Imagine raising a child into adolescence and them never having a weekend away from home.

That's the reality for many New Zealand families raising kids on the Austism spectrum.

Alex Davison has a knack for jigsaw puzzles... and she's on the spectrum because she has Aspergers.

Eighteen-year-old Alex also enjoys going on camps and excursions with Recreate NZ - an organisation providing opportunities for young people with disabilities.


Her mother, Darlene Thomas says it means Alex can go kayaking, hiking, rafting, abseiling and performing in talent quests.

"The things like the Recreate camps are just fabulous because she doesn't have a close circle of friends or like-minded people she can just go and have fun with," Darlene said.

Now those activities are much more accessible because Recreate NZ is offering programmes specifically for disabled youth in the Waikato and Bay of Plenty regions.

That will make it much easier for Alex and others to go to social and learning activities for disabled youth, because it will be much closer to home.

"It'll be a lot easier because I usually get picked up at Auckland or somewhere else but, when the Waikato programme came, I thought it would be a lot easier," Alex said.

Recreate national programme co-ordinator Nicola Keyworth says the new regional programme offers an opportunity for the disabled to gain confidence, socialise and learn life and work skills.

"We see such an increase in self-confidence and self-belief that they can do things for themselves.

"We see them develop in very small and minute ways which may not seem that significant to people that are able-bodied, but we see little progressions in things... like meal preparation and knife handling skills," said Nicola.

"You see them change and become a lot more of who they're meant to be and lot more confident in themselves, more self-awareness.

"And I guess that's from being accepted and finding a place of belonging."

Nicola says many young people are often excluded in mainstream society and Recreate is helping to break down that barrier and give disabled youth a place to go - and also be a respite for parents.

"It's just lovely to see families benefit a lot as well because parents are often the twenty-four-seven carer for their child," she said.

"We had one young man the other weekend, he's 27. He had his very first weekend away from home, away from Mum and Dad."

Alex's Mum, Darlene confirmed the value of Recreate.

"Every time Alex has been away she comes back happy.

"They just take such good care of the kids.

"I think just knowing Alex is growing and her independence is growing and she's having fun with like-minded people and meeting a whole new group of friends and she's in a safe environment."

Volunteers to facilitate Recreate programmes are always needed.

More information about the programmes and how to get involved is available at or on their Facebook.

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