Staying healthy in Japan

Education Features Health - May 6th, 1988

by Elyse M. Rogers

TOKYO INTERNATIONAL LEARNING COMMUNITY

Some time ago I wrote a column on the ”Support Group for Parents of Children with Special Needs.” Last fall, this group began a new and very ambitious project—a school. It was founded to provide edu­cation in English for children whose needs had not been ac­commodated in existing Japan Council of International Schools (JOS) member organizations.

The Tokyo International Learning Center was chosen as the name to reflect the belief of the group that “we are all learning, children and adults alike, and that participation in a community created to include people with a broad spectrum of handicaps would hold many lessons for everyone who chooses to become involved.”

The new school for handicapped children in the foreign community is called the Tokyo International Learning Com­munity (TILC) and is located in the Tokyo Baptist Church (see address and phone at end of column). The use of class­rooms for the program were generously donated by the church, which has been a life-saver for the group. Not only is the Tokyo Baptist Church conveniently located, but also we all know how expensive any type of space (even inconveni­ently located space) is in To­kyo. The school was begun in October of 1987.

TEACHERS & STUDENTS

There are two well-qualified teachers at the school.

1) Birgit Zorb Serizawa is German born and trained in special education. Since she is married to a Japanese, Mrs. Serizawa will hopefully pro­vide continuity in the teaching staff.

2) Cathleen Rogers is U.S. born and trained. Unfortunately Mrs. Rogers will be returning to America in June, so the school board is actively look­ing for a new teacher.

Currently there are three students in the class, but it is believed that more parents will enroll their handicapped child­ren when they learn the school is available. The school se­mester is the same as the other international schools in Tokyo, as is the tuition for the school year. However, if specific therapy (speech, occupational or physio), the family is asked to pay for that separately.

VOLUNTEERS

The school has been fortu­nate in having many dedicated volunteers who donate their time and energy to the pro­gram. The volunteers often “bring themselves” to the program, so to speak. For ex­ample, Ida De Leon called to ask if the school had any in-service training for volunteers and promptly became involved doing typing and also helping in the classrooms.

Another woman, Fumiyo Yamazaki, learned about the group through a friend of one of parents of the group. She has an M.A. degree in special education and now donates four hours per week in the classrooms. (When she was in the United States, Yamazaki organized a Support Group for Japanese Parents of Children with Special Needs.)

Even the physicians are get­ting into the act. Joseph Y. Ishikawa M.D., one of the physicians who serves the for­eign communi­ty in Tokyo, gave the phone number of the group to a new mother who had given birth to a Down’s Syndrome child. The mo­ther, as you can ELYSE imagine, desperately wanted in­formation on her child’s con­dition and was relieved to know there was an organization and a school set up for such child­ren.

Remember the old saying “All you have to do is ask?” In organizations needing volun­teers, sometimes that seems like an impossible dream, but not so with TILC.

Recently one of the teachers was asked by a board member, “What else do you need?” The teacher laughed and suggested, in jest, “A secretary? A social worker?” The reply, “No prob­lem.” Believe it or not, secre­tarial skills were offered by one board member and social worker skills by yet another. That’s what I call a “working board.”

In still another incident, community volunteers and par­ents got together for a Workshop Day. The object was to make handicrafts and fund-raising materials. The day was so enjoyable the group decided to schedule another—and then another. Currently it’s an on-going, weekly project with about ten volunteers partici­pating. The fund-raising pro­jects are designed so that in the future if a parent cannot pay the full tuition fee, schol­arships can be granted.

Student volunteers from the American School in Japan (ASIJ) have also helped by painting classrooms and invit­ing TILC students to special events at ASIJ.

BOARD OF DIRECTORS

The school is governed by a board comprised of parents and educators who were in­volved with the Support Group for Parents of Children with Special Needs. Their efforts are supplemented by an Education­al Advisory Board of the Japan Council of International Schools (JCIS), who offer guidance and expertise as well as volunteers. The new chair­man is Joanna Biddle, an oc­cupational therapist from the U.K.

The chairman has already formed professional therapists into a peer group, and hopes to set up an English-language toy or resources library. This interesting idea would provide a place where parents could borrow toys and get advice about their child’s development from professionals. Toys can be great learning tools for the handicapped if used correctly.

Although, as you can see from the large number of names mentioned in the article, there are many, many people involved in the Support Group for Parents of Children with Special Needs and, in Tokyo International Learning Center, two names must be mentioned as they have contributed im­measurably to both groups: Delores Nagashima and Rose­mary Booth.

Unfortunately, Rosemary has recently left Japan to return to the U.K., but with her goes the thanks of the entire foreign community for her tremendous contribution to these programs for handicapped children and their parents in Tokyo.

Call for more information to Joanna Biddle at 485-5078 or Delores Nagashima at 415-5733. Tokyo International Learning Community (TILC), c/o Tokyo Baptist Church, 9-1 Hachiyama-cho, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo 150. Church/school phone 780-0030.

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HOLDING THE SALT

With salt in the news today I thought you might be inter­ested in the new terminology for salt content of products. This is pretty much the Amer­ican standard now (and they are doing the same thing with fat and cholesterol ratings of food), but the concept is spread­ing so it’s wise to become familiar with the terminology. It’s a bit like the old saw of toothpaste sizes that we all know so well. There’s giant, super, economy, family, large, etc. So it leaves you wondering if family is larger than giant or super is smaller than family.

With sodium content they’ve made the rating scale a bit easier, and I think well get used to the terminology fairly quickly. Here’s the way it works:

  • Sodium Free. Product contains less than five milligrams of sodium per serving.
  • Very Low Sodium. Product contains 35 milligrams or less per serving.
  • Low Sodium. Product con­tains 140 milligrams or less of sodium per serving.
  • Reduced Sodium. A food product that has been re­formulated to contain at least 75% less sodium than the origi­nal product.

It’s the last category that can be the real fooler, particularly for those who don’t know the original sodium content of the food they are contemplating buying. Although, let’s face it— most of us know by now those foods heavy in salt or sodium. A “reduccd sodium” potato chip for example, would still be pretty salty, as would a “reduced sodium” pickle.

Currently in the U.S., there is a new line of soups that advertise “1/3 less salt.” Since soups are major salt contribu­tors, that is good news. How­ever, the bad news is that most soups, even those with 1/3 less salt, still usually contain about 500-700 milligrams of sodium per serving.

The average American con­sumes about six-to-eight grams of salt per day; the average Japanese consumes 10-14 grams. The World Health Organization would like us all to get below six grams (6,000 milligrams) per day. Some ex­perts suggest a daily intake of three-four grams would be best. Remember many foods con­tain natural sodium, (milk, for example), so we get enough without adding extra. Table salt contains approximately two grams (2,000 milligrams) per teaspoon.

To continue to be “worth our salt,” let’s all go easy on it.