National | Disability

Māmā struggles to gain mask exemption for special needs son

A Northland mother of four has taken to social media to vent her frustration over waiting for a mask exemption card for her twin sons. One has asthma and the other is autistic.

The whole process has taken more than a month and now it’s taking a toll.

Wearing a mask can be difficult for 14-year-old Te Kaha Rapata-Apiata.

“He has autism and is very sensitive around his head. He wears glasses, so having another added component makes it difficult to wear those together,” Te Kaha’s māmā, Regina Rapata says.

Regina tries to shop without her children but, as a single mother, she sometimes has no choice. It's proving difficult under the current epidemic limitations.

“Going into the stores and being asked for him to wear a mask, you’re trying to explain his situation and then having to try to put one on just to prove a point. Then the big meltdowns happen and you’ve lost your child. He does a lot of hitting as well when he gets frustrated, biting his nails right down to skin and will start to bleed.”

Rapata applied for a mask exemption for her children over a month ago but she is still waiting to hear.

“It’s taken a bit too long for us because now it’s resulting in refusal of entry. With the experiences that we’ve been enduring. It’s kind of like 'come on I need someone to help us.' I just wish they would do something a little bit faster for those who are in the medical system.”

Te Ao Māori News asked the Ministry of Health for comment on this story but has not received a response.

After we filed a request to the Ministry of Health, Rapata has received a call from Blind Citizens NZ saying it is in the process of delivering mask exemptions for her sons today.