23 July 2018 – There is plenty happening in our sector at the moment with two nationwide consultations underway, writes Altogether Autism national manager Catherine Trezona.
WE ARE encouraged by this government’s commitment to listening to the voices of a wide and diverse range of people, as seen in both the Education Conversation and the Mental Health inquiry.
Altogether Autism was invited to nominate six people to attend the education summits in May and feedback from our delegates appear in this Journal. We also met Minister Carmel Sepuloni in Parliament last month.
In addition, I attended the Learning Support forum hosted by the Ministry of Education in June, where we received an update on the Education Conversation and gave feedback on Associate Education Minister Tracey Martin’s draft Learning Support Plan.
Several people have described this large scale review of our education system as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to influence the future of education in Aotearoa New Zealand and we appreciate the responsibility upon us to make the most of this moment in history.
We have long been expressing our concerns for the current education system and its failure to truly include many of our autistic students, and we have a real hope that change is coming.
The Mental Health Inquiry is another badly needed national consultation. While we know that depression and anxiety is not an intrinsic part of autism, the reality is that many autistic people experience poor mental health. Our view is that this need not be the case but that major change is needed in the way we recognise and support mental wellbeing for people on the spectrum.
Thank you to everyone who completed our autism-friendly mental health survey. We made a submission to the inquiry on 4 June and met with the panel on 27 June, to ensure the particular needs of the autism community were made known. We will continue to take every chance to advocate for autism and mental wellbeing and update you via our website and social media channels.
We chose Collaborating for Success as our regional network theme this year, and I have really enjoyed meeting many of you as we hosted these meetings throughout the country.
Paula Jessop, Tanea Paterson and Myrlene Forsdyke shared their personal journeys at some of these meetings, and your feedback tells us how much you value hearing their honesty and courage. We give a big shout out to our colleagues at Parent to Parent, as they support Altogether Autism in delivering these regional meetings.
Explore Behaviour Support Services has also generously shared their expertise at many of our network meetings.
Although we are in the heart of winter as I write, we are cautiously optimistic that spring is coming, not just in the regular cycle of the seasons, but also in the ability of the education and mental health environment to truly see and support autistic people, their families/whānau and the professionals who walk alongside them.
May this hope become reality soon.