Thanks IHC

October 30, 2019

People with intellectual disabilities and their parents owe gratitude to IHC which has just turned  70:

On 25 October 1949, 22 parents met in Wellington. A notice had been placed in the Evening Post the previous day calling for ‘parents and guardians of backward children in the Wellington district… to attend a meeting … to consider the formation of a parents’ association’. 

The meeting elected Hal Anyon as interim president and his wife Margaret Anyon as secretary/treasurer, plus two committee members. At the following meeting, on 23 November, 50 people formed the Intellectually Handicapped Children’s Parents’ Association. Within three years there were a thousand members in several branches around New Zealand. In 1994, following several name changes, the large nationwide organisation became the IHC.

Those founding parents were brave and stroppy. They had to be. In 1949 there was widespread discrimination against people with what was then called intellectual or mental handicap. This situation was a legacy of decades of eugenic assumptions in which disabled people, particularly those with intellectual or learning disability, were considered defective and likely also deviant. Widespread assumptions of ‘tainted heredity’ and shame meant parents were strongly advised to hide their disabled children away from families and communities in institutions and forget about them. Many mothers were powerless to fight the removal of their child in the face of state authorities. . .

Both our sons had brain disorders which left them with multiple disabilities.

Tom was only 20 weeks when he died. Dan survived five years without passing any developmental milestones.

Looking after him got harder as he grew physically without developing intellectually and IHC’s support was invaluable.

Just how good the organisation was, was summed up by the manager of the local branch when we were trying to work out what was best for Dan.

He said, “Let us know what you need and we’ll work out how to provide it.”

I served on the branch IHC committee for several years which increased my admiration for the work the organisation does in supporting and advocating for the intellectually disabled and its members.

They continue to face challenges, one of which has resulted in a mother taking the government to court to prove her disabled son isn’t her employer:

An independent disability advocate has filed papers asking the Employment Court to decide if people with intellectual disabilities have the mental capacity to be employers.

The government is promising to change this, but advocate Jane Carrigan doesn’t want to wait and is going to court. . .

In order to get funding, Ms Fleming has to be an employee of her disabled son, a relationship the Ministry of Health has already admitted is a mere fiction.

Independent disability advocate Jane Carrigan said for too long the ministers and their ministries have indulged in what she calls tricky and technical conduct, by creating sham employment relationships.

And in doing so, the ministers had removed themselves from their responsibilities under the New Zealand Public Health and Disability Act, she said.

“This allows the ministry to step back in the very cynical name of choice and control and say to people with disabilities – the majority of whom I might add have an intellectual disability – ‘well there you go, you’re the employer, you have the choice to employ who you want, the control to manage how your employment relationship works’.”

Ms Carrigan said that was ludicrous.

“The so-called employer is usually lying in bed with nappies on and has no capacity to manage the employment relationship intellectually. And even those people who are only physically disabled, many of them, because they are high/very high needs, will rely on a family member to do all the employment relationship stuff,” Ms Carrigan said.

Ms Carrigan said if there was an employment relationship it was between the carer and the Ministry of Health and she wanted the court to say so. . .

Thanks to those brave and stroppy parents who formed it, IHC’s advocacy has resulted in a lot of improvements to care and support for intellectually disabled people and their families in the last 70 years.

I am very grateful for the help it gave us and also aware of the help others still need and the battles still to fight.


Higher expectations of husbands than fathers

September 2, 2019

Jim Rose has a post at Utopia on research by Kathryn Edin showing women are choosier about their husbands than the fathers of their children:

Far from eschwing marriage as an institution, she found poor women idealised it to such an extent that it became unattainable. they didn’t believe that a marriage born in poverty could survive.

In a society that increasingly saw marriage as a choice, not a requirement, low-income women were embracing the same preconditions as middle-class women. They wanted to be ‘set’ before marrying, with economic independence to ensure a more equitable partnership and a fallback should things go bad. They also wanted men who were were mature, stable and who had mortgages and other signs of adulthood, no just jobs.

“People were embracing higher and higher standards for marriage,” edin explains. From a financial standpoint alone, “the men that would have been marriageable [in the 1950s] are no longer marriageable now. That’s a cultural change.” The low-income women in Edin’s study reported that decent, trustworthy, available men were in short supply in their communities, where there were often major sex imbalances thanks to high incarceration rates. This, Edin found, was why low-income women were willing to decouple childbearing from marriage: They believed if they waited until everything was perfect, they might never have children. And children, says Edin, “are the things in life you can’t live without.” As one subject explained, “I don’t wanna big trail of divorce, you know. I’d rather say, ‘Yes I had my kids out of wedlock’ than say ‘I married this idiot’. It’s like a pride thing.”

Marriage was so taboo among her subjects that Edin discovered two couples in her sample who claimed they were unmarried at the time of their babies’ birth but were actually not. One of the women had even been chewed out by her grandmother for marrying the father of one of her children.

The research centred on low-income women but this mindset can also be found among women with more means.

