Wayne Smith is well known to most of us as Assistant Coach of the mighty AB's. But when he's not giving his country 110% in the lead up to the RWC, Wayne is busy as Patron for the Foundation for Conductive Education. What's that you ask? Well it's Conductive Education Awareness Week soon, so we decided to have a chat to him & find out …
Firstly Wayne, we've gotta get this out of the way – how are our boys looking for the 2011 RWC? Feeling confident…?!
WAYNE: We are getting towards the end of the Investec Super Rugby competition and we are in pretty good shape (injuries aside!) We have an experienced team, two of the best players in the World have committed to the All Blacks (jersey over money - Daniel Carter and Richie McCaw) and we’ve won 19 of our last 20 tests. Whilst this guarantees nothing, it does mean we have the ability to succeed at the RWC. We know that in the past, the tournament has thrown up things that the All Blacks haven’t dealt with well. That’s our challenge – get it right at the right time and make the country proud.
Right then - now, in a nutshell – what exactly is Conductive Education?
It’s a programme for children with a motor disorder, like Cerebral Palsy. It comes from Hungary but there’s several centres around New Zealand supporting children to be as independent as they can be. The thinking behind Conductive Education is that children with motor disorders can, and do learn – they have huge potential to live lives as independently as possible and make valuable contributions to their community.
How did you come to be Patron of the NZ Foundation for Conductive Education?
I had a desire to make a difference. One of my twins (Joshua) has cerebral palsy, and Conductive Education is a saviour for many families who have kids with multiple disabilities. Often, they don’t know what to do, don’t have support systems and are worried about the future of their child. That was us (Trish and I) when we brought up Josh. We floundered in the dark. We sourced physiotherapists, occupational therapists, worked with mainstream teachers on how to help a disabled child, and relied on schools to give us some teacher aide hours. Today, Conductive Education is a one stop shop which provides specialist help to teach these kids skills that society expects of them and still allows integration into mainstream schooling at appropriate levels for each individual.
Tell us about Joshua - when did you first find out he had a disability?
Josh is now 28 - he’s finishing a BA in History at the University of Canterbury and doing some part time work and work experience. When the twins were two, Trish and I knew there was something awry with Josh. Specialists had told us not to compare his development with his brother’s, but parents know… When it was finally diagnosed that he had Cerebral Palsy, we were in shock but knew we had a boy with special character traits and that we would be ok, even if we didn’t have a clue what we were doing!
It's an emotional roller coaster for all new Dads out there – how did you cope in the early years?
Josh is a stubborn bugger and has a great personality (shaped through his disability, I suspect). We had our share of battles with him in the early years. It didn’t help that he had his sights set on being an All Black before he realised he couldn’t be. He used to run up and down the field in his U8 touch rugby team (which is supposed to be non-competitive) telling spectators the score and advising the referee on how to run the game. The tough times have been worth it, though. Josh is honest (as the day is long, actually!), reliable, personable (he’s like Norm in “Cheers” when he walks into his pub) and very bright. At the start we were scared, now we are just proud and thankful for who he is.
It would have been great to have access to Conductive Education back then – for all the support, advice and help you can get for the whole family when you’re trying to raise a child with disabilities.
You're obviously travelling a lot with the AB's, how does NZ stack up compared to other countries when it comes to support and education for children with physical disabilities?
The Conductive Education units are fantastic as they give families an option for their disabled children. We need more units and more fantastic Hungarian conductors which means more $$$. The government needs to understand that many of these children are severely disabled with multiple impairments which usually takes much more funding and specialist care than kids with one disability.
Any tips out there for parents who've just discovered their child has a disability?
Finding out puts you on a roller coaster – you realise you are going on a different journey to the one you had planned, but there is help and support to be had. Get in touch with other parents, talk to people and find all the options you can. If you child has a motor disorder, check out Conductive Education at www.conductive-education.org.nz or give them a call on 03 338 5430
OK – and back to the rugby – who's going to be our toughest competition on the field in 2011?
Ourselves – the All Blacks haven’t won the thing since 1987 which means they haven’t been able to rise to the occasion. We have to prove that we can.
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