Connecting through support

A Journey of Hope with Pasifika Autism Support Group

22 November 2016 – BRIAN AND BETTY Pulefolau set up Pasifika Autism Support Group six years ago after their eldest son Roman, then 4 ½ was diagnosed with Autism.

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FAMILY CELEBRATION: L-R Joel (11), Roman (12), Zechariah (9), Betty and Brian at Betty’s graduation.

In the beginning of their autism journey, they were trying to understand what Autism was and how it affected their son.  At times they faced a range of feelings including confusion, isolation and anxiety about their son’s future.

However, they had one question which prompted them to start their support group: “Where are the other Pacifica families and their children with Autism?”

Raising awareness of Autism within the Pacific communities was one of the reasons for setting up the group.

The word “Autism” was a foreign word to the Pacific communities and there was confusion over what support was available for families.

There is also a stigma associated with having a child with Autism or with any kind of special needs.  These beliefs can prevent families from seeking help.

All families raising a child with autism spectrum disorder have hard times.  Pasifika Autism Support Group wanted to help parents get off to a good start by empowering them with information, especially on what service providers were available for them, as well as promoting self-efficacy.

Strengthening parents and providing them with new knowledge and strategies about autism will give them the confidence to help their child.

Positive relationships help families to support each other and deal with challenges.

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HEALTH PROMOTION: L-R Beatrice Wright, Amina Tini, Narita Vaivai, Betty Pulefolau and Clarice Yerkovich

Family is an important foundation for all Pacific Island cultures, is central to Pacific people and many want to be present or involved during diagnosis and decision-making processes.

The group provided a way of strengthening family support through encouraging and welcoming families to bring their child and extended family members.

Morning tea was always provided and eventually everyone was bringing a plate of food to share.  Grandparents can be influential in encouraging and giving positive support to parents therefore it is important to have them as part of the meetings.

Families say it’s important for their cultural protocols to be valued and respected.  When families feel value and respected they engage more with the services that are there to help them support their child.

The Pasifika group encouraged parents to be proactive in developing relationships within Pacific communities by providing information and increasing understanding about Autism.

Five mothers in the group provided information about Autism at a health promotion event in the Otara Shopping Centre on Saturday 10 September.  By sharing their own stories, the mothers were able to engage with people seeking more information about autism or who wanted to join a support group.

For further information about Pasifika Autism Support Group www.facebook.com/PASGNZ or contact Brian and Betty Pulefolau on 021 216 7772.

This article was first published in Altogether Autism Journal Issue 4, November 2016 read the latest edition.