Gentle Teaching: A Magical Transformation

“Gentle Teaching has evolved into a dyadic process; it encompasses an approach in which the caregiver is transformed, as well as the brokenhearted person. The transformation process has to start with the caregiver, but reaches outward to the broken hearted person. It is not an approach that presents fixed and immutable answers that caregivers follow in a lock step manner. It is one that asks caregivers to interact within a broad framework based on the prevention of harm and the expression of unconditional love. Harm’s prevention often initially involves giving the person what he/she wants, as long as it is not harmful, so that the caregiver can enter the person’s space and begin to teach

“When you are with me, you are safe and loved.”

It is not an approach that centers itself on behavioral change. It is an approach that beckons spiritual or internal change. Just to make it clear, this internal change can be translated into concrete and measurable behaviours, yet we must recognize that their origin is spiritual and moral in nature.”

John J. McGee

Exploring our Vision, Mission and Values Statements

In celebrating our fifth anniversary, COR’s Board of Director’s and Management Team took time to reflect on our efforts to forge out meaningful opportunities for people experiencing disability in Regina, SK. If you have ever wondered what COR’s Vision, Mission and Values Statements are, look no further!

Vision Statement

COR will foster a culture of gentleness by nurturing authentic relationships, embracing diversity and supporting people to live the life they choose.

Mission Statement

COR develops innovative support that facilitates opportunities for personally meaningful growth and interdependent relationships where people feel safe and valued.

Mandate Statements

  • COR will provide support in accordance with the contractual obligations of its funders within the framework of Gentle Teaching and Person Centeredness.
  • Support through COR is tailored to reflect the individuality of people.
  • COR is a culture of continuous learning that puts people’s dignity and respect as its foundational principle.

Values Statements

  • COR respects the value and individuality of all people.
  • COR values interdependence and recognizes the strengths of all.
  • COR values the opportunity of full participation for every citizen.
  • COR fosters a culture of ongoing reflection and continuous learning.
  • COR respects the autonomy of every individual.
  • COR seeks to empower individuals to live the life they choose.

Goals

  • To develop and facilitate flexible, personalized supports for individuals experiencing disability.
  • To support an individual regardless of their abilities when appropriate resources are available.
  • To ensure support is designed to meet what matters most to the individuals we serve.
  • To collaborate with an individual’s personal and professional network to promote success.
  • To welcome, encourage and support the involvement of families and personal networks in the lives of the individuals and all aspects of the organization.
  • To develop partnerships with community organizations who share a common vision.
  • To maintain a fiscally responsible organization.

We cannot know who the “other” is unless we have some insight into who we are.

Spreading John’s wisdom… We cannot know who the “other” is unless we have some insight into who we are.

Gentle Teaching is grounded in the whole person and who the person is. A key assumption, especially when supporting those who are extremely violent toward others or harmful to themselves, is the understanding that behaviors have their origin in moral development—how human beings throughout their lives are in the process of learning how to interact with others and how each of us sees ourself and others. This moral development is inside of us and encompasses the memories that have been formed from the first moments of life to the present moment.

Moral memories are how we spiritually interact with the world. When these memories are sad and disorienting, they reside like haunting ghosts in the hidden corners of our being and, in a sense, whisper to us what clinicians will later call behaviors. Behaviors are the visible part of toxic weeds; memories are the roots. They are deep, often not known, and not intellectual, but moral memories. The use of behavioral techniques is like pulling out the surface of weeds but leaving the roots intact. Gentle Teaching goes for the creation of new moral memories that eventually lead the person to feel safe and loved and then “behaviors” begin to fade away.

John J. McGee

What Makes COR Different?

I began supporting with COR in April 2014. Being close to completing my Social Work degree and having years of previous experience in working with those with different abilities, I thought I had a good expectation and understanding of what this job would entail. Little did I realize that being a support for COR would not only change how I viewed working in this field, but also shape who I am as a human being.

I love working at COR because those we support are given so many opportunities to achieve, succeed, and feel proud of themselves in many areas of their life and community. Often people with exceptionalities have limits placed on them given their physical state or cognitive functioning, but rather than focusing on a ‘disability’, COR focus on the abilities that a person has and realizes their potential for achievement and fulfillment. I love that we are not ‘working with people with disabilities’, we are being a friend and extending support.

