TIC TALK Podcasts

Exploring personal experiences of inclusion

TIC TALK 09: Dale Lanini

A podcast with Dale Lanini
March 2014
Dale Lanini

Dale Lanini

Educator

Dale is an Advisory Visiting Teacher for Physical Impairment in Queensland. He is experienced, creative, passionate and making a real difference to many peoples lives through sport and physical activity. A fascinating insight into someone who knows a lot about inclusion – and this one with a musical background!

 

 

 

Transcript TIC TALK with Dale Lanini

Peter:

Hello, and welcome to today’s Tic Talk. It’s a great pleasure to introduce to you today Mr. Dale Lanini, who is an advisory visiting teacher for physical impairment in Queensland in Australia and he’s been in that position for some time now. Hi, Dale, you might start off actually just by explaining to people what your role is there and then we’ll go into a bit of how are things around your work, Dale.

Dale:

Sure, Peter. I am Advisory Visiting Teaching, Physical Impairment. I studied to be a teacher, a special needs teacher. And at the time back in the 80’s, 1980s, you graduated and you majored in one area, and my area was Cerebral Palsy and Orthopedic Handicap, as it was called. You had a choice of intellectual impairment, visual impairment, hearing impairment or what was called CP&OH. So I did CP&OH which is no longer a course sadly, but it was a very good course and it was practically based on—it wasn’t based on textbooks so it was based on clinic work and journals and we were out in the field a lot and that’s what I loved about it.

So I’ve been a special school teacher since 1987 and while I was being a special school teacher, I have a strong background in sports, and I was writing out a cause and doing things. Lot of sport based with children in special schools. And when I got back to the coast from Mount Heiser, because Queensland you have to do your remote service, so I was 1600 kilometers away out in the Outback, Mount Heiser. Sporting Wheelies contacted me and asked me if I would like to be involved in a program I knew nothing about. And here we are, 16 or 17 years later. I’m very much involved in what is now SportsConnect, DEP.

Peter:

Yeah. Disability Education Program. Yeah, it was kind of a happy marriage of your kind of professional life and your interest in sport. It seemed like a really, really cool fit for you.

Dale:

Yeah, perfect, yeah. That’s always been my background. I come from an elite sporting family in New Zealand. My mother was New Zealand rep and my father was a provincial rep at various sports and my brother and I both were representatives as well. But, what’s always fascinated me is passing on a skill. Even long before I was a teacher I actually worked for six years in the real world before I went to university and became a teacher. But it’s always fascinated me that the passing on of skill, not just the doing, but the teaching.

Peter:

Yeah, and your work now is around physical education program, but I have to say, that would have to be one of the most imaginative and creative people I’ve ever come across in this industry. You can’t really write a manual for Dale, but I thought I’d try and it was a bit of a—kind of a failure in that respect. But, Dale, the sorts of programs you’ve been involved with for years, what are some of the critical hallmarks of the work that you do through this organization now, SportsConnect. What are some of the light bulb kind of moments and challenges you put out to people who come to your workshops?

Maybe I should expand a little bit more that Dale provides education around inclusive sports and physical activity programs in kind of workshops, but also in his regular work environments as well. So Dale, what are some of the hallmarks of success?

Dale:

I’m very much involved in getting people involved. And that’s what I really like to do. My latest big thing, and I like being provocative. I think if you are a professional in any profession, you need to be self-critical and I’m very self-critical of what I do and a lot of self-evaluation.

My latest big thing is what I’ve done with the person I’ve worked with, how is that different from them playing PlayStation or Xbox or any of those sort of devices. Cause I think sometimes with sport, we lose an opportunity. And what we do is we entertain rather than—right, I’m very strong on education. And in every session I do, I want that person to go away and take those skills with them. And practice those skills. And apply those skills and that confidence that they gain from a session with me in other aspects of their lives. I think that’s critical to sport. That’s the way I was brought up.

If I could just tell you a little bit of the background of how we were brought up in my family. My dad was a rugby player in Christchurch, New Zealand so when the All Blacks played on a Saturday in Christchurch, half of them would around at our place on a Sunday for BBQ. And what they would with my brother and I when we were quite young, is dad put a towel in the backyard, one of the All Blacks would say, right, kick the ball, land it on the towel. And if you didn’t land it on the towel you had to keep practicing.

They would add elements to that, so you’d have to lay on the ground, they would roll the ball to you. You’d jump up, kick the ball, make it land on the towel. Then when you’d see these All Blacks weeks later, they’d say, are you kicking that ball on the towel? And you’d say, yes! And they’d say, use a t-towel next, or use hankie, you know?

Peter:

Nice, nice.

Dale:

So to my brother and I, we were always training at sport. And we would turn it into a game. We would kick the ball over the roof of the house and the other person would have to catch it on the other side. We were taking skills and applying them but gaining the confidence and getting the framework and gaining the confidence to do other things. So not only were we developing our kicking styles or our ability, we were getting our confidence to use a kick when we had to use it on the playing field. It was a cognitive as well as a physical exercise and if it wasn’t exciting enough we would invent ways of making it exciting.

