Autism specific parenting programmes


Liliya John, a researcher at Altogether Autism, compiled this information. If you would like to add to this or see an error, please email

Altogether Autism

Altogether Autism provides information on autism parenting courses held throughout the regions. In addition, contact Altogether Autism for contact details of the regional ASD Coordinators who work at the District Health Boards throughout New Zealand.

Autism NZ

Autism specific training programmes for parents/family/whanau offered by Autism NZ are:

  • EarlyBird® – Implementing early intervention strategies for a child not yet attending school

EarlyBird is an early intervention programme for parents/whānau/ caregivers, which is specific to the needs of children on the Autism Spectrum. The three-month programme combines group training sessions with individual home visits. Video feedback is used to help participants apply what they learn. At the moment, this programme is offered at Auckland and Wellington locations only. Autism New Zealand will be covering all costs for this programme so there will be no charge to participate.

Learning Outcomes:

The EarlyBird Programme will help participants to:

  • Understand their child’s autism.
  • Develop interaction and communication with their child.
  • Manage their child’s behaviour.

Who is it for?

  • Parents/caregivers/whānau supporting a young child (not yet in full-time education) with diagnosis or probable diagnosis of autism.
  • Up to two parents/caregivers from each family/whānau may attend the programme.
  • The family/whānau must live within one hour travelling distance from Auckland and Wellington, as home visits are part of the programme.
  • FANZ (Framework for Autism in New Zealand) by Autism NZ

FANZ is a two-day introductory programme about autism that enables participants to create a framework for understanding and supporting a person with autism. The programme is available in various locations including Waikato, Auckland, Dunedin, Wellington, Christchurch, Tauranga, Upper Hutt and Wanganui etc. The cost per person for family/whanau is $50.00.

Learning Outcomes:

Participants will learn to:

  • Understand autism and identify how it may present in the person with autism.
  • Use practical strategies to interact and support the person with autism e.g. use of visual supports, write stories for understanding, and teach new activities.
  • Support the person with autism in a variety of settings.
  • Prevent/reduce and better manage challenging behaviour.

Who is it for?

FANZ is specifically designed for family/whānau/caregivers, educators, health professionals, and anyone involved with a child or adult on the Autism Spectrum, who wants a further understanding about autism and practical strategies, to enhance the lives and maximise the learning opportunities of those with autism.

Way to play- Playing joyously with a child on the Autism Spectrum by Autism New Zealand

Way to Play is a one-day introduction to playing with children on the Autism Spectrum. Playing with a child with autism can be challenging, so the Way to Play workshop offers simple, easy to use strategies to begin playing joyously together.

The cost is $20 per person for family/whanau/caregivers.

Learning Outcomes:

Participants will learn to:

  • Demonstrate knowledge of the importance of play for a young child with autism.
  • Use simple play strategies such as pretend play, playing with toys and being a guide.
  • Identify methods of play such as, pattern, memory, variation and interrupting.
  • Set play goals.
  • Identify their role in playing with a young child.
  • Identify the style of play that best suits the child.

Who is it for?

Way to Play is specifically designed for parents/caregivers/whānau, health and education professionals, and anyone directly involved with a young child on the Autism Spectrum, who want some practical strategies for how to play in fun and exciting ways together.

IDEA Services

IDEA Services provides fully funded Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) Programmes for families/whanau and caregivers of children and young people with autism. The programmes are run by Community Specialist Services – a national team of qualified staff who have experience working with children with autism and their families.

These programmes are available throughout New Zealand free of charge as they are fully funded by the Ministries of Health and /or Education. They are for families who will benefit from increasing their knowledge and skill base and who may require specialist intervention for their child/young person with autism.

  • ASD Plus

ASD Plus aims to increase parental knowledge and skill in supporting their pre-school child with autism. This programme is suited for parents of children under the age of 6, who have not yet started school, with a diagnosis or probable diagnosis of ASD. It is person-centred and individualised and participants learn about ASD in relation to a range of topics over 7 modules. ASD Plus is delivered throughout the country by IDEA Services and jointly funded by Ministries of Health and Education.  Depending on the family’s needs ASD Plus can be delivered  via group sessions or individual sessions or through distance learning.