Working at COR has been very rewarding, but there have also been challenging moments. However, these challenging moments have always turned out to be entirely beneficial in the end because they have taught me more about myself then I could have ever imagined. COR is different than any other place I have worked because the philosophy is not centered around changing those we support – it is about accepting and loving them for who they are, and instead changing ourselves to better understand and care for those we support. Supporting at COR has taught me that although a person may be shaped by their past and their history, expressing unconditional kindness and acceptance has the potential to turn a person’s day and even their life around. The lessons I have learned at COR have transferred into my personal life, my professional perspective, and my overall understanding of human interaction.

Those I have met through COR and the philosophy and culture of gentleness that I have learned to practice will stay with me forever. Through supporting at COR I have learned what it truly means to be a friend, a caring professional, and part of the community.

Kasey, COR Support

WANTED! A 4to40 Job Coach

4to40 Job Coaches Wanted

Above All No Harm

In Gentle Teaching caregivers become aware of how their interactions decrease the probability of violence by focusing on:

• The need to teach a culture of trust, companionship, and community through the creation of new memories based on feelings of being safe and loved.

• Initially lowering expectations and increasing hope. Although caregivers often have seemingly reasonable expectations, the brokenhearted are not ready to do what is expected because they do not feel safe and loved within the caring community. There is little reason to trust a caregiver without these new feelings. Without a strong foundation based on trust, high expectations shatter. The first dimension of caregiving is to establish trust and this arises out of feelings of being safe and loved. If caregivers are too pushy, this could easily spark violence.

• Within this construct, the caring community has to slow down and understand that “The slower we go, the faster we will get there.”

• The avoidance of any compliance attitudes that push brokenhearted individuals into a corner and provoke violence.

• The use of our very presence, words, gazes, and touch in a manner that uplifts each person along with a tender and genuine tone turning each syllable, touch, or gaze into the moral equivalent of an embrace.

• The avoidance of attitudes such as so-and-so knows better, just wants attention, or is manipulative. These can be true but are irrelevant in Gentle Teaching; the focus has to be on feelings and teaching each person to acquire a sense of feeling safe and loved. The healing must be found in the heart, not the head.

• The avoidance or prevention of caregiver violence in common practices such as the use of isolation, time out, token economies, verbal reprimands, grabbing and shoving, physical management, mechanical restraint, cattle prods, chemical restraint, the ease of psychiatric hospitalization as a holding tank, and even phone calls to the police to “manage” someone through the use of stun guns and other methods of control.

• Practice, practice, practice. The best way to prevent harm is through a sharp focus on the tools that have been bestowed upon us. First, our intention has to be to bring and share the gifts of creating a sense of security and a feeling of being loved. Then, within these parameters, caregivers have to become intuitively practiced and skilled at teaching these good memories. This approach is in and of itself the most encompassing way to prevent violence.

John J. McGee, 2012

It’s the little things that make the biggest difference in all relationships

Throughout my nearly three years as a Support Person with COR I have had the pleasure of supporting several individuals with varying interests, strengths, challenges, and needs.  The one thing that has always remained constant is that each and every person I have supported has needed to feel safe and loved unconditionally.  I am fortunate in that I have been able to support a few individuals for the entirety or better half of my employment at COR and have been able to build amazing relationships with them.

Every Support Person will have a different relationship with the same individual, and every Support Person will approach building that relationship in slightly different ways.  While at first I found it challenging to build relationships, by choosing to be myself and treat the individuals I support like my close friends and family members I found things flowed as naturally as any other relationship would and true friendships were born.  People can sense when you are not being genuine towards them and they will withdraw from you because they do not feel safe.  Just because somebody has an intellectual disability does not mean they deserve to be treated as less of a person or talked to differently than anybody else you interact with in your day.

Throughout my employment at COR I have considered the people I support to be real-life friends and I have really tried to show them that I value their friendship and truly believe we are all equals.  I know that a lot of the individuals COR supports still call their Supports their “Workers” because their entire lives they have known that most of the people in their lives are paid to be there.  While I am employed by COR I do my best to tell them through my words, actions, and body language that we are friends first and foremost and nothing they can do or say will make me not want to be their friend.  Friendships may have ups and downs, but unconditional love doesn’t falter.

