Saturday, May 25, 2024

Disabled youth forum is born

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Natasha Astill is starting a disabled youth forum for those with disabilities.

An east Aucklander is creating a disabled youth forum to raise awareness about various disabilities, have a safe and inclusive environment to share viewpoints and inspire change.

Bucklands Beach resident Natasha Astill has fetal valproate syndrome (FVS), a rare condition that is caused by exposure of the unborn baby to valproic acid or sodium valproate during the first three months of pregnancy.

“When my mum was pregnant with me and my sister, she was taking a medication called epilim,” Astill, 20, says.

“It affected me and my sister.”

Astill has multiple learning difficulties, speech cognitive issues and an auditory processing disorder.

While she was growing up, she wished for some form of support group or forum, and six months ago was struck with an idea – why shouldn’t she create one herself?

“I want their (people with disabilities) voices to be heard in a place that feels safe for them to be heard,” Astill says.

“There needs to be awareness around different disabilities and there needs to be change around how people perceive disabilities.

“There’s a lot of discrimination around disabilities.”

The forum is all inclusive – open for anyone and everyone, such as parents of those with disabilities.

It is a great opportunity, she says, to meet new people with similar stories, express points of views around disabilities and changes and raise awareness for changes that people think are needed.

Astill has created a survey which has questions about sensory requirements, dietary requirements and other basic information to help her cater to needs of those who wish to attend and make them “feel welcome and safe”.

She is also creating pamphlets to give to local schools.

Pakuranga MP Simeon Brown, she says, is helping her look for a venue for the forum.

The launch of the forum is unknown at this stage until Astill has enough information about those wishing to participate.

“There needs to be changes,” she says.

“There needs to be more education around disabilities. I think there needs to be disability discounts for different attractions.

“Some people aren’t able to afford going to attractions (e.g. Snow Planet) and fulfil what they want to do.”

Astill will be giving her first public presentation at the 2022 New Zealand Disability Expo on her experience with disability on September 29.

For more information, visit the Facebook group Disabled Youth Forum, or see the survey at

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