Laughter is the best medicine

'Social independence generates self-worth'.

'Social independence generates self-worth'.

SOCIAL REHAB: Retired disability manager Peter Walters believes more should be done to socially rehabilitate people with disabilities, particularly those who have suffered brain injuries. Pictures by Liam Clayton
Retired disability manager, Peter Walters.

Peter Walters talks to reporter Murray Robertson about his work in disabilities and his views on how those with brain injuries could be helped further.

A man with 35 years’ experience in the disability field believes more should be done to socially rehabilitate the disabled, particularly those people who suffer brain injuries, and that includes stroke victims.

Peter Walters retired two months ago after a career in disabilities that started as assistant manager of Vanessa Lowndes Abilities in 1983.

He went on to work for the Rehabilitation League at Gisborne Hospital, then as manager of Workbridge, which he established in Gisborne.

Mr Walters then spent a year with ACC as a case officer, and in 2000 became manager of the Stewart Centre Trust, that helps people with brain injuries.

For the final five years of his working life he was a field officer for the Brain Injury Association.

“There is a huge difference between clinical rehabilitation and social rehabilitation when it comes to people with brain injuries, be they traumatic injuries through accidents, or medical injuries through things like stroke,” he said.

“Massive numbers of people in this country suffer from stroke each year. The stroke has created a brain injury.”

Mr Walters feels that organisations designed to meet the needs of brain injury sufferers of any kind have moved away from “social” rehabilitation.

“The sort of rehabilitation that rebuilds relationships damaged by such an injury, and helps with things like getting a driver’s licence, or a return to work.

“There is not enough emphasis on rehabilitating people back to living fulfilled lives, and back to regaining their independence as people.”

Mr Walters said people can be helped to get in and out of a shower for example — physical things like that.

“But social independence generates self-worth and self-pride, and that’s what makes us tick as human beings.”

He believes everyone who has had a stroke should be referred to the Brain Injury Association for some social rehabilitation help.

“I feel the Government should be putting it’s money where it will make the best difference in the lives of the disabled — more money into social rehabilitation.

“That’s the most important aspect. It’s where you get your stamp from, how you feel good about yourself, and have pride in who you are.”

Mr Walters said the disability field in New Zealand was hugely diverse and the dollars were hugely important for everyone in the field.
“Everyone’s running around trying to get as much money as they can for their own particular organisations, and money is hard to come by for most of them.

“The Government needs to co-ordinate the flow of that money better.

“Some organisations like the Cancer Society for example with their Daffodil Day, are very good at raising money for themselves.

“But there are a lot of organisations like the Brain Injury Association who absolutely struggle financially.”

Mr Walters said during his time in the field in Tairawhiti there were a couple of hundred people here each year suffering from some degree of brain injury.
“Concussion has become more of a problem. If you keep getting them and have two or three, the wheels can start to fall off for you mentally.
“I shudder when I hear about children who have suffered head injuries riding horses for example. I worry about them having a fall from the horse.

“It’s a long way down for someone who already has a head injury.”

He feels more thought should be given to children who develop behavioural problems.
“Did they have a fall for example from a piece of play equipment at school and suffer a head injury that goes undiagnosed?

“It can take 2-3 months sometimes for symptoms to present themselves, and who would remember the fall from the jungle gym at school?”

He also believes teacher aids who deal with disabled children in schools should have more training in how to more effectively help them.

Mr Walters said he has reflected a fair bit on his career since his retirement.

“Disability was a wonderful area to work in because I found that most people with disabilities don’t carry any baggage.
“I always encouraged my staff to put themselves up as subjects of mirth when working with the disabled.
“That set the scene for the disabled people. It encouraged them to have a laugh at my staff, and then laugh at themselves.
“I have always found that laughter is the best medicine.”

  • Peter Walters has served Tairawhiti in a wide variety of ways over the years. He was appointed a Justice of the Peace in 1989 and was a former District Inspector of Mental Health. He chaired the Disabled Persons Assembly from l990-1993, and chaired Lifeline in l993. Peter also chaired the Gisborne branch of the SPCA from 1988-1993. He was club captain for the Marist Rugby Club, and coached several of the club’s grades. He was coach when Marist won the premiership in 1984. He was also the first chairman of the OBM Rugby Club. Peter was club captain of the Gisborne Gymnastic Club from 1997-2000 and was president of the Poverty Bay Bowling Club from 2003-2005. While living in Darwin in l982 Peter married Gisborne woman Kimbra Morgan — “She is the shining star of my life!” he said. It was a big year for Peter because that year he coached the Northern Territory state rugby side, and also coached the “Mosquito” invitation team that boasted nine All Blacks.
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Peter Walters talks to reporter Murray Robertson about his work in disabilities and his views on how those with brain injuries could be helped further.

