Advisory Group

Tanya Breen M. Soc. Sc. (1st hons.); Dip. Psyc. (Clin.); MNZPsS; MICP

As a consultant clinical psychologist in private practice in New Zealand, Tanya Breen often appears as an expert witnesses in criminal cases where Autistic people are charged with criminal acts.  She also undertakes autism diagnosis, assessment and intervention / support with individuals and their families, and provides professionals with autism training.

Tanya is well-known for her work on the New Zealand Autism Guidelines, her role in the development of Altogether Autism, and her work with the Ministry of Health on a range of other autism related topics.  Tanya is currently working towards the degree of Doctor of Health Science, where she is researching autism and legal proceedings.

Crystal Kire, Auckland

Crystal is of Te Rarawa, Ngāti Tahu / Ngāti Whaoa, Te Arawa descent.  She lives in South Auckland and has a 14-year-old son on the autism spectrum.  Crystal has extensive work experience in the health and education sectors.  In 2020 she switched roles from Hospital Play Specialist at Auckland Starship to Cultural Advisor at the Ministry of Education.  Crystal is currently completing her Masters to develop a Māori framework for the assessment and development of autism.  She is passionate about community service and volunteers across a variety of local projects and boards.

Estelle Pretorius – Speech Language Therapist

Estelle qualified as a speech language therapist at the University of Pretoria in South Africa, before relocating to New Zealand in February 2007.

Estelle recently received her Master in Speech Language Therapy at Massey University.  Her research investigated an embedded social communication intervention for young children on the autism spectrum.

Currently, Estelle is employed as a speech language therapist at McKenzie Centre for early intervention in Hamilton, New Zealand, where she applies her specialist knowledge and experience to support families and their young Autistic children.

Estelle has a strong interest in the field of family capacity building practice and collaborative interventions.  Therefore, Estelle’s next steps for her doctoral work at Massey University, will be to work with families and early childhood education teachers in a joint training and coaching model, implementing a naturalistic embedded instruction approach.

Daniel Smith

Daniel grew up and was educated in the United Kingdom working for many years as a medical scientist in the health sector.  He moved to New Zealand in 2008 to take up a role as a medical scientist, advancing to the role of technical specialist in immunohistochemistry.

Daniel is an Autistic man and has a blended young family including six children diagnosed on the spectrum.  He received his diagnosis at the same time as them when he was in his 30s.

Daniel joined the Consumer Reference Group after presenting lived experience at the Altogether Autism conference in Auckland in 2018.  He has worked with Waikato Museum to help them create autism friendly evening for some exhibits and joined the living guidelines group who recommend updates to the New Zealand autism guidelines.

Daniel has given teacher training to some schools based on his experiences of education and unknowingly being on the spectrum. Read more.

Catherine Swan – Development Paediatrician

Catherine has worked as a developmental paediatrician with Canterbury District Health Board since 2002 having trained in Aotearoa and London, UK.  Over the last decade her main focus has been diagnosis and support for Autistic children and their whānau.  Catherine is also a clinical lecturer at the University of Otago and parent of five children.  Catherine says one of the aspects of her work she enjoys most is working with others to create positive solutions within existing networks and resources whilst keeping an eye out for new directions for understanding and support.

A photo of Cath Dyson. She is in a burgandy blouse and is wearing glasses.

Cath Dyson

Cath Dyson hails from the UK – Yorkshire, to be precise.  She has been passionate about inclusion since she started her teaching career, way back in 1998.  Now settled in sunny Nelson as an RTLB (Resource Teacher of Learning and Behaviour) she works with teachers, SENCO, LSCs, school leaders, whānau and students, bringing a wealth of knowledge and experience around neurodiversity. 

Cath’s three children have all received a late diagnosis of autism and one a recent ADHD diagnosis.  Cath is also Autistic and ADHD; again, both very late diagnoses.  As such, Cath understands the challenges that young people and adults face, both in education and the workplace.  She is committed to changing the perception of autism, addressing the challenges that many Autistics experience in education and promoting Autistic adults as an asset to the workforce. 

A portrait photo of Anissa Ljanta. She has glasses and a grey streak through her hair.

Anissa Ljanta

Anissa is a writer.  An equity and inclusion advocate.  A neurodivergent specialist coach and educator. 