You yourself know that the famous book by Malcolm Gladwell Outliers of 10,000 hours, we were constantly refining skill. And exploring ways of doing things that gave me so much confidence for the rest of my life I think, in sport and in life.

Peter:

And it’s important isn’t it, you mentioned about challenging people, challenging yourself, being creative, looking for different ways of doing things. Those are the sort of things that to me make a difference in a workshop situation when you are with a group of people who are perhaps thinking about inclusion or about sport or activity for people with disability for the first time, it’s those challenges and it’s those creative things that kind of motivate people.

Dale:

I’m constantly challenging people at my workshops. I did a workshop for a sale ability organization, and they were lovely, lovely people, all retired people, living up in an area called Tin Can Bay, up in Queensland. And they just loved taking children out in their boats. And I did a workshop, and at the end of the workshop, I challenged them to do more than take children out in boats, because their end goal was—if the children from the local specialty school can be gotten out in a boat, they had a great day—wasn’t that good? I really challenged them, during the workshop: how could they make the person in the boat as active as possible in the sailing? Even somebody with multiple impairments, can they choose the direction that the boat goes? Can they hold a rope? Can they do something that puts them in the picture, if you know what I mean, rather than just being a passenger? How could we go from being the Playstation environment to the active environment? And that’s the big focus of everything I do.

Peter:

Now, we talked the other day, along those lines, around—I don’t really like the expression, but I know what I’m talking about—reverse inclusion, activities that you come up with that put the emphasis back on people without disabilities to adapt, to modify, to activities that are already suitable for people with disabilities, in that way. Could you explain that?—because that’s a really nice, a really good, approach, for people to learn about inclusion.

Dale:

In my role as an ABT, I see a lot of children, in particular, who have disabilities, who have a physical impairment, and who are quite threatened by daily life. And I think, sometimes, what we do is: we then challenge them on a much higher level, again, when we are including them in some sports and games, especially if we go straight to the end result, which is “you are in a game.” And I think that, again, we are losing opportunities there. So, if we’ve tailored an activity that would really suit the child with the physical impairment or the intellectual impairment, why can’t we get everybody playing their game, so that we give them a position of strength? I’m often saying, at meetings with parents or educators, “Is there something that this child can be a leader in?” or “Is there an activity where they can be as active as possible, and others can join their activity?” because too often, it’s a very threatening world. And children are very aware of success or failure. And if you are thrown straight into a game situation, then you are very aware of your own performance.

Peter:

That’s a great question to ask, isn’t it: “How can your son/daughter be a leader? What sort of activities, where they can lead?” Now, you can almost guarantee, a lot of the time, people would never, ever even ask that question or be in that situation.

Dale:

Exactly. And also, I’ve been a racing cyclist for 30 years. Every time I get on a bike, I’m not trying to be Cadel Evans, because I’d never last in my activity. And yet, many, many times, we’re putting children in sporting activities where we’re asking them to not have a disability. And that’s a really high place to aim for. And the elite will survive in that arena, but many won’t.

Peter:

It’s especially that issue of initial exposure to activity, and that success. People with disabilities, in those sorts of environments, can be very exposed to failure very quickly, as we all can in there. But I think, for a person with a disability, it’s a really critical moment, those first few moments’ exposure into activity.

Dale:

And really, like I said before about my brother and I, very few—very little time of your 10,000 hours is actually the competition. So, you need to find ways of developing your skill away from the competition, because, if you are, for example, a netballer, you are not going to have six other players on your team and seven other players in your backyard to compete with. So individual skill, and the confidence that that brings, is what carries over into the sport. So, why don’t we apply that to people who have impairments? Individual skill development will make it more successful for your inclusion, plus it will give you confidence to explore your own abilities, I think.

Peter:

Exactly. Now, you’ve been around a while—you’re the old guard out there. But we’ve seen lots of changes, in our thinking as well as in society. But in our thinking about how we deliver, we’ve changed over the years. What do you think, in the future—where do you think we will be more headed, in terms of this sort of work that we do?

Dale:

That’s a really interesting question. And it’s interesting, because one thing that bothers me—as we talk about a lot in SportsConnect: inclusion is a spectrum. But I see people at #10 on the spectrum, saying inclusion is all about not tailoring it to the individual needs, but just saying, “We have an inclusive school” or, “We have an inclusive sporting club—they’re in it.” And I have actually run a series of workshops recently that I’ve invented, called Avoiding a 0 or 10 Response. And that means: the 0 response is pure discrimination—“you’re not involved in this activity because you have a disability.” But the 10 response is equally discriminative, and it’s saying, “We don’t care about your disability; you’re in it.” And what I say is that, between 0 and 10, there is 1 to 9; you have got the spectrum to explore, the continuum.

Peter:

Yes, that’s a nice way of looking at it, because you’re right. It’s a fully—I have often thought that over the years, and still do—that the fully-inclusive, no-adaptation, no-change, is—quite often, that will still be disadvantaging people. Even though they are taking part in a kind of way—but it is still disadvantaging some people.