I can understand the strong desire to have children but how sad is it that the standards women set for fathers of their children are lower than those they expect in husbands; that men are acceptable as sperm donors but not to play the important parenting role in their children’s lives?

Women don’t want to marry ‘this idiot’ but they accept them to father their children.

Marriage used to be the institution that provided stability and security for families, for better for worse, for richer, for poorer . . .   now it’s an optional extra if an ideal man can be found and fathers don’t matter much.


Maya Muses

September 1, 2019


Unintentional balance

August 6, 2019

When I saw this on Twitter on Sunday I wondered how long it would be before someone took it down.

I took a screen shot and when I checked back shortly afterwards the tweet had gone. It was replaced by another with a photo of Justice Minister Andrew Little who is introducing legislation legalising abortions.

No doubt someone realised this photo was an inappropriate one to accompany such a story.

But it, unintentionally, gave a little balance to the debate by illustrating the intellectual inconsistency of one of the pro-abortion arguments – that it’s just a bunch of cells, a fetus, not a baby.

How can it be a baby when, as the photo shows, it’s wanted and loved but not a baby when it’s not; a baby if it is lost in a miscarriage and that is a reason for deep grief, but not a baby when it’s an abortion; or a painful experience when a baby dies in utero and a simple medical procedure getting rid of some cells when it’s aborted?

It can’t but we’re unlikely to see much if any discussion of this in the media, if coverage since the news broke is anything to go by. Everything I’ve read or heard so far accepts a woman’s right to choice with no consideration of a baby’s right to life.

There is an irony that Newshub’s exclusive breaking of the news showed some balance, albeit unintentionally, with that photo because as Karl du Fresne points out  anyone looking for it in coverage of the debate shouldn’t hold their breath :

. . . As the abortion debate heats up, we can expect to see many more examples of advocacy journalism for the pro-abortion case. Overwhelmingly, the default position in media coverage is that the abortion laws are repressive and archaic and that reform is not only overdue but urgent.

But at times like this the public more than ever look to the media for impartial coverage. Is it too much to expect that journalists set aside their personal views and concentrate instead on giving people the information they need to properly weigh the conflicting arguments and form their own conclusions?

That accidental photo could well be as close as much of the coverage  gets to impartiality and balance on this issue.


How old’s old enough?

August 1, 2019

Coroner Tim Scott said that a six year-old should not have been walking to and from school by herself:

Carla Neems was five weeks’ shy of her seventh birthday when she was fatally struck by a rubbish truck outside her Gisborne home on May 2, 2017.

In findings released on Wednesday, Coroner Tim Scott said it was “unacceptable” for Carla’s parents to allow her to walk to and from school with her older siblings, and children her age should be accompanied by an adult. . . 

Coroners have a job to do which includes making recommendations that might prevent future fatalities but there is no such thing as completely safe and blaming her parents for Carla’s death is heartless and wrong.

If six, nearly seven is too young, how old id old enough for children to walk a few hundred metres without an adult in tow?

This was a tragic accident which Carla’s family, their friends and the truck driver will carry for the rest of their lives but it should not be used to further curtail children’s incidental exercise and freedom.

If children can’t walk safely to school, address what makes it dangerous, don’t blame parents and provide yet more reasons for children to be mollycoddled.


That’s not how not to be a dickhead parent

June 21, 2019

Kate Forster gives her guide on how to not be a dickhead parent:

  1. Don’t be a Tiger Parent. Don’t demand they practise until they hate the thing they’re learning. Just because you didn’t get to learn the violin doesn’t mean they want to. They will hate it and you in equal parts in the future and hold it against you. Start saving for therapy now if you continue this.
  2. Don’t push them at school. Get them to pass and teach work ethic. My kid just passed her final year but focussed on her passions. She is now going to graduate with a double degree and is starting her Masters in what she loved since she was small.
  3. Don’t go away on holidays and leave them behind. They remember. This will come up in therapy. It’s called abandonment and it’s gonna bite you in the bum one day, hard. Real hard. Keep adding to the therapy fund if you keep doing this too often.

I’m not so sure about number 3 – most parents were couples before they were parents and there’s nothing wrong with a little time away without children providing they are well looked after in your absence and you also have holidays with children.

4. Don’t lecture your kids about not drinking when you drink every night in front of them.

Children learn more from watching what you do than listening to what you say.

But it was #5 to which I said a vehement no:

5. Don’t tell your kids to not try drugs. They will. You can’t stop them. Educate them about safe choices instead.

Taking it for granted your children will do something that is illegal, harmful, even potentially life destroying; and that could restrict career and travel choices, isn’t how not to be a dickhead parent.

Not all young people will take drugs. The best way to ensure they don’t is by your own example and by ensuring they know the dangers and consequences of taking illegal drugs and that they have the skills and confidence to make the right choices before they need to.

There is no 100% safe choice when it comes to taking drugs and a parent who lets their children think there is, is letting them down.


Lumsden maternity crisis

May 29, 2019

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