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Logo alerts community to takiwātanga (autism) needs

Published by the Gisborne Herald

People in Tairawhiti are being asked to keep an eye out for a new Maori logo, because it could help a family.

The symbol is designed to serve as a support mechanism for whanau who have a family member with an invisible disability such as takiwātanga (autism spectrum). It was designed by Taonga Takiwātanga Charitable Trust founder Dorothy Taare-Smith.

“The lines depict a very steep maunga and the very difficult climb to the top for most of our taonga takiwātanga and their whanau in terms of services, rights, inclusion and acceptance,” she said. “The hearts depict the wrap-around support, understanding and acceptance that is starting to develop within our communities.”

Mrs Taare-Smith said she got the idea when one of her grandsons was in distress and the community stepped in to help.

“My grandson who is takiwātanga (autistic) ran away while on a whanau outing at Waikanae Beach. Luckily several members of the public came to my aid by chasing after him (he is a very fast runner) and looked after my other grandchild who was sitting by the beach.

“The dilemma I had was ‘do I chase after one and leave the other by the water?’ The experience was not nice,” she said.

Mrs Taare-Smith said when parents go shopping or venture out in the community, the symbols on their clothing would indicate to the public that the parent may need help or “the wearer has behaviour issues usually described as a ‘meltdown’.”

Gisborne resident Stephanie Smith also has a grandchild with takiwātanga and she said once people in the community were made aware, “they will be more engaging”.

Mrs Taare-Smith said members of the public could help by simply offering support like carrying groceries or helping chase after the child.

“What parents and whanau members don’t find particularly helpful is the unjustified judgement, the staring and the whispers,” she said.

The production of garments bearing the new logo is funded by the Esme Tombleson Trust.Wording denoting names, iwi or relationships can be added at the bottom of the logo.

Money from the sale of the shirts goes back into Taonga Takiwātanga Charitable Trust and is used for Tairawhiti-based extra-curricular activities such as swimming lessons, horse riding, and Christmas parties, which Mrs Taare-Smith says autistic children often miss out on.

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