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Saturday, July 24, 2021

Unique mural celebrates kids with autism

Local graffiti artist and father to an autistic child, Geoff Filmer, put the finishing touches on his one-of-a-kind Canberra mural at the new AEIOU Canberra Region centre yesterday, 31 March.

Established in partnership with the John James Foundation, AEIOU Canberra will be the first early intervention centre in the ACT region.

Supporting around 40 children and their families each year, AEIOU Canberra Region will ensure children with autism are supported to participate in the community and learn skills that will help them engage with people around them.

The 20-metre-long mural features Canberra icons such as the Skywhale as well as native flora and fauna.

Mr Filmer said he created the mural to raise awareness about autism and AEIOU Canberra Region, a cause close to his heart.

“I’m pretty sure if I was going to school now, I would have been diagnosed with autism and ADHD,” he said.

“I had a really tough schooling life and I’ve seen what this early intervention can do for kids being able to cope with mainstream and that’s really fantastic.”

Mr Filmer’s son, Gus, was diagnosed with autism in kindergarten. Gus is currently in Year 5 and takes part in an Autism Specific Program that caters to his learning needs.

Mr Filmer said he believes if Gus attended a centre like AEIOU, things would be very different for his son.

“We found out [he has autism] in kindergarten and we missed early intervention because of that,” he said.

“It’s a real shame because if we had something like that, he would have been in mainstream schooling, whereas he’s not able to.” 

A key feature of the colourful mural is several framed blackboards the children can interact with by drawing on them.

Mr Filmer said the idea behind the blackboards is that the mural will be redesigned by the children daily.

“One of the things we wanted to do was to have interaction,” he said.

“This way it’s easier to manage their own space. That is the other thing, how to teach kids like Gus how to regulate, communicate and interact in group settings.”

John James Foundation CEO, Joe Roff, said that having the world-class mural at AEIOU Canberra Region “is an added bonus that we didn’t expect”.

“This is a world-class service that is a gap in Canberra. It was always the John James Foundation’s goal to bring that service to Canberra,” Mr Roff said.

AEIOU Canberra Region manager, Enia Alberto, said the mural is a bright, warm and welcoming addition to the playground.

“This Friday 2 April is World Autism Awareness Day, and it’s timely for AEIOU to remind local families that Canberra will open its very first autism-specific early intervention centre later this year,” Ms Alberto said.

“I loved the mural from the first time that I saw it. It adds a completely different feeling to the playground and the way Geoff incorporated Canberra landmarks has been absolutely brilliant.”

Enrolments are now open for AEIOU Canberra Region.

Families with children aged from two to six years with an autism diagnosis or a suspected diagnosis are welcome to contact AEIOU Foundation for more information and to join the waitlist.

For more information, visit www.aeiou.org.au or call 1300 273 435.

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