Dorothy wearing yellow smiling at the camera
December 2022

Uplifting taonga takiwātanga during COVID-19

Until recently, support for Māori who are on the autism spectrum has been hard to find, and hard to maintain. But the efforts of a Māori trust is changing how takiwātanga can support each other.

Dorothy Taare-Smith set up the Taonga Takiwātanga Charitable Trust to focus on the needs of whānau on the autism spectrum. Over the last two years of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Trust has been highlighting the different support services required to adequately meet the unique needs of takiwātanga whānau.

“Tamariki with disabilities, especially takiwātanga, don't function like other kids,” says Dorothy. “A lot of planning goes into the vaccination drives which aim to encourage whānau to take their children to be vaccinated. But balloons, music, crowds and prizes don't usually resonate with children who experience sensory overload issues.”

Dorothy says the Trust set up a new Facebook page to reach whānau and give them the autonomy to ask questions in a public or private forum. The topic of COVID-19 came up, and whānau used the platform to ask questions about carer support funding, kai parcels and whether they were allowed to take their tamariki for rides in the car during lockdown. 

Jamie Leigh Timoti, an advisor for Altogether Autism, tells us that creativity has been key for whānau wellbeing over the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly takiwātanga. “There have been so many innovative ways whānau have stayed connected with each other and shared content inspired by their creativity”, she says.

Read about takiwātanga musician Tihei.

Freestyling through COVID-19

Visit the Altogether Autism website.

Altogether Autism

Check out the takiwātanga tairāwhiti website and Facebook page.

Taonga Takiwātanga Charitable Trust


Photo caption: Dorothy Taare-Smith