and is excited to return to his mentor role now that COVID-19 restrictions have eased
Now 15 and attending high school, Aronleigh started with The Lab Frankston as a participant at the age of nine. Jake described his involvement with the Lab as a “super satisfying” way to offer pathways to young people with autism have access to such opportunities.
What started out for Jake as a way to make friends, has turned into a fulfilling opportunity to celebrate his knowledge in robotics and programming with like-minded kids and help them discover new passions.
“It is 110% worth [being involved with the Lab], seeing other people pick up and learn something that’s opened up so many pathways for me, it’s just super satisfying to see that happen and to offer that opportunity to people.” he said.
The Lab is a fun and highly rewarding opportunity for mentors to share their tech skills with enthusiastic young people who have a passion for games and technology. The Lab encourages young people with games and tech skills to get involved with what is a rewarding part-time job.
“We are excited to continue expanding our tech clubs across metro and regional Australia. What started out as one club in Footscray, has now led to more than 34 locations across the country. To be able to offer young people on the spectrum with the opportunity to connect with peers who have similar experiences and interests, in 20 locations across Victoria alone, is something worth celebrating.” Morgans said.