Autism Connex is a fast-growing reputable charity group supporting more than 200 families in Taranaki. We have identified an urgent need to support our Autism community.
To continue and extend existing services. To provide a Taranaki-based Autism Centre.
To support, empower and celebrate autistics and their families.
Our Patron - Sir Michael Jones
As well as being an All Blacks legend, successful former coach, and a national hero in his rugby career starting in the late 80s, Sir Michael ‘Ice Man’ Jones is still being recognised today for setting up community trusts and even a high school, designed to help Pacific children in New Zealand complete their education and achieve their goals. In 1990 he was made a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to the Pacific community. In 2003 he was inducted into the International Rugby Hall of Fame for his achievements in rugby as an All Black and as a coach and player for Samoa. Most notably, he became a knight companion in 2017 for his services to the Pasifika community and youth. Sir Michael is married to Maliena and has three children.
From Sir Michael Jones:
“As Patron of Autism Connex, I am truly privileged and humbled to be associated with such a worthwhile and transformative initiative for our tamariki and their families living with Autism Spectrum Disorder. I am moved and motivated by the passion and dedication of the impressive Board and leadership team plus the many volunteers who tirelessly serve this cohort of our community who previously have not been provided and supported to the extent that they deserve. Autism Connex’s vison “To encourage, to support, to celebrate families living with Autism Spectrum Disorder” speaks to the spirit and desire of founders Theresa Tongi and her colleagues, to make a real difference in the lives of our children and their whānau living with ASD.
Aroha, care and compassion underpins all of the work of Autism Connex. Ultimately, what inspires all of us associated with Autism Connex though, are the amazing tamariki who the Trust was set up to serve and cater for. Our children are our taonga and a gift to us all, seeing them live to their full potential within a thriving whānau that is best equipped and supported to journey with them, is at the very heart of this amazing work.
As Patron, on behalf of Autism Connex, we are very grateful for the support of the wider community. It is a truism that it takes a village to raise child – thank you for being a part of the ‘village’ in the lives of the Autism Connex children, so that they will thrive, flourish and fulfil their full potential in life.”
Volunteer With Autism Connex
Volunteers are key to providing a fun, safe, and inclusive environment for families. We need you!
Our monthly Autism Connex Family Day is growing and growing. To keep things operating smoothly, we are on the lookout for individuals with heart for people and community, who are willing to jump on board and serve with our incredible volunteer team.
We’re particularly on the lookout for:
- People willing and able to help prepare and set up afternoon tea (we provide a fully equipped kitchen to serve & all the food)
- People who love working alongside children with disabilities and complex needs, particularly autism.
- People who can commit to being rostered on once a month.
If this sounds like you, please fill in this application form and one of our team members will be in touch shortly.
Theresa Upulasi Tongi
Talofa lava, mālō e lelei, o lo’u igoa o Theresa Upulasi Tongi mai Moata’a, Vaie’e, Alamagoto ma Vailima, Samoa. Both born and raised in West Auckland, Theresa and her husband Pat moved to New Plymouth in 2013 shortly after their son Henry was diagnosed autistic. When their third child Andrew was diagnosed at the age of three, Theresa resigned from her 12 year career in the Police to focus on being a full-time mum to her four children, Victorhea,Henry, Andrew and Viola. Now navigating a whole new world of takiwātanga, Theresa and Pat see the importance of regularly meeting with other parents with autistic whanau so in 2014, started Autism Connex (formally ASD Connex).
“This God inspired vision which initially started as a monthly support group for parents and their children, is now an unapologetic mission to create a better world for our autistic community! My hope is that Autism Connex will continue to create new and innovative services and supports that have value for autistics and their families”.
Dion Maaka (Ngāruahine) is Taranaki born and raised. With a Bachelor of Business Studies and a wealth of management experience, Dion has utilised his skills across the globe, and back home in Taranaki. While working in London, Dion met his wife Claire and in 2009 they returned to Taranaki to settle with their two children. Dion is the Finance Risk and Group Strategy Leader at TSB Community Trust. He is humbled and proud to be leading Autism Connex into an exciting time of growth and innovation.
Karen and Andrew Glenny
Ultra-enthusiastic TEDx speaker, Jolene Stockman (Te Ātiawa) is a global educator on diversity and inclusion. She is a prolific author, and winner of media, education, and business awards. She is also multiply-neurodivergent, including tangata whaitakiwātanga (autistic)
After struggling with her adult diagnosis, Jolene shared her story with a TEDx talk. She went on to feature in international media, and now delivers corporate training and works with families and educators to raise understanding and optimism around autism. Her presentations combine storytelling, lived experience, research, and practical strategies to support neurodivergent excellence and universal design.
Jolene lives in Taranaki and works worldwide. Her first two books about autism are out in 2023 with Jessica Kingsley Publishers (UK). As a working, married, autistic with two children and a degree, Jolene is excited to change the way the world sees autism.