Dale:

Years ago, at teachers’ college, when I was doing teachers’ college in special needs, we used to talk about “least restrictive environment,” that line. And sometimes, full inclusion is the most restrictive environment for some children. And in one high school I go to regularly, here on the coast, on the Sunshine Coast, I do an alternative P.E. program for children, purely and simply to build skill and actually get them to enjoy themselves, learn themselves. That’s a big thing of mine. Sport and activity has taught me so much about myself, and I’m taking those lessons and teaching others about themselves.

Peter:

One of those things I had in mind in a list of things to ask you about. It is that that kind of sport—it builds resilience in anybody who takes part in the sport. It builds a form of resilience. You learn how to lose. You learn how to win. You learn how to fight through pain, and all of those sorts of things. How valuable is that for people with disabilities, particularly those who do very little activity?

Dale:

I think that all of those are big spin-offs. But I think the other thing that is really important in sport is the breaking down of goals—giving a big goal, like competing on the weekend, but what are the goals that come from that? For anybody indulging in an endurance activity, for example, the race is the goal, but the training is what you do here and now. And I think giving people here and now goals to focus on—even in my workshops, I say, “What I’m going to do is give you some strategies that you can use tomorrow.” Not the theory—I give you the theory; I can talk theory forever. But I’m going to give you strategies. And the same, we should be doing with athletes. We should say, “The long-term goal is the competition, but here is the skill that I want you to work on.” And you can break down the skill yourself, even more. And I think that’s what—those life lessons are what has taught me much that’s valuable in my life, I think.

Peter:

I think you answered this in the way that you’ve been answering questions already, but what motivates you to keep going? I know I mentioned you’re in one of the old stages now, but what motivates you to keep going?

Dale:

I am, as I say—as a professional, you need to be self-critical, and I learn constantly. This morning, I was doing two Year 3 classes of P.E. exam students who have physical impairments. And I’ve been teaching them how to adapt and modify games themselves, and I’ve been using—TREE is huge. The TREE acronym is Teaching style, Rules, Equipment, and Environment. They’re Year 3, so they’re not kids. I’m breaking it down to “PRE”—you must “pre”-play games. PRE means: what Place are you playing it at? Are you playing on an oval, or—it’s the place you’re talking about—are you playing on grass, or are you playing on concrete?—and then Rules, and Equipment. So, I’m saying to these kids, “PRE-pare to play.” And if you are “PRE-pared,” then the game will go better.

Peter:

It’s the Pre-Tree.

Dale:

The simple act for a nine-year-old is saying, “I want to play a game with a ball, but Thomas is in a wheelchair. Therefore, it’s going to be better if I play it on a smooth surface.” Just thinking that, the children are already—have shown big, big improvements in including these kids, not because they didn’t want to before, but because nobody actually taught them. It’s that simple.

Peter:

Trust you to change the trade principle down.

Dale:

But yes, being self-critical—that’s what keeps me going. And I’m constantly learning. And I do work, after-hours work, voluntary work, with people who have had a quiet brain injury. And I’m introducing them to themselves again, because I think what happens with a lot of people who have accidents is they effectively lose themselves. They lose themselves to the medical system. Doctors haven’t fixed them the way they would like to be fixed. And they have a strong memory of their pre-mobility functioning. So, the way I do that is, I get them to re-learn. And I really believe in that neuroplasticity, always; but I believe it in a practical way. That’s what keeps me going, as well, because I have learnt so much from the people I’ve worked with, especially young adults. And I carry that over into the work I do in schools.

Peter:

It is important, isn’t it—I have always felt that—about keeping learning all the time, which—I think, if I stopped that learning, it would be harder just to continue in that way. So, it is very motivating.

Dale:

I remember reading about a surgeon in the USA who videotaped every single surgery he did. And then, he would review the cases. So, if somebody complained about chest pain, pain in the area of surgery, he would go back to the video and find—think, “How can we avoid that pain in future? The stitching, the internal stitches, where we put them, how we did it”—and he was a very successful surgeon. I can’t remember his name; I’m sorry. But that, to me, is the measure of how you are as a professional. You review. You don’t blame the person who you work with. You say to yourself, “What went wrong? What didn’t go right? How can I change?” The old Mahatma Gandhi saying, “Be the change that you want to see”—that’s so true when you’re working with people.

Peter:

Excellent. You’ve even got a musical accompaniment to this Tic Talk, which is excellent.

Dale:

That’s my musical background. It’s Erik Satie—I do love a bit of French piano.

Peter:

Nice work. I’ll draw the Tic Talk to a close now, but we’ll no doubt revisit with you in the future. We might explore an episode around some of your ideas, for sure. I think it will make some excellent content for people. For the moment, though, thank you very much, indeed. May you continue, and may we continue, for years to come. Thanks for your time, Dale!

Dale:

It’s a pleasure; it’s always been. I often say to my SportsConnect friends—as you know, we had our state conference recently—“You people are my family,” and it’s so good to be in this movement, because we are all like-thinking people, and that’s refreshing. When you say “how do I keep going?” well, I go to state conferences, and we used to have national conferences, but they’ll inspire me, absolutely inspire me.

Peter:

Sensational. Thank you , Dale.

Dale:

Take care, man.