World Autism Awareness Day
Today is the 8th Annual World Autism Awareness Day. This morning I hosted the World Autism Awareness Day Breakfast in the Grand Hall at Parliament. Around 100 people – MPs, Ministers, representatives from Autism New Zealand and the wider disability sector, people living with autism and their families – gathered together to commemorate and celebrate World Autism Awareness Day.
The number of children and adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder, or ASD, continues to rise across all racial, ethnic and social groups. Approximately 40,000 New Zealanders are on the Autism Spectrum. Despite this, awareness of autism remains low in our communities.
In order to raise awareness about ASD we must spread two messages. Firstly, the need to support children and families through early intervention and secondly, that it is equally important for that support to extend to adults with ASD so they too can live engaged and fulfilling lives.
Today, Autism New Zealand launched their new initiative, funded through MSD’s “Think Differently” campaign and SKIP. Their new initiative is called Way to Play and it is a one day introduction to playing with children on the Autism spectrum. Following the one day course, parents and caregivers are granted access to the secure Way to Play website where they can organise play dates with other children on the spectrum, receive advice about engaging their child in safe and fun play, connect with other families and access learning resources.
For more information about Way to Play please visit the Autism New Zealand website: http://www.autismnz.org.nz/training_programmes/way_to_play
Paul Isaacs once said: “Do not fear people with Autism, embrace them. Do not spite people with Autism, unite them. Do not deny people with Autism, accept them, for then their abilities will shine.”
I challenge all of you to think about how you can raise awareness about Autism in your community – only through awareness can we be a fully inclusive New Zealand.