Meet and greet
Anyone who has met Frian Wadia (whether as a Support Parent, Workshop Facilitator, Advocate for Equity in Education, NEGL member, or Early Intervention Specialist… the list goes on!) will be familiar with her high-energy, can-do attitude and great warmth.
For those who haven’t, Frian’s drive is evident in how she describes her advocacy work, “It’s always been about doing stuff—if you want the change, then you be the change. It’s also about using what I’ve learned along the way to give families a head start—to help them find their footing when they’re flat-out busy.”
Equally, her strengths-based outlook comes into sharp focus when she talks about her boys, who have varying diagnoses: “Khushru—our problem-solving genius; Kayan—the glue of the family and a total communicator through a few words and signs, his assistive tech device and a lot of drama! And our little advisor Zeus, who always gives us tips—including parenting and relationship advice!”
Meet Frian, Parent to Parent Vice President and all-round team player, who sets a blistering pace in turning stumbling blocks into starting blocks, while always inspiring others to take up the baton and run with it.
How did you first become involved with Parent to Parent?
About 17 years ago, I contacted Parent to Parent to get information about my first child’s diagnoses, and to connect with another parent who had experience of a deaf and autistic child. Auckland Parents of Deaf Children (APODC) suggested Parent to Parent as the services cover all disabilities, health impairments and neurodiversity. From then on, I really loved all the workshops and everything that Parent to Parent offers.
I remember there was one workshop about communication, and understanding grief—it was a two or three-part series. At the end of it, we were asked whether we would like to become a Support Parent. And I thought, why not? Being a Support Parent was my way of giving back. When my kids were little, my husband and I needed high levels of support and we were always asking for information from the Parent to Parent community. My husband used to say that it would be nice to give back one day.
My involvement has just progressed over the years, particularly in areas where I could call on my professional training and experience, such as advocating for inclusive education. A few years ago, I was approached by the National President, Andrea Lee, to join the board. At that point, I couldn’t. I was swamped and couldn’t commit the time. Then, the following year, they asked again, and things had changed at that point. So I said, “Yes, I can do this!”
Can you tell us you’re a parent without telling us you’re a parent?
I am used to catering to different needs and preferences and above all, I’m always ready to run! Mostly I dress in appropriate shoes, but if they’re not, I just kick them off to find someone who’s gone in a different direction!
I love shoes. I keep buying all these high heels and then they sit there. I remember every once in a while, and I’ll wear them. But even my high-heeled shoes are ones that I can kick off, or they’re platform ones, so I can still run in them—very practical!
Tell us your age without telling us your age (and, to make it extra tricky, you must use the number 40).
I went to Rarotonga for my 40th birthday, which is in April, and Ed Sheeran’s ‘Happier’ was released that month.
X 40th Celebration multiplication X
Tell us about 4 Parent to Parent initiatives you’re excited about seeing happen in the next 4 years.
- Supporting and growing families’ understanding of Enabling Good Lives.
- Increasing our visibility and presence in the community. Parent to Parent has always done a lot behind the scenes without shouting about it—our involvement in shaping EGL principles, for example. And it’s really good to let people know how long we’ve been here, advocating for change—the trust we’ve built up—and how we can keep moving things forward together as a grassroots organisation.
- Parent to Parent working alongside more disabled and neurodivergent parents and going further on that journey and exploring all the possibilities.
- Broadening our understanding of how to be te Tiriti o Waitangi aligned.
In x10 words, could you explain what you love most about Parent to Parent?
It’s a really supportive, informative and non-judgmental space for families.
Tell us about 4 people who have inspired you to do the work you do.
Four is not enough! We learn from everyone, right? So it’s really groups of people I can identify:
- First and foremost, it’s my children. What I see them go through, their experience. The challenges they face and we face as a family.
- Other children and families in our community whom I interact and engage with. People often share their stories with us, and I’m always inspired and motivated by them because I know that not all our families are able to speak up or carry their voices in the spaces that matter. And so if I can do that, I’ll carry their voices.
- Disabled people and neurodivergent adults in the community. Individuals who are striving to uphold their rights and to navigate a world that’s full of barriers. There’s a lot for me to learn from them regarding what they do as parents and as advocates and leaders in the community space.
- And ultimately, another space I’m inspired and motivated by is the educators coming through with neuroscience and trauma-informed approaches. We need a greater awareness of the impact of trauma, not just in the education space but also across our communities. This interest has led me to set up theNeuroscience And Trauma Informed Network Aotearoa (NATINA) charitable trust.*
Finally, please give us a x10-second elevator pitch about where you see Parent to Parent in another 40 years?
I see Parent to Parent growing, thriving and being highly visible across communities. I see Parent to Parent continuing to nurture and support understanding of family wellbeing, and rights for disabled children and people. Finally, the EGL approach will have grown resilience in our communities.
* If you would like to hear more about NATINA contact Frian at Frianwadia@natina.co.nz
Frain Wadia Bio
As well as being a parent of disabled children and Vice President of Parent to Parent, Frian is a coordinator for the advocacy group Very Important Parents – Equity in Education (VIPS), presiding member of the Lottery Individuals with Disability Distribution Committee, and a member of the National Enabling Good Lives Leadership Group.
Frian works part-time as an Early Intervention Specialist at Autism NZ and is the founder of the Neuroscience And Trauma Informed Network Aotearoa (NATINA) charitable trust. She is also co-chair of the Te Poutāhū Disability Voices Group, working on rights-based, EGL and trauma-informed approaches in education to improve inclusion for disabled students.