Autism Connex is a non-profit organisation which was started in 2014 by New Plymouth locals Pat and Theresa Tongi. After two of their four children were diagnosed with Autism, Theresa and Pat saw the need to support and celebrate families in New Plymouth walking a similar journey.
The Autism Connex Family Day meet every month where a dedicated team of 25 volunteers create a relaxing environment where families are given the rare opportunity to relax and meet with other families. This is also the chance for their children to play in a fun and friendly environment where they are safe and their behaviours are not judged. Other monthly events include the popular ‘Mum’s night out’, ‘Coffee Morning’ and ‘Men’s breakfast’.
Autism Connex has recently become a Registered Charitable Trust with 11 board members with their newly appointed Patron, Sir Michael Jones. This year has also seen the start of a new collaborative initiative with the TDHB. This has been the development and delivery of a post-diagnosis program which aims to help support parents at the start of their autism journey.
Currently operating from The Fred Tucker Memorial Community Centre in Bell Block, and with an average of 30 families in attendance every month, this venue is quickly becoming too small for what they would like to achieve.
Consequently, Autism Connex will continue to fundraise towards establishing a much needed, purpose-built Autism Centre here in New Plymouth. This multi-purposed complex would allow Autism Connex to continue their current program for families and extend to include additional services that are desperately needed in New Plymouth. Services such as sibling support, respite care, vocational services, holiday programs for special needs children, sensory gyms and sensory rooms. Unfortunately, there are no facilities of this kind in New Zealand so Autism Connex hope to build the first in Taranaki.