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Autism’s Lego Robotics 12+ Programme for 2021 concludes with certificate ceremony

Tuesday 9 November 2021 | Written by Alana Musselle | Published in Local, National

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Autism’s Lego Robotics 12+ Programme for 2021 concludes with certificate ceremony
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.

The final 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 2022.

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 and sessions”.

“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”.

A group shot of the parents, volunteers, parents and executive team of ACI with the NZHC Tui Dewes on Saturday. 21110806

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 achievement.

“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.