Autism is a spectrum disorder, meaning that there is a wide degree of variation in the way it affects people; it is diagnosed based on the presence of multiple symptoms that disrupt a person’s ability to communicate, form relationships, explore, play and learn.
Every individual on the autism spectrum has problems to some degree with social interaction, empathy, communication, and flexible behaviour; it is not a single disorder, but a spectrum of closely related conditions with a shared core of symptoms.
Being a parent of a child on the autism spectrum president of Autism Cook Islands Gloria Rarere-Tinirau, along with other parents, is committed to the organisation and has personal experiences to share.
One of her twin daughters was diagnosed on the Autism Spectrum at the age of 2.
The family had noticed her lack of communication skills and behavioural and travelled to New Zealand for professional assessment, after the diagnosis they returned home to bring up their family.
Now 12 years old, her daughter attends Nukutere College.
“She enjoys going to school, the kids are accepting and nice,” says Rarere-Tinirau.
“We want the public to be aware of kids on the autism spectrum, it’s about inclusion, to be included.
“People are accepting and so are the children, children do try to include our kids in their activities.
“There is never a one size fits all, there are different symptoms, phases, stages and different challenges across the spectrum; and every child has their own unique abilities.”
Autism Cook Islands’ current project is to secure a much needed speech therapist in July to work with children on the island.
“Most of the projects needed are specialist services, the children have specific needs,” she says.
Also in the pipeline is to bring a diagnostic team to the island who can provide professional assessments for a Needs Assessment Survey; and to ensure accurate statistics are collected and support directed to where it is most needed, a needs analysis survey will be conducted.
Connecting more families together who have members on the autism spectrum is also one of the goals of Autism Awareness Day.
Supportive family and friends are important; but some parents have no respite.
Autism Cook Islands meets the last Sunday of the month, giving time for families to get together have a chat and let the kids enjoy themselves.
If you are aware of families with children who have autism, connect them with the organisation.
With the generous donations and support over the past two years, Autism Cook Islands has: conducted awareness presentations at 10 schools on Rarotonga and five on Aitutaki, workshops with staff at nine schools about recognising the symptoms of autism and dealing with challenging behaviours, hosting two free family Light It Up Blue evenings for the community to raise awareness, network events with families of children with autism and providing resources to schools across the Cook Islands.
“We appreciate your continued support of Autism Cook Islands and our initiatives to bring out the best in all those with autism living in the Cook Islands.”
Everyone is welcome to purchase merchandise and offer donations for Autism Cook Islands at their booth located at the Maire Nui park (opposite the Banana Court and IDCK).
Donation boxes will be at every CITC store on the island, visit the Autism Cook Islands Facebook page for updates.