20 Feb 2020

Petone Autism Resource Centre a first in Australasia

From Checkpoint, 6:18 pm on 20 February 2020

Australasia's first Autism Resource Centre has opened its doors in Petone.

What started as an empty warehouse has been transformed over the past five years and now features custom therapy rooms, break-out quiet  rooms, a large expressions room, as well as office space for agencies that work in this sector.

Families with kids who have Autism say it will make accessing essential services much easier.

Mother of three Tabitha knows how austism affects the lives of those who have it better than most.

She has three kids – Mackenzie, 4, London, 3, and Oscar who is 10 months old.

Both Mackenzie and London are two of the 80,000 people diagnosed with autism in New Zealand which means there is a higher chance that younger brother Oscar could be autistic too.

She told Checkpoint having several kids with autism presents unique challenges, and she is welcoming the new Autism Resource Centre which will provide help.

It is a new purpose build facility designed to house all of the different services available to help those with autism, in an environment that is comfortable.

It is the brainchild of Autism New Zealand, and its chief executive Dane Dougan, who helped convert the industrial warehouse in Petone into what Mr Dougan calls a 'one-stop shop' for autism services.

He said the facility is an Australasian first – with lights, wall colours, wall textures and furniture all carefully chosen to accommodate any kind of sensory issue, which is common among those with autism.

The building also includes offices, a coffee area, and a yet to be developed courtyard.

Among those who will use the space is the Victoria University Autism Clinic - its therapists work directly with kids and their families

Before a facility like this was available, support groups and therapy sessions for families like Tabitha's had to be held in less than ideal locations.

But it is a community that is growing in New Zealand, especially as awareness of the condition increases.