A man with 35 years’ experience in the disability field believes more should be done to socially rehabilitate the disabled, particularly those people who suffer brain injuries, and that includes stroke victims.

Peter Walters retired two months ago after a career in disabilities that started as assistant manager of Vanessa Lowndes Abilities in 1983.

He went on to work for the Rehabilitation League at Gisborne Hospital, then as manager of Workbridge, which he established in Gisborne.

Mr Walters then spent a year with ACC as a case officer, and in 2000 became manager of the Stewart Centre Trust, that helps people with brain injuries.

For the final five years of his working life he was a field officer for the Brain Injury Association.

“There is a huge difference between clinical rehabilitation and social rehabilitation when it comes to people with brain injuries, be they traumatic injuries through accidents, or medical injuries through things like stroke,” he said.

“Massive numbers of people in this country suffer from stroke each year. The stroke has created a brain injury.”

Mr Walters feels that organisations designed to meet the needs of brain injury sufferers of any kind have moved away from “social” rehabilitation.

“The sort of rehabilitation that rebuilds relationships damaged by such an injury, and helps with things like getting a driver’s licence, or a return to work.

“There is not enough emphasis on rehabilitating people back to living fulfilled lives, and back to regaining their independence as people.”

Mr Walters said people can be helped to get in and out of a shower for example — physical things like that.

“But social independence generates self-worth and self-pride, and that’s what makes us tick as human beings.”

He believes everyone who has had a stroke should be referred to the Brain Injury Association for some social rehabilitation help.

“I feel the Government should be putting it’s money where it will make the best difference in the lives of the disabled — more money into social rehabilitation.

“That’s the most important aspect. It’s where you get your stamp from, how you feel good about yourself, and have pride in who you are.”

Mr Walters said the disability field in New Zealand was hugely diverse and the dollars were hugely important for everyone in the field.
“Everyone’s running around trying to get as much money as they can for their own particular organisations, and money is hard to come by for most of them.

“The Government needs to co-ordinate the flow of that money better.

“Some organisations like the Cancer Society for example with their Daffodil Day, are very good at raising money for themselves.

“But there are a lot of organisations like the Brain Injury Association who absolutely struggle financially.”

Mr Walters said during his time in the field in Tairawhiti there were a couple of hundred people here each year suffering from some degree of brain injury.
“Concussion has become more of a problem. If you keep getting them and have two or three, the wheels can start to fall off for you mentally.
“I shudder when I hear about children who have suffered head injuries riding horses for example. I worry about them having a fall from the horse.

“It’s a long way down for someone who already has a head injury.”

He feels more thought should be given to children who develop behavioural problems.
“Did they have a fall for example from a piece of play equipment at school and suffer a head injury that goes undiagnosed?

“It can take 2-3 months sometimes for symptoms to present themselves, and who would remember the fall from the jungle gym at school?”

He also believes teacher aids who deal with disabled children in schools should have more training in how to more effectively help them.

Mr Walters said he has reflected a fair bit on his career since his retirement.

“Disability was a wonderful area to work in because I found that most people with disabilities don’t carry any baggage.
“I always encouraged my staff to put themselves up as subjects of mirth when working with the disabled.
“That set the scene for the disabled people. It encouraged them to have a laugh at my staff, and then laugh at themselves.
“I have always found that laughter is the best medicine.”

  • Peter Walters has served Tairawhiti in a wide variety of ways over the years. He was appointed a Justice of the Peace in 1989 and was a former District Inspector of Mental Health. He chaired the Disabled Persons Assembly from l990-1993, and chaired Lifeline in l993. Peter also chaired the Gisborne branch of the SPCA from 1988-1993. He was club captain for the Marist Rugby Club, and coached several of the club’s grades. He was coach when Marist won the premiership in 1984. He was also the first chairman of the OBM Rugby Club. Peter was club captain of the Gisborne Gymnastic Club from 1997-2000 and was president of the Poverty Bay Bowling Club from 2003-2005. While living in Darwin in l982 Peter married Gisborne woman Kimbra Morgan — “She is the shining star of my life!” he said. It was a big year for Peter because that year he coached the Northern Territory state rugby side, and also coached the “Mosquito” invitation team that boasted nine All Blacks.
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Adrienne Baird, Manawatu - 1 month ago
Thank you Peter for your years of work and dedication to those affected by brain injury. I hope that you will continue to voice your views and reflections for those affected by brain injury in national forums, most especially to influence ACC, which despite its Guidelines for Brain Injury has done little to implement its "own book of words" - which I suspect has not been read by the majority of serious injury case managers, whom I believe as a starting point should be registered social workers.

Jenny, Auckland - 29 days ago
Thank you Peter for your thoughtful comments about brain injury and your reflections from your wide experience.

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