Community Living in New Zealand
I was invited in October to visit New Zealand by Michael Kendrick, PhD and assist with instructing his course called Optimal Individualized Service Design (OISD). He has taught the course in five countries and in three different languages around the world, and taught the course 90 times over the past 20 years. One of the key features of the course is the combination of providing lectures on the theories in identifying the key requirements for a good life and then applying those theories in exploring the life of a real person with disabilities, often with their family as well.
The course goes two weeks and I was assisting with the first week of November 5-9, 2018. He will have another assistant instructor for the second week of December 3-7, 2018. But my work began three days earlier on Friday the 2nd, with introductions to the 10 focal people and their families. The people all lived in and around Auckland, New Zealand and ranged in age from 7 years to 58 years of age. They lived in a whole variety of settings as well, from their family homes, to their own apartments, with a range of group home environments in between.
On Monday, we met the 30 students and divided them into groups of three and matched each group with one of the ten focal people. Michael began the series of lectures on the needs people have that must be met to have a good life. The groups then met their focal people in the evening on Monday and the week continued with that pattern of lectures through the days on Tuesday and Wednesday and visits in the evening, with the individual, their family and friends, and other people the individual and family identified as people who they trusted. On Thursday and Friday, we listened to presentations by the groups on the ways that their focal individual was having their needs met, and the needs that were not being met very well. Michael then provided insightful critiques of their presentations and took the opportunities provided to review the lecture material as it applied to the unique lives explored. On Friday evening, I boarded a plane for Vancouver and arrived at Noon in Friday at YVR. It is a little disorienting to cross back and forth across the International Date Line.
Twenty of the students in the course work for an agency started in the 1980’s when New Zealand was closing their institutions. Spectrum Care is non profit organization that serves people with disabilities and their families across the lifespan.
One feature of New Zealand that most intrigued me was the way that the culture of the Maori people is respected and included in the life of New Zealand. Key phrases in the Maori language are used by many people in every day conversation. Maori rituals are adopted for use by organizations as “this is how we do things in New Zealand”. For example, the Maori word for family is Whanau and Michael and the students used this word and expected it to have the broader definition the Maori expect as well – that of three or four generations people all being included. (and here’s a little video on how to pronounce Maouri language). I wonder what it would take for us in Canada to be as respectful and inclusive of aboriginal people and their culture.
It was a whirlwind trip for me, but a great learning experience and a quick introduction to New Zealand as well. I’m pretty sure I can convince my wife to return with me for a longer vacation and greater exploration of the country. Thank you Michael and thanks to the Spectrum Care team for your hospitality!