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Zara unleashes her creativity with the support of assistive technology

Theatre buff and creative, Zara, has been receiving support from our School Support team since she was in pre-school.
A photo of zara in studio wearing a red scarf looking to the left in an animated manner. There is a red radio in the foreground.
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Theatre buff and creative Zara has been receiving support from our School Support team since she was in preschool. Now in Grade 11, Zara has recently shared her creative talents with a live audience, being selected as a finalist in the Northern Beaches Young Scriptwriters Competition 2022.

Zara was born with oculocutaneous albinism—a condition that often causes light sensitivity, limited depth perception, nystagmus, and reduced long distance vision. Although her disability has come with challenges, Zara has never let it limit or define her.

‘My disability is just one more step in the staircase I have to climb each day, but I always figure out a way to climb it, and most days, don’t mind the extra exercise,’ says Zara.

Zara, who is now 16 years old, began accessing services through NextSense School Support when she was in pre-school. Over many years of support, NextSense teachers have worked alongside Zara to build the confidence and skills she needs to thrive both in the classroom and in her daily life.

As she looks towards her future beyond school, Zara is using and building on the skills she has gained to pursue her passion for theatre and the creative arts. She aspires to one day work in the creative sector, as an author, director, producer, or whatever opportunity arises.

‘I believe sharing ideas and creativity is the best way to have an impact, change someone’s life, and essentially change the world, so I think this is the road I’m going to follow,’ she says.

Recently, she participated in the Northern Beaches Young Scriptwriters Competition 2022—an initiative which gives young aspiring scriptwriters from the northern beaches of Sydney the chance to submit their work focused on ‘human interaction’ and compete for a place as one of six finalists.

A talented writer and creative, Zara’s script, ‘Talk to me,’ was selected as one of the six finalists. Following a session with a professional director to refine her script, ‘Talk to me’ was performed by Point Break Drama in front of a live audience at Glenstreet theatre on 11 April, 2022.

The concept for ‘Talk to me,’ emerged out of Zara’s experience interacting with friends and peers during lockdown.

‘I noticed the disconnect that can grow between people when they are apart for too long and only connecting via technology. We all become so absorbed in the routine of our own lives that we are often oblivious to the challenges others are facing. I wrote my script, ‘Talk to me,’ to try and encapsulate the feelings of helplessness, frustration, and confusion that arise in this situation,’ she says.

Zara says that the support she has received through the NextSense School Support program has played a key role in developing the skills and confidence she needs to thrive.

NextSense School Support provides support for students who are deaf, hard of hearing, blind or have low vision in their local or independent schools. Our support can include regular classroom visits, assessment and guidance on learning aids and assistive technologies in-person or via telepractice.

Over the years, Zara has received specialised lessons, including those focused on braille and assistive technology and computer skills.

I now use digital technology for almost everything at school. The skills I’ve been taught in using screen readers, keyboard shortcuts, and more, are now an integral part of my everyday access to my learning and extra-curricular activities.

Our School Support services deliver specialised educational support and equip individuals with the skills and confidence they need to become their biggest advocate and overcome any obstacles to pursue their goals.

‘In my early years, I worked on self-advocacy skills, which have helped me immensely almost every day since,’ Zara says.

Former NextSense Teacher, Claire Mahogany, who recently retired, worked closely with Zara from Grade four right up to the end of Grade 10. She has played a key role in Zara’s journey.

‘Mrs Mahogany did so much for me and supported me both as a student and a human being. She saw me through some of my lowest points and highest achievements,’ says Zara.

‘She taught me so many valuable skills in technology that I know will carry me forward into the rest of my life. I don’t think I truly realised how much she’s done for me until she told me she was retiring. It struck me then that I wouldn’t be as confident and capable as I am now without all the work she did with me, and I don’t think I could’ve made it through a lot of tough spots quite so easily without her.’

Her new Specialist Teacher, Elizabeth Tan, is looking forward to working with Zara and sharing new skills and approaches to her learning in her final two years of school.

‘Every day, we walk or climb towards our own destination. It’s a privilege to work alongside Zara, to be a part of her journey and assist her in reaching her destination. I’m excited to see her grow over her next two years,’ says Elizabeth.

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