Julius and Eden Tipokoroa and Aporo Vano with New Zealand High Commissioner to the Cook Islands Tui Dewes showing the robotic bikes they just made. SUPPLIED/21110807
Autism Cook Islands’ fantastic Lego Robotics 12+ Programme for term three concluded on Saturday with a special ceremony.
session was attended by seven teenagers on the autism spectrum who have been a
part of the programme as well as the New Zealand High Commissioner to the Cook
Islands Tui Dewes and all Autism CI supporters.
Dewes presented certificates to the
participants and had a morning tea with the Autism family to celebrate the
success of the LEGO programme which will return in the first school term of
The programme which is a part of the
Building Social Confidence through Play Therapy was run by Craig Murray who is
the group’s outreach coordinator as well as five volunteers Maki Tipokoroa,
Penny Murray, Lynn Sword, Debbie Topp and Mary Kay Kidd.
Murray said that through the programme “huge
success has been shown in how the children have progressed throughout the terms
“Some children at the first sessions who
would just walk around the whole session are now sitting and engaging for the
whole build and interacting and successfully working with others.”
The teenagers who took part in the
programme were put in pairs with a volunteer using ‘Spike Lego Robotics’ with
Ipads. Spike Lego has 27 different builds with the teenagers having eight turns
each at practicing. This gets them to interact with each other without even
knowing it as teamwork is required to successfully complete each build. It also
encourages those that are a bit more advanced in building capability to be
patient and wait their turn rather than take over.
Kat Jensen, programme manager for Autism CI,
says the programme is all about “getting into their world, on their level, in
their time and finding their way of communication”.
With the goal of the programme being to
teach their children social and communication skills, she said that LEGO was
just the tool to do this “as play is a wonderful tool for helping children to
move beyond autism’s self-absorption into real shared interaction”.
She shared that a highlight of the day
for her was seeing one of their teenagers Julius Tipokoroa on his own accord
try to help one of the other teenagers, Isaiah Vano receive his certificate of
“It is moments like this that make
everything we are trying to do here at ACI so worthwhile. There were a few
tears in the room as we watched Julius try to coax and help Isaiah,” she said.
Makiroa Pitomaki Tipokoroa, who is a
parent and volunteer, said: “Thank you to the NZHC Tui Dewes and the camera
team for your support in this programme for our children, for being patient
during our ICT clashes, and for socially interacting with our children and
acknowledging their work. Meitaki atupaka!”
Autism CI thanked the New Hope Church for
providing the location for all their LEGO sessions this year. Murray will now
be focusing on preparing for the programme to return next year for both the
teenagers and for the primary/preschool level.