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Teenager With Disability To Front IHC Appeal

Fifteen-year-old Josh Mitchell may have Down syndrome, but he wants to be just like any other male teenager. He plays sport, listens to music and likes girls. One day he hopes to get a job and marry. He just needs extra help to fulfil his dreams.

Josh is the face of IHC’s annual door-to-door appeal on Monday, February 18. He will appear on the television commercial, posters and appeal envelope. The appeal highlights how children and adults with intellectual disabilities can do the things they want to. It just takes a little more support and effort to achieve their goals.

Josh lives in Paraparaumu with his parents Helen and Ian. He is the youngest of three children. Helen says Josh knows he’s different from others, but that hasn’t stopped him living life to the full.

“He goes to the local college, has friends and keeps busy. What people don’t know is that everything he does takes extra effort. We expect a lot of Josh. He often seems happy, but can get quite stressed,” she says.

This stress started the day Josh was born. At the time the family was living in Whitianga. Fortunately, Helen had travelled to the hospital in Thames early because of the distance involved. When she went into labour, Josh became distressed. The doctor performed an emergency caesarean and rushed him into intensive care.

The paediatrician told Helen that Josh was very ill and that he had Down syndrome.

“All that first year we dealt with Josh’s medical problems. I was thrown into stuff I was not prepared for - Josh had hearing difficulties, a heart problem, and an under active thyroid. He caught pneumonia twice. We didn’t have much time to worry about his Down syndrome,” says Helen.

Josh’s medical needs placed stress on the whole family. So when Josh was two, they moved down to Paraparaumu where they had family and there would be more support services available.

Much of this support has come from IHC. Josh attended a local kindergarten with support from IHC staff. They use shared care where another family looks after Josh periodically to give Helen and Ian a break. Josh has also been on IHC’s buddy scheme where a teenager Josh’s age kept in contact with him by phoning or having Josh visit him. Josh also attends IHC holiday programmes.

Helen says she appreciates the extra help.

“Knowing IHC is there is important,” she says.

Josh is now at Paraparaumu College and will be starting fourth form this year. He is fully mainstreamed into a regular classroom and has been through all his school years.

Helen says that Josh is an important member of the family and the community.

“I’ve met some really nice people because of Josh. They will do anything to help,” she says.

Appeal Funds Crucial to IHC

When it comes to describing the importance of the Annual Appeal week to IHC’s work in the community, Chief Executive Jan Dowland avoids any potential for misunderstanding.

“IHC’s goal is to empower people with intellectual disabilities to achieve their personal goals and ambitions. We depend on the generosity of our communities to make this happen,” she says.

Advocacy, one of the critical aspects of IHC’s mission, is just one service that continues with the support of the public.

Advocacy is a range of services that empower people with intellectual disabilities to be heard in their communities and work toward changing attitudes and behaviours, and breaking down barriers.

Examples of other IHC services include:

- Day services - activities provided during the working week. Donor contributions help fund equipment, staff training and special programmes.

- Library services - IHC boasts New Zealand’s most extensive and valuable library of material relating to intellectual disabilities. The library includes a wide selection of international reports.

- Behaviour support services - a specialist service for people with behaviour difficulties.

- Services enhancement - the purchase by IHC of some of life’s important extras. Examples may include furniture and other home comforts, or recreational and day-services equipment not funded through government contracts.

- Public education - IHC promotes greater community understanding of intellectual disabilities and works towards breaking down barriers created by negative attitudes.

- Service development - funds raised from the community allow IHC to trial new services and innovative ways of supporting people with an intellectual disability.

- Family support services - examples include holiday and after school programmes for children with intellectual disabilities and sibling camps to provide opportunities for siblings to share experiences and support each other.

“I hope people will recognise the importance of the above services, and give generously during our appeal so that our work may continue,” says Jan.

IHC’s Annual Appeal Week commences on February 14.

Down Syndrome Fact Sheet

Down syndrome is named after John Langdon Down, the first doctor to describe the condition. It is a congenital condition which randomly affects about 1 in 660 babies.

Down syndrome is caused by an extra copy of chromosome 21 inside each of the body’s cells. It is a chromosomal accident and is not caused by anything the parents might have done before or during pregnancy. Down syndrome is recognisable at birth because of the typical physical characteristics and is confirmed by chromosomal analysis.

People with Down syndrome do have features in common, but they also look like their parents and family. Every person is an individual, with a unique appearance personality and set of abilities.

Telling it like it is

Moana Parker has strong views on how everyone should treat people with disabilities.

Moana, who starred in last year’s IHC appeal ad, has just been elected President of Wellington’s People First group. People First is a world-wide organisation of people with intellectual disabilities.

“People don’t know what to do when people look different, so they stare and say silly things. It’s best if they just go past and don’t say anything,” she says.

“Everyone is different. Everybody is not the same and everyone changes. If you don’t get to know someone because they look different you’ll never get to know who they are.”

She says people with intellectual disabilities need some help, but they don’t need to be told what to do by people who don’t get to know them.

Moana is part of the fundraising team at IHC National Office. She lives in Miramar with her flat mate and has strong views on most things in life.

“I watch TV because it tells me what’s going on and I like having friends who are kind to me.

“Everyone needs friends, no matter what they look like, and whether they can speak or not. We all need people who are kind to us.”


IHC is New Zealand’s largest not-for-profit organisation. It supports people with an intellectual disability, their families and whanau.

IHC’s mission statement is:

“IHC will advocate for the rights, inclusion and welfare of all people with an intellectual disability and support them to lead satisfying lives in the community.”

Intellectual disability is a learning difficulty, characterised by limitations in various skill areas such as communication, self-care, daily living, and social interaction. With appropriate support, however, people can learn skills to participate in the community.

It is estimated that around 11,000 people in New Zealand have an intellectual disability. IHC supports many of them by providing:

- Residential services which support 3,200 residents in IHC staffed homes, flats in the community, or foster and contract boarding

- Vocational services for 3,800 adults, delivered in more than 200 towns and cities throughout New Zealand

- Family/whanau services which include home support, shared care, respite and foster care

- Advocacy and the development of self-advocacy. Support groups known as “People First’ hold local and regional meetings, which help people learn to speak on their own behalf (self advocacy), and to socialise.

IHC was founded in 1949 by parents dissatisfied with the way their disabled children were treated by public, health, and education authorities. Parents started support groups, pre-school centres, residential respite services and adult training centres.

Today IHC has 43 branches, each with a committee of volunteers involved with advocacy, parent support and fundraising.

IHC is governed by a Board of Governance and the NZ Council, which comprises of the National President, two National Vice Presidents, 43 Branch Presidents, six Self Advocates and the Chief Executive.

The IHC National Office in Wellington provides financial and human resource services, information services, and advisory services. Information services offer an extensive range of books, videos, and resources.

IHC publishes a magazine called Community Moves. It contains articles on IHC services and the people using these services.

IHC is funded by government contracts, service user fees and fundraising.

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