Posted by Les Divers on Oct 03, 2017

Pakuranga Rotary recently assisted the Children’s Autism Foundation to have representatives at the Asia Pacific Autism Conference in Sydney.  The justification for providing that help was profoundly evident from the address given to the Pakuranga Rotary on Monday night by Service Manager, Gera Veheul.

The Foundation was established 7 years ago to meet needs of parents who were struggling to get support.  It now has 9 staff, including 5 Family Counsel Consultants.  Autism Spectrum Disorder is the name of a group of Developmental Disorders affecting people in different ways.  In some of the more severe cases development is stalled at a 2 year old level.  Those who are Autistic display areas of the brain that are stronger or weaker than normal – the visual part of the brain functions exceptionally well.  Some exhibit amazing memory skills and Autism is characterized by incredible honesty.  However, such honesty can have a downside because the lack of social skills include a lack of diplomacy.

1 in 68 people are affected to a minor or more significant degree and the condition is diagnosed more in boys.  Science has developed to a point where it can now be picked up in utero.  Although ASD is life long, some symptoms can dissipate with age.  The cause remains a mystery although genetic factors are now starting to be identified.  Other common characteristics include problems with the gut and a Vitamin D deficiency.

The Foundation is engaged in numerous areas such as the training of teacher and teacher aids, holding workshops on social skills and dealing with change.  The Foundation has no Government funding and it does not charge families who it assists.  Their outreach service involves qualified team members visiting in homes and providing families with the tools to deal with difficult periods such as change of schools and environments.  They have launched programs for under 5’s directed at motor skills, Stepping Stones - for parents focused on behavioural issues - and a Join In program involving both children and parents over a 9 week period dealing with problem solving and the development of social skills.  Much of the information assimilated from the recent APAC conference is being implemented already and new developments in the area of schooling issues and interroception (the sense responsible for detecting internal regulation responses such as respiration, hunger, heart rate and the need for digestive elimination) will assist the Foundation team to perform the very valuable role they do.  In answer to questions, Gera spoke of the Dandelion Program which has been set up specifically to help Software Companies and Businesses generally to access and locate Autistic employees and harness the exceptional visionary facilities many possess.  In response to another question, Gera spoke of a process for dealing with violence which can often identify very simple methods of eliminating the frustration that sometimes precipitates violence.

Graeme Kearns introduced and thanked Gera for providing such a fascinating insight into the condition and work of the Foundation.