A systems change geek and born with a strong sense of service, Anissa is passionate about creating a world that works for everyone.   An experienced not-for-profit professional, she has a long and colourful history of supporting community-led equity focused initiatives. 

She grew up in Samoa, Otara and Papatoetoe in South Auckland.  An at-risk youth made good, Anissa started her change-making career at the tender age of twelve as the youngest nomination for the YMCA leadership programme.  She went on to co-facilitate an eco-peace project in wartime Croatia, co-founded the Social-Cultural Centre in post velvet revolution Prague and was among the first to be arrested on climate change-related charges as co-organiser of a parallel conference to the 1995 COP1 in Berlin.  She did a stint as Executive Director of the Federation of Egalitarian Communities in North America while living at Twin Oaks Intentional Community and more recently, Anissa led the establishment phase of the Digital Equity Coalition Aotearoa (DECA).  She is a founding member of SASS (Systems-change, Advocacy, Support & Solidarity). 

Proudly Autistic and ADHDifferent, she lives on Te Kawerau a Maki land in rural Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland with her teen and rescue animals.

Karea Sutherland is wearing a wide-brimmed hat. The photo is in black and white.

Karea Sutherland

PDA ADHD Autistic Queer Tagata Moana. They / Them She / Her 

I bring a deep understanding of PDA autism and ADHD and the challenges we face, as I personally navigate a lot of these barriers too.  

Over the past twenty years, I have had the privilege of working with countless Autistic and ADHD adults and youth, as well as their families and support teams.  This has given me a profound understanding of the unique needs and strengths of neurodivergent individuals, and the educational approaches that have been the most neuro-affirming.  

In 2017, I established Earth School, a Neurodiversity Inclusion Centre in west Melbourne, Australia.  This centre served as a hub for inclusive education, providing a safe and nurturing environment for neurodivergent individuals to thrive centred on special-interests directed learning, student agency and autonomy,  socioemotional intelligent communication, and universal design for learning.  

In addition to my role as an Advisor for Altogether Autism, I am actively engaged in co-facilitating inclusive events, delivering presentations on autism and neurodiversity, providing professional development trainings, and developing policies and resources that promote inclusivity.  I am also committed to ongoing personal and professional development to stay abreast of the latest research and best practices in the field.  My two neurodivergent unschoolers continue to keep me on my toes too. 

I am grateful to be part of a team that shares my passion for promoting equality and empowerment for all individuals.  Together, I believe we can create a brighter and more inclusive future.” 

Luella has long hair. She wears a glasses and a greenstone pounamu.

Luella Wheeler (she / they / ia)BSc, GradDipBus, PGDipSci

Tēnā koe, I am Kāi Tahu, Kāti Māmoe, Waitaha, and Pākehā, tangata whaitakiwātanga and tangata whaikaha – a late-diagnosed autistic person.

My realisation and diagnosis was a big turning point in my life and allowed understanding and insight to provide a sense-making narrative of my journey through life and its many ups and downs. It has been an opportunity to understand my needs and live well with authenticity. I am passionate about representation, validation, and liberation of autistic lives, promoting neurodiversity affirming perspectives, and building and nurturing the mana of the autistic community.

My study and work histories are mainly in science and I worked in botany and microbiology research positions. I have previously worked for Altogether Autism and Your Way | Kia Roha as a live chat agent and providing research support. Among many hobbies I’m a gardener, a photographer, and a weaver. I participated in the iNDx exhibition of autistic artists in 2023.

I grew up in Te Waipounamu and live in Ōtepoti Dunedin with my husband and two teenage sons.

Mauri ora.

Rory has short, dark hair and wears clear glasses.

Rory Hennessey  

I am a specialist immigration lawyer with a practicing certificate and a background as a fully licensed immigration adviser.  My journey into immigration law began with my studies at Victoria University and further developed during my tenure as a Solicitor in Nelson.  Since early 2019, I have dedicated myself full-time to providing immigration advice. 

Outside of my professional life, I’m an avid explorer of New Zealand’s stunning landscapes, indulging in the quintessential Kiwi pastime of hiking.  I also have a deep love for travel and enjoy sharing my experiences with others.  This passion for discovery and connection translates into the genuine and secure experience I offer my clients, whether they’re looking to make New Zealand their long-term home or simply visiting.