Local Author Highlights the Importance of Reading and Writing with Autistic Students at East Durham College

An author and former teacher who has recently launched his first book visited East Durham College to talk to students at the Derwent provision about his personal journey and how reading and writing is so important for learning.

Richard Abbott Brailey, who is the author of Azarias Tor, The History Maker, completed a series of sessions with different students at East Durham College’s Derwent Provision, based on the Houghall Campus in Durham.

Students at Derwent are of mixed abilities on the autistic spectrum. Events such as these talks with Richard give them the opportunity to express themselves through questions and answers.

During Richard’s talks, students asked questions they had prepared beforehand. Questions ranged from how long it had taken Richard to write his book, to his favourite football team. 

Richard said: “I believe that all young people should have access to books, and also be given the opportunity to express themselves using the written word, regardless of ability.

“I believe, that with encouragement, everyone has a tale to tell, a short story to write, and a potential novel inside them.”

The talks saw many students building their confidence by asking their own questions, a task which can be difficult for those with autism.

Karen Hartis, who is a lecturer at the Derwent Provision, was thrilled with Richard’s talks for the students.

She said: “As our students have a great love of movies and losing themselves in fictional worlds, it was great to have Richard come in to talk to them about fiction in books and to learn more about a career in writing, and the importance of reading and writing in education.

“We’d all like to thank Richard for taking the time to talk to our students, we saw some really good engagement from a lot of learners in the room. It gave them a chance to express themselves.”

Richard’s novel, Azarias Tor, stars a time-travelling man from the North East who travels to both the past and future. The story is a passion project for Richard, who has always dreamed of writing a book.

Richard is a former English teacher who previously worked at East Durham College and has since gone on to write his first book. He now plans a career in writing full-time as he writes the second and third novels in his trilogy.

He said: “I spent a wonderful morning with the students and staff, and felt that it was a worthwhile exercise for everyone involved.

“It would have been nice to have had more time, so as introduce creative writing exercises. I also felt a little guilty for not visiting the library, though I have donated a signed copy to their cause! Again, I would like to say thank you to everyone involved with making me feel so welcome, particularly Karen Hartis, who organised the event.”