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

Family is not just a thing, it is everything!

In 500 words or less what makes me love working at COR…well how about in one word, “Family”. I am a very casual employee at COR. On average, since I started in August 2011, I have worked nine hours a week with Jarrod. But since August 2011 those nine hours a week have provided some of my most cherished memories. What’s more, those nine hours a week have helped me stay connected to a community, and friends that are dear to me.

So in five hundred words, well actually a lot less; I love working at COR because the individual I support makes me feel like I am making a difference, like I am important to him and like our bond has developed organically beyond the roles of support and supported. I compliment the COR philosophy of Gentle Teaching, for my aforementioned feelings, because it reminds me that we can all thrive as individuals, in any situation, if we have autonomy and the freedom to choose.

Mike J. Fox said, “Family is not just a thing, it is everything!” I echo these words about my own Family: my wife and son; my mom, brother and sister; my amazing friends and colleagues; and my main hombre, homie and friend for life – Jarrod, who all mean the world to me.

Said differently, an understanding that family is everything, by working very hard to make you a member of its family and instilling a model of support that creates the feeling of family, is what makes COR different.

Troy, COR Support

 

Thinking and Planning for the End of Your Life Workshop: September 13, 2014

A one-day workshop presented by COR and the Regina and District Association for Community Living (RDACL), in partnership with Helen Sanderson Associates (HSA Canada).

Living well now and thinking and planning for the end of your life

Gentle Teaching Practicum: August 28, 2014

Gentle Teaching Practicum Poster 2014

 

Overflowing Gratuity

The first image that is most likely to come to mind when I say ‘gratuity’ is that of a monetary tip at a restaurant. While in one sense, this is the very definition of the word; I believe that there is more to it than that. If you were too look up the definition of the word, you would first find:

1. a gift or reward, usually of money, for services rendered; tip quickly followed by;

2. to give something freely without claim or obligation.

As a former waiter I loved my job and the tips were amazing. But all too often that small (or large) monetary tip became an expectation. Fellow co-workers would often be found cursing out guests who didn’t leave anything; going so far as asking guests for tips. I found this strange and semi-disturbing.

This post isn’t to blab on and on about my past work experience, rather to challenge those in COR, and those reading, to make a conscious effort of living a life that is overflowing with gratuity. To clarify, I am not referring to tipping waiters and waitresses, rather to live life as an active giver. To the clerk at the grocery store give your smile. To the homeless man asking for money, give your time (and maybe a cup of coffee too!). To the sad and broken-hearted, lend your ear. To the stranger you just met who is cursing you out, be kind, compassionate and hold your words carefully.

The majority of us out there have heard the famous phrase by Mahatma Ghandi, “Be the change you want to see in the world.” While this isn’t an earth-shaking challenge, it is a world changing one! What will it take for the person looking back at you in the mirror to take the plunge, go all in and risk it all? When you give generously and graciously the world around your starts to change — and it’s a beautiful view!

Ben, COR Support

 

Looking at Ourselves

As caregivers we need to talk among ourselves and develop a feeling of companionship and community so we can teach it to others. A first step is to look at our fears and get a feel for our interactions, and how others see them. We need to lift up our interactions that bring peace and serenity to others. We all have little ways of showing love. If we can highlight these, then we have taken a first step in the discovery of what care giving is about. We bring much to the care-giving act. Our presence needs to express our warmest caring. We need to be aware of the beautiful deeds that we do and deepen them. As caregivers, we need to find ways to share each other’s acts and remind one another what care giving is all about– giving a part of ourselves to others.

CHECKING OUT OUR OWN WAY

Self-assessment is a difficult task. We have to look at ourselves and discover our own weaknesses and take pride in our strengths. Finding our strengths is the easy part. The difficult part is to recognize our care giving needs. It is a human tendency to deny our weaknesses. So, we have to create a process in which we feel safe enough to examine ourselves and pinpoint areas to improve. What makes this even more difficult is that we have to see ourselves as those whom we serve see us.

We need to look at ourselves from the perspective of those who are obviously extremely vulnerable as well as from the perspective of those  “who know better.” It is sometimes easier to serve those who are more dependent or more obviously marginalized such as abused babies, orphans, abandoned children, and persons with severe disabilities.

Try to put yourself in the person’s shoes and sense what they are feeling: fear, disengagement, being unloved, and unable to convey a sense of love to others. Then look at yourself again and analyze your interactions. We need to realize that every move we make is an act of teaching. Our most subtle interactions are seen and interpreted by those whom we serve. Every interaction we express is a critical element in teaching companionship.

OUR VIEW OF OURSELVES

Purpose: Look at your own care giving interactions from the perspective of how the persons we serve see us. We assume that you feel that everyone feels safe with you and even loved by you. The challenge is to look at ourselves from the point of view of how the people we serve see us— people who are terrified and see little or no meaning in life or in us.

John J. McGee

Growing to Feel Safe and Loved

The culture of gentleness that I have been able to create started in 2013 with lessons taught from COR’s mentors, Deirdre and Tim. From the little things like looking past the negatives and to discuss the positives everyday, coupled with a common saying, “lets turn the day around!” are – to me – exemplary of what Gentle Teaching is.

The individual I serve has become very comfortable with me and he is now more willing to engage in new activities together with me. I achieved this comfortability by methods as simple as telling him “I love him”, “I am proud of him” and by holding his hand. Situations can be difficult, but through the COR teachings of gentleness and kindness, and respect, the individual I serve has grown to feel safe and loved by myself – which means that he is loving and willing to be engaged in return.

Greg, COR Support