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Autism NZ Gets Boost For 0800 Number

Autism NZ Gets Boost For 0800 Number

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8 July 2008


(L-R) Sovereign Sunshine ambassador, Kiwi actress Greer Robson, with 4 year old Alicia Byrne from Birkenhead who has autism.

Autism NZ has received a much needed funding boost for its 0800 information line which has experienced rapid growth in call numbers in recent years.

Autism NZ National Fundraising Manager, Bobbi Oliver, said the charity had received a donation from the Sovereign Sunshine programme which would be used to bolster its 0800 line.

“The number which was established in 2004 to provide information to parents of children with autism has been in huge demand, with the number of calls rising by approximately 300% since 2005,” she said.

“We believe that the rise in calls is due in part to greater public awareness of the disorder, as well as early diagnosis of children with autism by health professionals.

“Parents who have been told that their child has autism often go through a grieving process. We’re usually the first port of call for caregivers who are searching for information and advice.”

The 0800 number which operates during business hours provides parents with help and support, as well as suggestions for managing the situation.

Wellington mother, Bernadette George who has a three year old son with autism said she found the 0800 line to be a ‘life line’ when she first found out her child had the disorder.

“I was completely at a loss and didn’t know who to turn to,”Bernadette said.

“I wanted information and advice and Autism NZ has been and continues to be helpful. They sent me a parent pack full of useful information and websites and I have since attended their training courses. It’s helpful to know that there are others in similar situations and that we’re not alone. More importantly, when you are in an emotional state, the 0800 AUTISM number is very easy to remember.”

Autism and Asperger’s Syndrome are relatively unknown disorders, however, based on recent overseas data it is thought that 1 in 100 people (approximately 40,000 New Zealanders) are affected by it.

Aside from the 0800 line, Autism New Zealand will use the over $13K donation from Sovereign Sunshine to produce parent information packs and provide training to volunteers.

The Sovereign Sunshine scheme which is backed by Kiwi actress and mother of two, Greer Robson, helps under-resourced children’s charities by providing them with funding.

Each month the initiative focuses on a different charity group, with members of the public deciding via online voting which charity gets the funding.

To find out more about the programme or to vote for a charity go to


About Autism
• Autism and Asperger’s Syndrome are lifelong developmental disorders that affect the brain and makes communicating and interacting with other people difficult. It occurs in all racial, ethnic and social groups and is four times more likely to strike boys than girls.
• Because autism affects people differently – it is known as a ‘spectrum disorder’. Two people with the same spectrum disorder may not act alike or have the same skills. People with autism often have delayed language development, prefer to spend time alone, and don’t know how to make and keep friendships. Another characteristic is what some people describe as ‘sensory overload’ – sounds are louder, lights are brighter and smells are stronger.
• Those with an Autism Spectrum Disorder look the same as other people and because of the invisible nature of their disorder, it can be much harder to create awareness and understanding.
• While there is no cure for autism there are ways of helping, especially if a child is diagnosed early and receives appropriate intervention early in life. Specialist education and structured support can make a difference, helping to maximise skills and achieve their full potential in life.

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