“Connection and friendship gives people the confidence to succeed”
Shane McInroe, 26, tells us about how a change in school gave him the confidence as an adult to promote disability rights
“My high school experience was split between Christchurch and Greymouth, for family reasons. I went to school in Greymouth for two years, it was very backward there. They told me I could only do one NCEA subject, and although I was allowed to choose, I had to pick from a small list of approved subjects. None of the subjects on the list were what I wanted to do, really. I did hospitality in the end – I got lots of free food which was great! But it affected my friendships. My mates were doing other subjects, and at lunch everyone was talking about how many credits they had toward their NCEAs. I was only doing one subject – it was so embarrassing. I couldn’t join in with them.
In 2010 I moved back to Christchurch and went to Mairehau school and everything was different. I was able to do the subjects I wanted to do, like outdoor recreation. I was able to study with all my friends as well. I admit that NCEA subjects were getting harder, and I was assessed for support but they said that the support I needed was too great to fund. This was actually a benefit to me socially. Although I struggled through my learning, I was able to make friends and socialise like everyone else, whereas the kids with a teacher’s aide (TA), well they didn’t really connect with the school. The TA always sat next to them, ate lunch with them. They wore the uniform but they weren’t really at the school, they didn’t blend in.
My experience at school has given me the confidence and social skills I need as an adult to get involved with promoting disability rights. I sit on various groups and committees, I am the CCS Disability Action Local Advisory Chair for the Canterbury West Coast branch and president of the People First Christchurch Local Group and People First Midsouth Region. I’m also a member of the City Council’s Disability Advisory Group, the national Enabling Good Lives team and the Youth Hub working group. I work with amazing people full of optimism pulling apart all the negatives that are going on.
I gave a presentation at the University of Canterbury recently, where I talked about the importance of friendships for the well-being of people with disabilities. They can get these friendships through involvement in sport. Even if they’re not good at it, being part of a team is very meaningful, and this is where they will make their lifetime friendships. It’s enabling people to make those connections that is essential to setting them up for a good life.