There is an "art and a science" to Fran Fitzell's parenting.

She is a mother of seven, and her youngest two children, aged 10 and 12, have autism and ADHD.

Fitzell has spent her life in Rotorua, and in recent years has been a member of the Altogether Autism network while she raises children on and off the autism spectrum.

She spoke to the Rotorua Daily Post to mark Autistic Pride Day today.


"There's a difference between a meltdown and a tantrum. A meltdown is when a child enters into this zone and hits a height and has to come out the other end. In a tantrum, you can bribe the kid," she said.

"One is the need of the child to get what they want and one is the need for the brain to try to re-regulate itself and deal with a smell, a look, a day's overload, or some other form of sensory issue. So you just have to be really super aware and alert to that."

In Fitzell's words, the support from Rotorua's Altogether Autism co-ordinator Breanna Turner has been "insane".

"If we could bottle that woman and make 10,000 of her, we would be so much better. She just goes above and beyond."

According to Turner, "New Zealand has lots of work to do around awareness and inclusion of the autism community".

"As we live in a deficit-based society we often only hear the bad side of stories but people forget about the creative 'out of the box' thinkers who can be focused and driven to achieve great things," she said.

"If we can change the way society currently is to be inclusive of all differences then our autistic community will be able to shine."