WDHB benefits from two new regional Allied Health positions
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WDHB autism spectrum disorder coordinator, Sasha Naicker29 August 2012
 
Whanganui and MidCentral District Health Boards’ first appointed autism spectrum disorder (ASD) coordinators are confident that children with autism, and their families, are benefiting from the region’s new ASD service.
 
Between them, social workers Sasha Naicker and Sheree Wilton are providing a full-time ASD service for Whanganui and MidCentral DHB children and their families, who until recently had little or no support.
 
While regional roles across the centralAlliance region are not new, having Ms Naicker employed two days a week by the WDHB in Whanganui and Ms Wilton, three days a week by the MDHB in Palmerston North, is a variation on what has been done to date.
 
Further to that, Ms Wilton and South African-born Ms Naicker are two of many ASD coordinators to be appointed to any of New Zealand’s 20 DHBs. Ms Naicker says she became interested in autism while working for Whanganui’s Open Home Foundation where some clients were on the autistic spectrum.
 
“Inspired by their families, I researched the condition and learnt that if children are diagnosed early, the interventions and support that are available can make a significant difference to the children and their families,” Ms Naicker says.
 
“It’s widely recognised that children with autism behave differently with some children’s behaviour more extreme than others.
 
“Children with autism might flap their hands incessantly; others might rock back and forth for hours; some may need visual, tactile, auditory and movement stimulation to be kept to a minimum; others may prefer a firm hug to a light touch. Many children with autism find change difficult, stressful and unsettling.
 
“Children with autism may be very sensitive to things such as seams on their clothing and the feel of some fabrics; children who can hear sounds like water flowing through a pipe or a clock ticking which most people are unaware of. And with children for whom visual noise, such as paintings all over a classroom wall, can overwhelm them.”
 
Working with paediatricians, schools, parents, GPs, Public Health nurses and anyone else involved in the child’s life and linking families to the right resources is a critical part of Ms Naicker and Ms Wilton’s role.
 
In the meantime, Tim Dunn has been appointed regional occupational therapy professional adviser to provide professional leadership and advice to occupational therapy staff and managers across Whanganui and MidCentral DHBs.

Besides his former role of professional adviser occupational therapy at MidCentral Health for several years, Mr Dunn has worked across many MidCentral Health clinical areas. His career began in Whanganui in 1990 working with the elderly in what was Wanganui Hospital’s Newcombe Ward and then at Lake Alice Hospital. He looks forward to the challenges his new role will bring to his career.