Imagine watching a movie, listening to a song, or attending a concert, then many years later being able to re-enact the performances with perfect recall for lines and lyrics – right down to the timbre of the performers’ voices.
Meet Zac Woller, 22, mimic extraordinaire and repository of vast amounts of information about all the movies, music videos and shows he has ever watched.
For most of his life Zac’s prodigious talents were unknown outside his family and friends. Now, with support from the NDIS, he’s gaining the confidence to reveal himself to the wider world and learn the practical skills he needs to move into paid employment.
“Zac has always loved singing and performing,” mum Heather says. “He hosted, narrated and performed at nearly all of his primary and secondary school concerts.
“Being a visual learner he’s also loved anything with a screen, so from a young age he was drawn to television and memorised everything he watched, starting with Thomas the Tank Engine and old video tapes that his Nan Nan in New Zealand sent over.”
Zac was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) at age four and attended non-mainstream schools all the way through to Year 12. Zac’s dad, Joffa, says it quickly became apparent his son had a phenomenal memory for shapes and sounds but he struggled with human interactions and learning basic life skills.
“We always knew he had this amazing talent within him, the struggle we’ve always had is how to unlock it,” Joffa says.
Zac joined the NDIS in July 2018 and funding in his plan is now supporting him in acting, filming, editing, voice-over work, music and singing training. Activities the family had not previously been able to afford.
He attends day programs at disability service provider Wallara five days a week. His support worker, Matt ,is skilled in multimedia and spends one-on-one time with Zac. He is also part of a group engaging in ‘iFilm’ training with Matt and another support worker.
Zac also participates in other group activities like swimming, ten-pin bowling, library visits and performances at the nearby Baptcare Aged Care facility where he loves singing to the residents.
As well as his YouTube channel – under the handle ‘Zac Woller Voice Ninja’ – Zac has his own Facebook page and is a regular performer on Wallara’s social media channels.
“He’s starred in quite a few Wallara productions, especially since they realised his talents,” Heather says. “He even did his first-ever duet at a major fundraising event for Wallara with Amalia Foy, a finalist in Channel Seven’s X-Factor 2016 show, and nailed it after just three 30 minute practice sessions.”
Since joining the NDIS, Heather says Zac’s confidence has blossomed and he is much more sociable. He still keeps his earbuds handy for the times he needs to retreat into his screen ‘safe space’, but this is less and less a feature of his life.
“Since Zac joined the NDIS it has made all our lives easier and happier, and for the first time in his life he has a realistic prospect of a career,” Joffa says.
“He has his ABN number primed and ready to go!”