Inside the online tech club for young people with autism

The lab
The all-inclusive Lab has tech sessions suited to everyone! Whether you're looking for a social setting where you can work on projects or just talk and be inspired. Image: Facebook @TheLab

With awesome initiatives like The Lab championing accessibility in STEM, tech education is seriously upping its inclusivity game

The Lab, Australia’s first weekly tech club for young people with autism, continues to grow digitally – and with such a game-changing, inclusive online platform we can see why. 

Launched in 2010 the not-for-profit supports community organisers, parents, carers, community members and disability service employees to provide mentoring for kids aged 10-18 who face significant barriers to gaining next-gen careers skills. 

Their tech-savvy mentor team hosts weekly knowledge-sharing sessions to excite students about in-demand areas such as gaming, programming, IT, 3D and digital design – inviting kids on the spectrum to explore their interests, develop their strengths and thrive in tech. 

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Chair of The Lab Network, Paul Staubli said that Labs differ from other services and activities by creating safe, inclusive spaces that enhance both the social and technical skills of youth on the spectrum.

 “Adolescence is a particularly challenging time for most people,” stresses Paul. “The Lab provides safe places – in person and online – for young people who face significant barriers to success both academically and socially to explore their interests, develop their strengths and thrive.”

Remote and regional focus

The national network now boasts 30 physical venues and now a successful online service thanks to an exciting funding partnership between two of the nation’s largest philanthropic organisations, Gandel Philanthropy and Equity Trustees

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“Equity Trustees are delighted to fund The Lab, as they continue their growth to meet the increasing demand for their online and face to face labs,” says Equity Trustees Children and Young People Grant Manger Emily Cormack. 

Since social distancing restrictions forced Lab closures in March, the rapid expansion of their online interest-based mentoring service has now resulted in up to ten online ‘Lab sessions’ per week, which has been particularly popular with students living in regional and rural Australia. 

And yep, The Lab is just as excited as the rest of us for a post-lockdown party. As physical distancing restrictions lift, they’re aiming to help even more communities than before set up and run their own Labs across the country. 

Keen to get involved? Head here to join – or set up – your local lab.  

Cassie Steel

Author: Cassie Steel

As Refraction’s digital editor, Cassie Steel spends her days researching robots and stalking famous scientists on Twitter.

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