  • Growing up with Autism

The Growing up with Autism programme is designed to increase parental knowledge and skill in supporting their adolescent with autism. It is a 20-week evidence based programme for parents/caregivers of adolescents aged 11-16 years’ old who have a diagnosis of autism and over that time families will attend 10 group and 10 individual sessions.

This programme is available all over New Zealand at free of cost to families. Registrations for this programme can be made by families directly or through a health professional on behalf of a family, with their permission.

  • Autism for Fathers- Auckland only

Autism for Fathers is a FREE introductory workshop that gives fathers the opportunity to find out about autism first-hand, have their questions answered and share their experiences with other blokes. Many Dads are unable to attend Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) courses held during the day and rely on information passed on by Mum and other caregivers. So this workshop is run during evenings (6.30 pm-8.30 pm).

Hanen Centre training programme for parents

  • More than Words ®

The Hanen Programme for parents of children with Autism Spectrum Disorders/Social Communication Difficulties was developed by the Hanen Centre to meet the needs of children with ASD. The programme recognises that parents are the most important people in their child’s life and that the child’s every day activities are the context for learning to communicate.

The More Than Words® Programme was designed specifically for parents of children ages 5 and under on the autism spectrum. Addressing the unique needs of these children, the programme provides parents with the tools, strategies and support they need to help their children reach their full communication potential. The programme is being offered at the McKenzie Centre, Hamilton, Waikato. It is delivered free to those children who are enrolled at the McKenzie Centre.

The More than Words® Programme is organised around four major goals:

  • Improved two-way interaction
  • More mature and conventional ways of communicating
  • Better skills in communicating for social purposes
  • An improved understanding of language

Parents learn how to help their children interact and communicate during activities and conversations that occur naturally throughout the day. Throughout the programme, they share ideas with and receive support from other parents who are going through similar experiences.

Children’s Autism Foundation

Children’s Autism Foundation offers unique services to guide, support and provide practical, family-centred solutions to parents with children on the spectrum. The services offered are:

  • Family Support

This programme is designed as a holistic ‘hands on’ outreach service, led by the family’s priorities and values with guidance from a trained and experienced staff member. Families can access this service when their child has been recently diagnosed with ASD, but is also available during difficult transition periods.

Intensity of a family’s involvement depends on their specific needs, such as regular home visits, phone calls, as well as providing guidance in implementing strategies and concepts learned at workshops.

  • Stepping Stones Triple-P Positive Parenting Programme

It is an early intervention strategy for families who have a child between 2 years and 12 years. Stepping Stones Triple P aims to increase parental competence and confidence in raising children with disabilities (including autism) by:

  • Increasing parents’ competence in managing common behaviour problems and developmental issues found among children with disabilities (including autism).
  • Reducing parents’ use of coercive and punitive methods of disciplining children.
  • Improving parents’ communication about parenting issues.
  • Reducing parenting stress associated with raising children.

Primary Care Triple P Stepping Stones programme

This programme consists of a series of brief counselling sessions over the time space of about 2 months. You’ll either meet at home and sessions over the phone are also possible. You’ll meet to tackle specific behaviours or issues that are particularly worrying you. You could discuss anything from your child’s fear and anxiety to mealtime dramas or disruptive behaviour. You’ll be given a targeted Stepping Stones booklet with more information to help you manage the problem at home.

Standard Triple P Stepping Stones programme

This programme consists of 8-10 home visits, including two sessions of assessment, two sessions on positive parenting skills, 3 practice sessions, two sessions on planned activities training and a closure session. This programme is more in-depth and is recommended for families with significant problems at home. Parents will be shown excerpts of the DVD ‘A survival guide for families with a child who has a disability’ and given the Stepping Stones Triple P family workbook.

The Children’s Autism Foundation offers the Positive Parenting Programme for $40 per session but only in Auckland.