One of the things that struck me while visiting Biwako Gakuen was the amazing bathroom that I went into. There was submersible bath, a plinth that got pushed into a cavern to which a spray shower could be used, and a plinth for washing all in a large room. I heard the statements in my head that may be made by people in Australia “oh terrible, what about privacy”. But in Japan concepts of privacy are very different. Communal bathing is not uncommon in the steaming hot Japanese bath.
It took me back to my visit to an institution in the Netherlands where shared bedrooms were used. I was challenged with the perspective of in whose best interest was it to be in a “private” bedroom particularly when you had a physical disability, vision impairment, and intellectual disability. I’ve been struck by this thought – what is the difference between a seclusion room and a private bedroom.
Traveling to different cultures is enormously challenging. What are the absolutes in life quality? What are our culturally imposed norms? What is in the best interest of the person with PIMD – what matters to them?
So a couple of weeks ago I had the pleasure of attending the Asia-Pacific IASSID PIMD roundtable. There were presenters from Japan, Malaysia, Vietnam, Taiwan, and me. There were also many poster presentations. On the second day there was a service visit – more about that in a moment.
The trip was fascinating. I would love to spend more time translating the Japanese practice to the English speaking world. Japan has a large and long run association focusing on what they called SMID: Severe and Multiple Intellectual Disability. This includes families, doctors, allied health. It is very active. Within that is people with PIMD.
Additionally they have a large number of people considered to be Medical Care Dependent Group (MCDG). These are people who largely have tracheotomy, ventilation, IV sustenance, and other medical complications in addition to severe ID. It was fascinating finding out more about this group. I met some of these adults. They are a growing number in Japan. I need to find out more about their presence in Australia. Issues for them cut to the core of whose lives are seen as viable.
I had the pleasure of visiting Biwako Gakuen http://www.biwakogakuen.or.jp/ (this site is in Japanese, but you can get a general idea by running through it in a translator like Google Translate). I saw some excellent support here with the most profoundly disabled people that I have met. I observed and interacted with people in small http://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gifgroups (no more than 8). There always seemed thttp://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gifo be present engaged staff and volunteers attending to people on an emotional level.
One of the developers of the institution was Kazuo Itoga. A brief biography of him can be found at http://www.itogazaidan.jp/english/brief_biography/index.htm. He said “We are not seeking pity in bringing the light of the world to these children, rather polishing them since the shine brightly by themselves.”
I’ll write down further thoughts about the visit in the coming weeks…