13 June 2018 – With a background working for airlines and in tourism and banking, Suzie (Shizuka) Haynes’ role as regional coordinator for Parent to Parent in Bay of Plenty seems a surprising career change.
Originally from Osaka, Suzie moved to New Zealand 17 years ago. She’s since had a family and it’s her two children that inspired her to take on the regional coordinator role, which also supports the regional needs of Altogether Autism, almost two years ago.
“I am a mother who has a child on the spectrum. He’s 13 years old now. I have been through the same journey as a parent since he was diagnosed at four years old. I can understand how hard it is, starting from the grieving and to come to this point.
“Using my experience, I can connect to people who are experiencing hardship at the moment and be the person they feel comfortable to talk to, and that’s something that I really enjoy. And it makes me feel good that in some way I can be the person to give them a little bit of lift in their lives, so they understand they’re not alone.”
Suzie knows how isolating it can be for some families with a child on the spectrum. Her quaint cottage office located in the Historic Village on 17th Avenue in Tauranga offers respite.
“I can create a place for families to get together and it’s a non-judgmental place for family to bring their child with their siblings. And if they’re having a meltdown, we don’t mind and parents don’t have to worry.
“That is the place I was looking for 10 years ago and I couldn’t find. But now I can provide that place for families is a great joy.”
Suzie organises the Altogether Autism network meetings for the region.
“It’s very beneficial for families who have a member on the spectrum because we can provide them with updated information about what’s going on and they can get to know families from the same region to connect with.
“Plus, there are guests who have already grown up with autism, so we can hear from them what it’s like and that inspires family with younger children. It gives them hope that children can be successful in their life.”