40 Stories | Aiming High

This week I’ve invited my colleague Vicky Chapter our Learning Programme Manager to talk about a project from the start of her career, which has been extremely influential in the development of our recent work at Aspex. JB

“In 2010 I joined Aspex as an Education Assistant to work on Aiming High, a programme of workshops for children with autism & special educational needs and their families. The workshops, supported by Portsmouth City Council, were designed to provide meaningful engagement with the gallery and it’s exhibition programme, all while being accessible and inclusive. 

For me, this was my first real experience of seeing just how gallery education can play such an important role in the lives of children and their families and how valuable it is to everyone involved. One of the key factors for this programme was that we wanted to develop something which whole families could come and participate in together - everyone was equal and brought their own experiences to the session. 

The workshops, led by artist Abi Gilchrist, were so wonderfully thoughtful in their approach. We covered a wide range of topics and materials, such as ‘breadmaking’ using saltdough; gardening; light & shadows; creating dens & safe spaces; and a wide range of painting, printmaking, photography and drawing skills too. All of the workshops were sensory, finding different ways to explore materials and ideas, to experiment and try out new things. They were all flexible and adaptable and most importantly, welcoming of every individual's contribution. The focus was always on the process and the enjoyment that comes through play and being creative in the moment. 

One of the highlights of every workshop was of course when we stopped for tea and cake - and for parents, children and staff, it was the perfect time to share, to get to know one another and relax. Parents and carers particularly expressed their appreciation of the environment and accepting attitude of staff, who were all trained to understand the participants' needs, supported by Occupational Therapist, Phillipa Williams. I learnt so much from these conversations and being a part of this group. We developed some amazing relationships with families through this project, and I feel so fortunate to have seen some of these children grow up over the past 10 years. 

The programme continued until 2014, and elements of this work have since gone on to influence other areas of our Learning Programme and will continue to do so for the next 10 years and beyond.” 


Vicky Chapter, Learning Programme Manager

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