Rakesh Lachaiya

Master of Specialist Teaching, majoring in Autism Spectrum Disorder

Cultural awareness to help Pasifika children with autism

Pasifika children with Autism Spectrun Disorder (ASD) and their parents need more support and that’s a situation Massey University graduate Rakesh Lachaiya is determined to change.

Rakesh has just completed the Master of Specialist Teaching, majoring in Autism Spectrum Disorder. "I think New Zealand children are lucky because ASD diagnosis and related support and services are available here. But in the Pacific it’s not and there aren’t ideal special education facilities to help kids and families.”

He says, "There is little understanding of autism in the Pacific because it is unseen and unknown. Almost all the research is American or European based and hardly any of the research is conducted on Pasifika communities. We need to explore how Pasifika parents cope and how we can support them and their children in a more culturally-responsive way.”  

Rakesh, who came to New Zealand eight years ago from Fiji, did his master’s while working full time as a teacher at Mount Richmond Special School. He says coping with study along with working and raising a young family was only possible because of the flexible and culturally-responsive nature of the Massey programme and tutors. “The thing that really touched and motivated me was the empathy tutors had and their willingness to understand the pressures I was going through, especially when one of my close family members was in her last days.”

Rakesh says he really enjoyed the collaborative learning style. “It was awesome to be able to talk to other students online and learning as a team was a great part of my studies.”

Rakesh is planning to continue his studies at Massey University with a PhD studying Autism Spectrum Disorder in Pasifika communities.

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