Chris Cooper is a young person who has been coming to Wac Arts since 2007. Chris is autistic and whilst on work experience (seeing what happens in the Wac Arts offices and not just in the studios) he wrote a wonderful piece about his experience at Wac Arts and using our services as a young person with a disability.
“Wac Arts as an organisation has been a vital tool in inclusion and disability awareness. I have been a part of breathtaking projects like the Wac Wonder Web project even though it was not breathtaking for me at the time when I first joined in 2007. At that time, my transition into Wac Arts was rough considering my position at the time as someone who had not much confidence which affected my ability to travel to places like Wac Arts independently. At the same time, I was having rough experiences having recently left mainstream education and I had a lot to overcome at the time. When I made the first visit to Wac Arts I was introduced to my tutor and peers in the session where I was making funny blog posts, one of which was about the longest beard competition. I received a funny reply back and though I cannot remember what the reply was, it did lighten my spirits a bit. Other activities that Wac Arts had in store for me was stuff like the radio show for which I was most famous for alongside my other peers who used this radio show to create stories and game shows, etc. The radio show has been a good tool for me as part of who I was in the past with and my low confidence, it began to give me a purpose.
My thoughts of feeling like an outsider at Wac Arts were beginning to drop considering the experiences I faced in some of the sessions. I made trips to places like Hampstead Heath to record sounds where we saw dogs, made some wildlife artwork or even trips to Somers Town Community Centre to experience their disability services. I enjoyed the overall experience of being involved in the projects and trips and a highlight was an interesting half term project which came with humour. I was with a staff member when we were about to make a song for a radio show and the equipment amazed me. The development of my writing skills I owe to the radio show experience because it is with my mind I could create outrages scenarios.
Considering the bumpy transition I had into Wac Arts, my only regret was taking that gap on the WAC Wonder Web because my fears gave into me at that time – but I managed to recover.
My experience with the Win Win has been no different although somewhere around the lines of the Win Win project, I gained my independence and travelled to Wac Arts on my own. This change was a played a vital role in me overcoming my anxiety and facing the traits of my disability and how it impacted my life coupled with my past experiences. I always felt that through my experience, the humour side and every other method that was employed here alongside the project including Jeremy Kyle role playing, drumming, a therapeutic activity in which we had to shut our eyes and lay on the ground, piggy in the middle and many other interesting activities, helped my state of mind. I also enjoyed great residential trips to places like Centre Parcs and more recently residential Field Studies Council (FSC’s) at Juniper hall. There were some moments in the sessions when I had radio shows but regardless of what experience was or when it was, it has all amounted to me expanding my capabilities and improving my confidence as an individual who has autism. Through every experience I feel that a service such as Wac Arts which I feel is a valuable service, from someone who tries to find the right disability service as that I have always felt that was necessary to find the right service as someone who has mainstream education and felt services were more helpful and welcoming rather than the mainstream education where they had no understanding of my disability.
It may not just boil down to disability services as I have felt dependent originally because I used services other than WAC that have catered for people like me who disabilities. However, WAC Arts does not only cater for disabled people as I have also been apart of senior WAC and throughout the experience I felt that despite the minor differences in the group, the help and support I received was no different to the disability projects at Wac Arts. I was treated with respect and they have made me feel welcome. Despite the mainstream environment i.e. people or building in general. My final point on this is fun and friendship or anything of that sort is not impossible with disability, traits of disability, challenges of many forms i.e. social or mental and boundaries.
As someone who has experienced the services at Wac Arts, there are days when I am not at Wac Arts but I watch the work that I have, or someone else has created. It makes me realise, as I have stood up to the ambassador work and attend the Win Win over 18s project, how organisations like Wac Arts have catered to my needs and have got me further opportunities. To be a part of Wac Arts continually shows the need for projects like this in the disability community.
As I write this article as a part of my work experience I feel this demonstrates that voices like mine have been the vital tool to show the gifts young people contribute to Wac Arts, and it is my hope through this experience people like me can take advantage of these wonderful services so it can enrich their lives and hopefully others who go to Wac Arts.
If I have message that I want to deliver today to the community, I would say don’t be ashamed of who you are, no matter if you have a disability you still have skills, ambition and ability to make everything possible. My message as someone who goes to Wac Arts is that I have seen with my own eyes fun and friendship ignited here. One thing I have been grateful for is the services and cooperation in the sense of speaking about any concerns I may have. My point is simple – don’t let anyone or anything give up your dreams of fun and friendship, because no matter who you are or where you live there are no boundaries to fun and friendship. As a 23 year old person and from what I have seen no matter the sorts of transitions that can be made in life, fun and friendship can always be possible if you are using services like Wac Arts or if you are a student or teacher as we are all human and at the end of the day my position on this is to contribute to the sessions, not only as a student, but as an ambassador or in this case as someone who is on work experience. Through this experience it has earned me a chance to contribute, to experience the group, enjoying the humour side of things, relate to people within the group and assist when ever possible whether the experience is as acting as an ambassador or in a work experience position. The day I have made today has been a new experience but I have and have always been proud as someone who has autism. I am keen to make an example as someone who contributes within the disability community as a student or as an ambassador who is willing to pursue the dream of making the community better. It is something I would continue gladly, volunteering for.”