Our Education Team

Meet the team delivering education programmes
Education Team Members

01. Neil Stuart, National Education Manager

Neil has over 20 years’ experience working with people with autism, aged from 18 months to 65 years. He was a registered teacher from 1990 to 2014 in England and New Zealand. Since 1993 he has taught children with Autism exclusively and he established the first centre for children with Aspergers Syndrome based on a mainstream school in Southern England. He came to Auckland in 2001 to support the teaching practice of students with Autism at Oaklynn School, West Auckland and in 2002 he set up and designed the first purpose built primary school centre for children with autism in New Zealand at Te AraHou, Glenavon School. Neil was an outreach teacher for Mainstream Schools and is often asked to advise on the inclusion of school children with autism through the Intensive Wraparound Service and he has worked closely with families through his work with the EarlyBird programme in which he is a Train the Trainer.

Neil has written several externally evaluated autism specific education programmes, including FANZ, Way to Play and Tilting the Seesaw and had engaged and collaborated with Learning Support at the Ministry of Education in Auckland to train early intervention teachers and speech language therapists on how to engage young children with autism. He has also developed a programme for early childhood teachers that has been used by SELO, Ministry of Education in Te Tai Tokerau, Auckland wide, Waikato, Bay of Plenty and Hawkes Bay/Tairawhiti. He regularly presents at national and international conferences and was selected to speak at APAC 2017, Asia Pacific Autism Conference.

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02. Tanya Blakey, National Educator

Tanya is a mother of two daughters, one of whom has autism. She is an EarlyBird® Trainer and has worked as a Teacher Aide in a Special School. Tanya is a joint contributor and developer of the Autism New Zealand suite of education programmes, and she travels the country delivering them. Her valuable experience living with and caring for someone with autism provides excellent insights and adds a realistic, down-to-earth perspective to our programmes.

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03. Jo Charman, Regional Educator

Jo had been working with Autism New Zealand for eight years as an Outreach Coordinator in Auckland, supporting and working together with families/whānau and individuals on their journey with autism. As an Educator, Jo was also busy in the community presenting information and training to schools, community groups and other support agencies. Now as a full-time Educator and as a mother of 2 boys – one of whom is on the Autism Spectrum, Jo provides a unique perspective from both a professional and (often humorous and ‘real’) personal perception.

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04. Thecla Moffat

Thecla is a qualified Early Intervention Specialist with a Post Graduate diploma in Early intervention and a Masters Degree in Special Education. Thecla is currently a registered teacher in New Zealand and her teaching experience span from 1992. She has taught in primary school, early childhood and she lectured in the Bachelor of Teaching Early Childhood. Thecla worked as an Early Intervention Specialist with the Ministry of Education before joining Autism New Zealand.  Thecla has experience working with people with autism, aged from 18 months to his adult son’s age as she also has a son with autism.

Thecla always advocates for the inclusion of children with autism and other learning needs in early childhood and in main school settings. As a lecturer she developed a course which is specific to inclusion of children with learning needs (including those with autism) in early childhood settings for New Zealand Tertiary College. She has researched on the inclusion of children with different needs and has presented at different conferences in New Zealand. She has also written publications to different internationally recognised journals about inclusion for children with learning needs.  

While working at the Ministry of Education 80% of her caseload was working with children with autism, their families and their teachers. This certainly led her to join Autism New Zealand so that she could focus her intervention specifically for children with autism. Currently Thecla is the engineer of the Autism New Zealand’s EarlySteps Early Intervention Service for children with autism funded by the Ministry of Education.

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