I also truly believe that it’s the little things that make the biggest difference in all relationships.  Introducing the people I support as “my friend” instead of “the person I work with”.  Offering hugs and not shying away from them after a challenging day.  Actively listening to how they are telling me they feel in that moment instead of dismissing it.  Not altering my voice to sound like I’m talking to a small child.  These are all little things I make a conscious effort to do to help grow my relationships and over time I have seen the people I support reciprocate my offerings of friendship and love.

Allison, COR Support

Government of Canada Enabling Accessibility Fund (EAF) for Workplace Accessibility

Employment and Social Development Canada launched a call for proposals on August 6, 2014, under the workplace accessibility stream of the Enabling Accessibility Fund. Small businesses can apply to receive up to $50,000 in grant funding for projects that help to create or maintain job opportunities for people with disabilities through improvements to accessibility in the workplace. Projects may include:

  • construction, renovation or retrofit of workplaces in which job opportunities could be created or maintained specifically for people with disabilities; and
  • the installation of assistive technologies for work use.

If you are an employer who has hired or is thinking about hiring people with disabilities, you are encouraged to apply for a grant by October 1, 2014. Choose to embrace diversity and break down barriers to accessibility in your workplace!

Click here to find out how to apply. Applications must be received by 11:59 p.m. (EST) on October 1, 2014.

Watch out Gordon Ramsey… COR is in the Kitchen

Over the course of my time supporting at COR, I noticed that with different supports came different quality of  foods being prepared.  I know, I know this is a strange thing to notice. But for a foodie like me (one who loves to eat and cook!) it raised a few questions.  I knew that we were supporting our individuals and friends relationally  and emotionally, but I continued to question whether or not we were  physically equipping them with healthy options for meals and snacks. Perhaps though a greater question was looming in my mind: Do all the supports know the basic’s of cooking?

After a couple conversations with Michael Lavis and a few months of pondering how to get started, I threw caution to the wind and hosted a night of food and fun at my house. It began with my team! There were six of us in attendance and the meal plan was set!

It was my goal to create a four course meal, that could easily be transformed into several different meals by making slight adjustments in cooking techniques.

 

APPETIZER: Guacamole & Chips

We picked this as a healthy snack alternative. This 5 ingredient dip is not only simple to make but a healthy alternative to a store bought dip. The dip also pumps a person full of nutirents and helps fill you up more than a traditional cream based dip.

 

SALADS: Coleslaw and Potatoe Salad

These are two salads that are staples to any summer picnic. I picked these salads to make as a healtier alternative to store bought dressings and premade salads. It was a  great way to show supports that both salads have the same ingredients but by adding relish, the coleslaw dressing is transformed into a dressing that defines  potatoe salad.

 

MAIN COURSE: Chicken Shishkabobs and Rice

Using the ingredients for chicken shishkabobs I was able to explain how cooking them in a different way (on the stove top) you could easily make a stirfry. The marinade then becomes a sauce when boiled over the stove.

 

DESSERT: Chocolate Brownie with icing

My mama told me that dessert is for when friends come over: case and point!

 

We had a  blast! It was fun to learn together, laugh together and make mistakes together. Cooking doesn’t have to be scary and when done with friends it lends itself to be more than a meal, it becomes a memory.

If you are interested in participating in another COR Support cooking class, watch for emails and updates on the COR Facebook page and from your Team Leaders. This is a great way to get connected within COR and get a free meal out of it as well!

Ben, COR Support

The Core of Gentle Teaching: Safe and Loved

Gentle Teaching is not about behavioural change.

It is not even about getting rid of behaviours. These will disappear or diminish as time goes by as a result of the person trusting us. It is not about any behavioural techniques that might be spelled out in a behaviour plan. If a caregiver enters anyone’s space with such intentions, the time spent will have nothing to do with Gentle Teaching. It is a contradiction to anxiously lead with an attitude of, “I have to change this behaviour or that one.”

The central and guiding focus for all caregivers is to help the person learn to feel safe and loved and this requires the prevention of any sort of harm. It is simply wise to not provoke any violence. Prevention gives caregivers the opportunity, space, and time to teach new memories of feeling safe and loved. Doing this dissipates or eliminates maladaptive behaviours as a direct result of feeling safe and loved. This has to be part and parcel of the caring community.

John J. McGee, 2012