At theSpace, people with autism and intellectual disabilities express themselves through art, but also share it and connect in ways they've often never experienced before.
Creative facilitator Rian Alston uses a green screen to let people make video blogs about their favourite shows, upload their own cartoon characters and interact with them, anything they want.
They put together newspapers and podcasts. They learn video editing, word processing, how to use smartphones, screenprinting, drawing, research, promotion and social media.
"[This isn't] just about making crafts and killing time. It's really about building and sparking that interest for that life-long passion for learning, and by doing these creative projects, the adults recognize that it's learning through doing," he says.
"With a few clicks you can transform your interest and share it and connect. And it's not just about sharing with mom and dad, it's about meeting new people, both here in theSpace but also online."
'Often, having a conversation in five minutes doesn't really tell you about the person and their experience and what they go through.' -Rian Alston
It's not a traditional classroom atmosphere. Clients have agency and choice, can come and go as they please, talk about what they want, and play and create at will, Alston says.
"They want to tell stories, real adult stories, and have that chance, often for the first time, to share with others. Because often, having a conversation in five minutes doesn't really tell you about the person and their experience and what they go through," he says.
"We do a lot of the creative expression and building through workshops, and art is the vehicle in which people can express themselves, connect with others with the same passion, and understand that what they're doing has value."
More people join all the time, and Alston hopes the organization on McArthur Avenue can one day expand.
Trailblazers is a community connection project that tells stories about people making an impact in the Ottawa area. We received hundreds of submissions and a panel of judges helped select our top 10.