The History of Autism New Zealand

With every step together, we grow stronger.
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Autism New Zealand has been a part of the autism community for almost 50 years and has become a well established organisation with 16 branches offering information and support as well as delivering education courses nation-wide.

In 1966 Dr Mildred Creek, an acknowledged autism expert, visited New Zealand. At the time, there were few medical specialists in child psychiatry; diagnoses were usually tentative, and dedicated treatment services were non-existent.

Dr Creek was an acknowledged expert and came to New Zealand to examine children and teach. She saw children in Wellington, Christchurch, Palmerston North and Dunedin, confirming the diagnoses and informing families that societies of parents had been formed in the USA, UK and parts of Australia.

One of those NZ children she diagnosed was the son of Marion Bruce. Marion later went to an autism conference in Adelaide in 1967 and while there met with Australian parents of autistic children. On her return she started her search in New Zealand for autistic children and their families.

By 1969, sufficient families had been tracked through IHC, the psychopaedic institutions and the Child Health Clinics to consider forming a Parents Association. An approach was made to the then President of IHC, Dr Donald Beasley, who felt that initially a parent body might be established as a subcommittee under IHC and asked Dr Terry Caseley of Christchurch to convene a meeting.

Nine families were represented at the first meeting and Marion Bruce was a foundation member of that subcommittee; she passed away on 25 February 2016 at the age of 90.

The first newsletter was published in February 1970.

The Association became an Incorporated Society in 1995 and has since continued to grow from strength to strength.

Autism New Zealand employs a full time Chief Executive who employs all other staff. The National Office is based in Wellington and there are branches nationwide. Its trusts and powers are laid down in its constitution which states the organisation's objectives. 

Memberships

Autism New Zealand has over 10,000 active members which continue to grow.

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