Takiwātanga – in your own time and space

The first edition of the Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero for 2023 was released earlier this week. To celebrate, we want to share with you a snippet from the cover article. 


A series of five marae-based wānanga exploring takiwātanga (autism) from a Māori world view has offered a unique strengths-based lens for specialist educators, support staff and whānau.

Dorothy and boy walking on beachMarae-based Taonga Takiwātanga wānanga have now been offered to more than 300 kaimahi in five regions throughout the North Island.

“We are moving away from viewing autism as a ‘dis’-ability as it is currently perceived from a western paradigm. Through the wānanga series, the word/kupu ‘takiwātanga’ is used extensively as we see it as a mana-enhancing term rather than a deficit term,” explains Dorothy Taare-Smith (Ngāti Porou) education facilitator for the Taonga Takiwātanga Charitable Trust.

“Taonga Takiwātanga is a mana-enhancing term, which regards people with autism as gifted, or taonga. Takiwātanga, a term coined by linguist and educator Keri Opai (Te Atiawa, Ngāti Ruanui, Ngāti Te Ata, Waiohua, Ngāti Porou) means ‘in his/her own time and space’.

“Many whānau choose to use the kupu as it moves from a clinical term to one that is non-threatening, easily understood and encapsulates a sense of aroha and manaaki,” she says.

With a background in learning support and autistic mokopuna, Dorothy is founder of the Trust, established in 2020, which was initially established to offer professional learning and development (PLD) for educators and support to whānau in Tairāwhiti.

The Trust aims to educate and raise awareness about an indigenous perspective of autism. The marae-based wānanga programme was developed by Dorothy in partnership with the Ministry of Education.

Read the rest of the article on the Education Gazette website(external link). You may as well check out the other articles (Issuu website)(external link) while you’re there!

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