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Pajama Party . . . Dressed in onesies St Mary’s pupils participated in a fundraiser for Autism awareness and acceptance month last Wednesday. PHOTO: VALU MAKA

Onesies overruled the usual uniform dress code at St Mary’s primary school last Wednesday.

Onesies Wednesday was a part of a national initiative run by Autism New Zealand to celebrate Autism Awareness And Acceptance Month.

At the primary school some of the onesies on show included a wolf, a gorilla and fictional characters Batman and Chewbacca.

St Mary’s school principal Annie Nelson said it was a great day for the school to celebrate neurodiversity.

“We have a number of children and families within the school who have autism, so it is really important to recognise that people thinking differently isn’t a bad thing.”

Pupils enjoyed participating in a day which was different from the usual school day, she said.

Autism NZ chief executive Dane Dugan said the initiative was a “fun” opportunity to raise awareness on autism.

“One individual with autism will differ to another person.

“It’s like the relative but true saying: ‘You meet one person with autism, you’ve met one person with autism.”‘

He described autism as essentially “a neurological difference”.

“It is just a different way of seeing the world but it presents itself differently within each individual.”

A general trait of autism was differences in communication and social and behavioural thought processes, he said.

There was a range of conditions on the autism spectrum, he said.

“There are some who would need to be cared for on a daily basis, and then others who can live their life with little support.”

He was encouraged to see schools and communities supporting and taking a step towards understanding the disorder, he said.

“It is about trying to understand and better their living and learning environment.”

It was important to understand a person with autism could be triggered by different events, he said.

“I think this is why it is important to figure out what may be harmful or difficult for them and minimise those triggers.”

Autism Awareness and Acceptance Month was the perfect way to get people with autism’s voices out into the community, he said.

“We have a lot of people [on our online website] with autism talking about their experiences and what they have gone through and what they believe would help, and I think that is more important than anything I say.”