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Top>Research>Reflecting on the Past Year as a Research Fellow (DC1) of JSPS——Expectations for Students in the Doctoral Program

Research

Reflecting on the Past Year as a Research Fellow (DC1) of JSPS

——Expectations for Students in the Doctoral Program

Rinako Someya
Graduate School of Letters, Chuo University
Research Fellow (DC1) of the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science

Theme of my research

My research focuses on the parent-child relationship in families dealing with intellectual disability. In the 1970s, people suffering from systemic disabilities in Japan held protests aimed at independent living so that disabled individuals can live freely in their community. Today, many people with physical and systemic disabilities rent their own room in an apartment. They live while receiving home care from caregiver. However, there has been a lack of progress towards the independence of individuals with intellectual disabilities. Currently, under the Comprehensive Services and Supports for Persons with Disabilities Act (put into operation in 2013), people with intellectual disabilities have the right to live freely in communities which are not family units or large-scale group homes, without being inconvenienced by restrictions on their lifestyle by living with many other people. However, the majority of individuals with intellectual disabilities presently continue to live together with their family until their parents require support from others (nursing care) due to old age. Before the current system was put into operation, it was first necessary to improve the conditions in which there was a lack of sufficient systems for use by individuals with intellectual disabilities. Therefore, the majority of research regarding the independence of individuals with intellectual disabilities focused on systems. That research produced notable results, and the path towards establishing the current systems was certainly a major achievement. Nevertheless, even after the establishment of said systems, the living environment for many individuals with intellectual disabilities has remained fundamentally unchanged. Therefore, I performed an investigation focusing on parent-child relationships. I observed conflict in which parents are unable to let go of their children with intellectual disabilities, despite being aware of the need for their children to be independent.

Although not all individuals with intellectual disabilities are the same, many of them have difficulty in communication. In addition to problems in using words to express themselves in speech, they also have trouble in thinking. Consequently, we are dealing with a premise that parents cannot ask their children about their future aspirations and cannot entrust their children to make future choices. Furthermore, individuals with intellectual disabilities have a wide variety of idiosyncrasies. Actually, my sibling has an intellectual disability. When going out, he strongly resists entering a place which he does not know. If he finds a cup, vase, or other container holding water, he drinks it all without giving it a second thought. In this way, individuals with intellectual disabilities have numerous behaviors which they are determined to perform, and it is very difficult to dissuade them from engaging in these behaviors. Living together with their sons/daughters enables parents to learn how to manage these idiosyncrasies in daily life. However, there are numerous difficulties in conveying each of these experiences and idiosyncrasies to others in order to use a new welfare service. Accordingly, a broad range of context makes it difficult for parents to let their children go and move towards independence. Due to the scope of this article, I cannot discuss all of the elements which prevent parents from guiding sons/daughters with intellectual disabilities towards a life outside the home. Thus, my research on independence shifts the focus from the conventional theme of “improving systems” to the “parent-child relationship” for individuals with intellectual disabilities. By doing so, I seek to reconsider the independence of individuals with intellectual disabilities.

What you can do with the grants from Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS)

A major change from when I was in the Master’s Program is that students in the Doctoral Program are expected to be even more active in presenting their research outside the university through oral reports and submission of academic papers. To fulfill these responsibilities, it is necessary to conduct investigations and rework the structure of the material being conveyed. Additionally, researchers must interact with other researchers both domestically and internationally, and must repeatedly engage in thorough consideration through discussion. Sociology is an academic discipline concerned with society. Therefore, in order to hold discussions from a broad and multifaceted perspective, researchers must always be on the lookout for background social factors, even while grounding themselves in their specific research field and theme. A great assistance in this work are the Grants-in-Aid for Scientific Research (KAKENHI) which are available to research fellows of JSPS.

This academic year, I gave presentations at the Japan Council on Family Relations Convention on May 19, 2018 (Waseda University), the Kantoh Sociological Society Convention on June 10, 2018 (Musashi University), the Japan Society of Theoretical Sociology Convention on September 1, 2018 (Ehime University), and the Japan Society of Family Sociology Convention on September 9, 2018 (Chuo University). Also, I am scheduled to give presentations at the 2nd Regular Meeting (2018) of the Kantoh Sociological Society on March 17, 2019 (Toyo University) and the Nordic Network Disability Research for one day between May 8 to 10, 2019 (UCC Campus Carlsberg, Copenhagen, Denmark).

Furthermore, I was able to participate in two international conferences and engage in exchanges with researchers from throughout the world (the Lancaster Disability Studies Conference from September 11 to 13, 2018 (Lancaster University, Lancaster, UK) and the Global Social Economy Forum from October 1 to 3, 2018 (Bilbao, Spain)).

As part of my domestic and international fieldwork, I first conducted short-term surveys in Osaka (day labor, poverty, discriminated communities, issues related to foreigners living in Japan) and Okinawa (U.S. military bases, war, gender, issues related to disabled individuals and minorities). Afterwards, I made another visit to Sweden and Denmark, where I actively entered a variety of fields; for example, surveys on pioneering practices for independent lifestyles by individuals with intellectual disabilities. The majority of my activities were supported by KAKENHI (the Chuo University Graduate School supported a portion of my research presentations).

Fellows at JSPS are expected to give top priority to research. Except for special exceptions, second jobs are not allowed. Without a doubt, this creates numerous concerns. For example, some researchers worry that it will not be possible to continue the survey style of observing the research target while obtaining monetary compensation on-site. Even so, while studying in the Doctoral Program, there are also a huge number of opportunities which can be obtained through research as a fellow of JSPS. Undeniably, it is no easy task to discover research themes to which you can devote yourself, create research plans, and apply to become a fellow. However, if possible, I strongly recommend embracing the challenge of becoming a research fellow (DC) at JSPS.

In closing, I would like to express my gratitude towards the environment which allowed me to focus on my research during my short time in the Doctoral Program. Moving forward, I will give my best effort to produce outstanding research results through my doctoral thesis.

Rinako Someya
Graduate School of Letters, Chuo University
Research Fellow (DC1) of the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science
Rinako Someya graduated from the Division of Humanities and Social Sciences in the Faculty of Letters, Chuo University in March 2015. She majored in sociology. In March 2018, she completed the Master’s Program in sociology in the Graduate School of Letters, Chuo University. In April 2018, she enrolled in the Doctoral Program in sociology in the same graduate school, where she currently studies. Also from the 2018 academic year, she started research as a Research Fellow (DC1) of the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science. She studied abroad in Sweden for one year while in undergraduate school and for about six months while in the Master’s Program. While abroad, she participated in on-site exercises for cultivating social workers and conducted fieldwork surveys. After returning to Japan, she worked at a group home for people with intellectual disabilities until March 2018. She also has a sibling with a severe intellectual disability.
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