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Grant to give Firstchance children a new voice


Firstchance is hoping a $47,000 windfall will help its children avoid developing American accents.

The money is a grant received from the Newcastle Permanent Charitable Foundation on 11 June.

It will be used by Mayfield-based charity Firstchance to fund a video modelling project supporting children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) refine their language, social, self-help and play skills.

Firstchance project manager Nicole Doncovski said the videos created would replace limited Australian-made options.

“Firstchance currently uses video modelling within practice when appropriate however the resources available are very American centric,” she said.

“They’re dated and not always appropriate for the skill we are teaching.

“And we would prefer our children to talk with Australian accents.”

Firstchance has been providing early childhood intervention support to children aged 0-9 years with a disability or development delay in the Newcastle, Lake Macquarie, and Port Stephens region for more than 40 years.

It’s multidisciplinary team, including psychologists, occupational therapists, support workers and speech pathologists, assist in developmental delay, autism, chromosomal disorders and genetic conditions.

“It (the video) will be a set of short skits demonstrating social interactions, both good examples and bad examples,” she said.

“A lot of our children get embarrassed because they’re not sure what behaviours are appropriate. They are visual learners and they learn through repetition.

“For children with ASD, video-modelling is more motivating and less threatening than face to face modelling. It also lets children with ASD focus on one aspect of a skill or behaviour at a time using a medium they are comfortable and confident in.

“They can watch the video as many times as they need (independently) to learn a new skill.”

The group have been workshopping the idea of visual learning aides for the past 12 months.

“However we could not have taken it any further without the support of the Newcastle Permanent Charitable Foundation,” Ms Doncovski said.

The grant is one of 11 community projects awarded its share of $821,000 in funding aimed at addressing community disadvantage, marginalisation, and isolation across six regional areas of NSW. 

Newcastle Permanent Charitable Foundation Chair, Phil Neat said the grants are a commitment from its Board to support communities during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“Despite the challenges presented to our communities in the past six months, we remain committed to our mission to support regional charitable organisations that make our communities healthy, safe and more resilient,” he said. 

“These underlying, everyday community needs have not gone away. It is just that they have now been magnified by the drought, bushfire and COVID-19.”

Since 2003, the Charitable Foundation has provided almost $21.5 million to 483 community projects and endeavours.

Firstchance Board members 2020.

The video will be completed by December and include input from the centre’s 75 staff.

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