Canberra graffiti artist Geoff Filmer freely admits to having a short attention span but he always has time for his son Gus who is the inspiration behind a 20-metre mural that will bring the region’s first early intervention centre for young children with autism to life.
After putting the finishing touches on the unique mural, Mr Filmer said he would probably be classified as autistic by today’s standards that also diagnosed his 10-year-old son Gus with the autism spectrum disorder.
Of greater pride is that the mural will be an interactive legacy featuring several blackboards for children to create their own artworks at the centre that will open in July.
The mural also includes Canberra landmarks such as Parliament House, birds, animals, the sky whale and even stage two of the light rail.
“I created this mural to help raise awareness about AEIOU Canberra Region and how they can assist families of young children on the autism spectrum,” a proud Mr Filmer said while unveiling the mural with his son Gus ahead of World Autism Awareness Day on 2 April.
“I’m pretty sure that if I was going through school now I would be diagnosed with autism, so my hope is that this mural help the next generation become successful members of our community.”
Gus also gave the mural the thumbs up of approval.
Known as AEIOU Canberra Region, the centre at Garran already has a waiting list of students to the one-of-a-kind centre, including some from interstate where no such facility exists.
The project is the result of strong community collaboration between the John James Foundation and local builders and suppliers, including project manager from Project Coordination Domenic Malfone who has worked tirelessly to bring the AEIOU building to life.
AEIOU’s Canberra Region manager Enia Alberto said the mural was a timely reminder to local families that Canberra will open its first autism-specific early intervention centre later this year.
“The mural being finished on the wall of our centre today has an educational connection to both Canberra and to autism, and we know it will be a bright, warm and welcoming addition to our playground for children who attend AEIOU Canberra Region.
“Interested families can register now to enrol and we’re spending the next few months getting to know wait listed families via intake meetings and free educational workshops that can assist families while raising young children with autism,” Ms Alberto said.
The centre has been more than four years in planning and demand has already exceeded initial expectations. About 20 families will have first access to the centre after it opens, while it is expected to cater for about 80 families once at full capacity.
Mr Filmer said the mural’s strong connection to Canberra’s birds, animals and familiar landmarks will help children with autism connect to their learning and interactions with people.
“It was all about translating the design from the inside to the outside. The children can also interact with the mural via several framed blackboards which they are welcome to draw on,” Mr Filmer said.
“When you have a child who has special needs, it’s also important to have a network where teachers are therapists and will really make a difference.”
Ms Alberto uses the classic analogy of how it takes a village to raise a child.
“The staff here are part of that village as educators and therapists, and that’s the most important thing for the child,” she said.
AEIOU Canberra Region is also hosting two tailored workshops for the Canberra community in April at Marymead on 13 April and 27 April for families and allied health professionals and students. More information is at www.aeiou.org.au/community.
Enrolments are now open for AEIOU Canberra Region for families with children aged 2-6 with an autism diagnosis or a suspected diagnosis. They should contact the AEIOU Foundation for more information and how to join the waiting list.