Article featured in The Age, by Clare Kermond
Bringing the outsiders in: autistic pride
In a brightly lit space in one of the school's newer buildings a group of teenage boys is sitting in a rough circle playing a get-to-know you game that's a mix of musical chairs and guess who. There's the usual jokey exchanges and awkward adolescent shuffling, but nothing that sets this group apart from the norm.
In fact, the boys gathered together before the bell starts the day at St James College, Bentleigh, are all in some way or other, outside the main crowd. Calling themselves St James' Finest, the boys, aged 12 to 15 are all diagnosed autistic. Many have faced huge struggles over their school years to fit in socially and to learn well in class. But in this group, everyone fits in.
St James Finest is one of about 35 groups running in primary and secondary schools across Victoria, Queensland and Tasmania, with groups planned soon for New South Wales. In primary schools, the groups are called Imagination Clubs.