Waiora Tamariki is a newly established programme at the University of Canterbury that uses innovative and evidence-based methods to promote the health and well-being of children on the autism spectrum and their parents. 

This nationwide programme has been developed following many years supporting parents of children on the autism spectrum with their sleep difficulties, through the Good Nights Programme. It has since expanded to include a focus on toileting and eating/feeding difficulties. 

The team includes a number of academic staff, psychologists, intern psychologists, Masters and PhD students located throughout New Zealand who have decades of experience in supporting parents of children on the autism spectrum.

To make a referral or to self-refer, go to our referrals page.

Our Team

In addition to academic staff, the Waiora Tamariki Programme includes a number of highly skilled registered psychologists, registered intern psychologists, Masters, and PhD students.

Associate Professor Laurie McLay

Programme Director

Laurie McLay is an Associate Professor in the School of Health Sciences at the University of Canterbury, and director of the Waiora Tamariki Programme. A/Prof. McLay has decades of experience working with children on the autism spectrum and their families. Over the past eight years she has primarily focused her research on the assessment and treatment of sleep problems in children on the autism spectrum.

Sarah Leadley

Dr. Sarah Leadley is a Registered Psychologist and Behaviour Analyst (BCBA).  For over 13 years, she has provided behavioural services in homes and schools for children and young people with and without disabilities. Sarah is a lecturer at the University of Auckland and she also provides services to families in the community.  Her main specialty is working with children who have varied difficulties with eating and mealtimes.  Sarah is also a mother to two young children who keep her super busy!

Dean Sutherland

Dean Sutherland is an Associate Professor in the School of Psychology, Speech and Hearing at the University of Canterbury, Christchurch. His teaching and research interests include human communication across the life span, the use of alternative forms of communication and technology when listening and speaking are difficult, and the role of adults in supporting children’s development. Dean’s teaching includes ethics, culture, and professional practices for speech-language therapists and audiologists.

Jeff Sigafoos

Jeff Sigafoos has been involved in supporting people with developmental disabilities and their families since 1983 when he worked in residential and day programs. He was later involved in developing vocational training programs for young adults with behavioural concerns. After gaining his Ph.D. in Educational Psychology from the University of Minnesota in 1990, he became a lecture at The University of Queensland where he worked with parents and teachers to develop effective educational programs for children with autism. He was appointed to a Professorship at The University of Sydney in 1998 and then returned to the USA to start the Autism specialization at The University of Texas at Austin. He is currently a Professor of Educational Psychology at Victoria University of Wellington. At VUW, he serves as the Director of the Masters of Educational Psychology Program. His teaching and research interests are focused on improving educational experiences for children with developmental and physical disabilities.

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