Local nonprofit uses film to support neurodiverse youth | Community

Williamsport, Pennsylvania – A local nonprofit startup and summer program is providing new opportunities for neurodiverse youth in the area.

The newly formed organization, Inclusive Community Advocates (ICA), develops programs for neurodiverse youth during the period of “transitional adolescence”.

“Because the (autism) spectrum is so broad, we have people involved in groups who are in their early 30s but are only 12 years old (in terms of social skills),” said Emily Camerer, director ICA Executive. “The transition can seem very vast when it comes to someone who is neuro-diverse.”

Camerer said children and adults going through these stages are separated into different groups.

Pending their approval as a tax-exempt entity, the ICA has worked on developing social and interpersonal skills through its tabletop RPG program and through StoryMake, the ICA’s film initiative.

They also provide diversity and inclusiveness training to organizations that interact with members of the autistic community.

The children made their own costumes for the film.

StoryMake held its pilot program last summer, where middle and high school kids got together and collaborated to create a short film.

The idea for the cinema came about because ICA noticed that many kids on the program wanted to become “YouTubers” or “vloggers,” Camerer said.

The children were responsible for all aspects of the filmmaking process: the costumes were all designed and made by the children, the children wrote the script; all performances in the film were by children; and they were responsible for the operation of the camera. The film was shot entirely on an iPhone.

Filming of Storymake-kids

The kids got a crash course in shooting, but ultimately they were the ones behind the camera as well as in front.

The program format was chosen as a way for them to engage and develop their interpersonal skills, according to Camerer.

The entire production was funded by community members, as the ICA and StoryMake are not eligible to receive grants until they are approved as a nonprofit.

The plan is to bring the program back this summer, but before that, they’re hosting a premiere for the film tomorrow.

“We just wanted to get them together again in one place, so they could show the movie to their families,” Camerer said.

The premiere of “Race 2 Reverse” will also air on StoryMake’s YouTube channel.

Camerer said they play Dungeons and Dragons, as well as other tabletop games, under the supervision of a clinician to develop social skills through interaction with each other. The clinician is joined by a game master, the person running the game, who helps group members achieve their goals.

According to Camerer, there are currently 15 table groups that the ICA is leading in northeast and central Pennsylvania meeting via Zoom due to the pandemic.

“It’s a way to help kids who want to come out of their shell,” Camerer said. “Whatever their goals are, we’ll create a character to help them achieve those goals.”

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