A culture of gentleness is also about being able to be vulnerable

“When I first heard about creating a culture of gentleness I had no idea what that meant.

After going to trainings, learning about gentle teaching, and seeing a culture of gentleness through the people around me in an organization that seemed so alien, I finally understood what it was. Talking about a culture of gentleness isn’t enough. You don’t really understand what it is until you start partaking in the movement of gentleness that has spread across Canada. It really is a powerful thing.

I learned that creating a culture of gentleness doesn’t just mean serving the people that we support, but serving every person you meet on the street and at home.

It is a way of life. I had to change my mind set and mold my thinking to something completely different and something unnatural to a lot of people. Growing up the way I did, I learned what it meant to love unconditionally and to care for people in a way that was personal. Maintaining a culture of gentleness is very personal. In order to have gentleness, I needed to care about another person more than myself and take their limitations and physical or mental state away from how I viewed them. I have come to do this everyday with the people I support. I see them more than just someone I look out for and someone I spend a lot of time with: I see them as friends and as a huge part of my life, because to them sometimes you are their family.

The way I create a culture of gentleness is finding a balance between being firm and being personal with each person I serve. The definition of gentle is to be kind and mild temperament; I have found that being that understanding person that will listen and care in a more personal way has created this culture of gentleness for our team. The more bonded we are on a personal level and the more we listen and show kindness to each other the more gentleness has spread.

In my team, I have had to hold team members accountable and have had to have some tough conversations, but at the same time, building each person  up and showing them that I care for them. In order to create a culture of gentleness, I needed to gain trust. In going out of my way to make team members feel comfortable with me, I demonstrated that I genuinely care for them and their life situations. I try and make the people that I serve feel appreciated and loved, I have written personal cards to each and every one of them praising them for things that I have seen them do well. To maintain a culture of gentleness, I have realized that taking the times is very important… A culture of gentleness is also about being able to be vulnerable with both the people that we support and those who we serve with. It has helped us grow individually, as well as grow as one.”

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Krystel, Team Leader

It’s Time To BULK-UP Your Shoulders

I am a firm believer that exercise is a necessary evil.

If I could get away with never working out I would be an incredibly happy man! However, there is something strange that began happening to me once I graduated high school; my ‘average size’ frame began morphing into something that resembled the shape of a Teletubby. What was described to me as the ‘freshmen fifteen’, in reality became the freshman thirty-five: I had lost control!

Instead of crossing my fingers and wishing for the weight to miraculously dissolve, I made the hard choice to eat better and begin working out. At first going to the gym was incredibly intimidating; but with every time I kept my commitment, it became easier and more comfortable. Once again I began noticing changes. I felt healthier, stronger and my shoulders became more defined.

Shoulder’s aren’t typically something that you wake up thinking about: unless you are an Olympic body-builder and yet my post today focuses our attention on this idea: Do not be dismayed, this is a challenge that runs significantly deeper than the physical. I believe that we as living and breathing people need to continually ask ourselves, ‘what am I able to bear and what is my breaking point?’ This question comes to mind after weeks and months of dwelling on the question “whose responsibility is it?” Particularly thinking about the disability sector and the desire on COR’s behalf to be leaders within our community by embracing Gentle Teaching—and challenging the status-quo.

Whose responsibility is it when the police are called to a house because of a yelling match between roommates? Whose responsibility is it when a customer in line at the grocery store glares cruelly at the person we support, and utters comments under their breath? Whose responsibility is it to put the house together after an escalation that resulted in property damage? I’ll stop here, but please don’t think that this is a compulsive list—No! It can entail anything and everything that falls within a grey area, including care for those that we support as well as those that we support with.

bulk-up-your-shoulders

On going relationships should motivate us to dig into unconditional love and share the load of others burdens. Giving the emotional encouragement and mental strength, so that the love of friendship spurs on that individual to continue. We have often said that we desire to work in a community of like-minded people: in order to do this we need to learn to carry the burdens and stress of others. Assist where needed and when available in order to bulk up our shoulders.

From my meager perspective, the greatest way to do this is to question your intent in everything. Are you noticing the down-trodden parent, the intimidated support worker or the overwhelmed team leader? Or, are you so caught up in the happenings of your own life that others are hidden in the background: with a painted banner over their heads that convinces you they are “happy”, “fine” or “will pull through with time”. I am convinced that we need to learn to become more intentional, bend down to help the helpless and bulk up our shoulders to carry the burden of others.

 

Ben, Director of Culture and Mentorship

 

Don’t Listen To People Who Use The Word ‘Impossible’

Every year, on December 3, people all over the world come together at various events to celebrate International Day of Persons with Disabilities (IDPD). This international celebration of difference and understanding was established in 1992 by the United Nations, and seeks to encourage those worldwide to consider new perspectives in order to fully promote inclusion of people with disabilities in all aspects of our social, cultural, and economic spheres. Each year the theme is different and highlights a new and important topic – this year’s theme was “Sustainable Development: The Promise of Technology.”

Over the summer of 2014, many individuals that receive support through Creative Options Regina (COR) had the opportunity to take a 6-week course through the Regina and District Association for Community Living called “Let’s Connect – Sharing your Awesome with an iPad.” The individuals who attended learned all about how to utilize the wonderful world of technology and expand their ability to communicate and deepen their sense of community through the use of an iPad. At the end of the course they got to take their iPad home and make it unique to their own needs and interests. Many individuals now connect through iMessages, e-mails, FaceTime, Facebook and other social media platforms; many utilize their camera feature to take and share photos of their family, friends, activities, and favorite things; many utilize speech applications or other assistive or educational tools; and of course all of the fun stuff such as YouTube, games and silly apps! The list of ways in which these individuals use their iPads to expand their world goes on and on, and it has been truly incredible to see.

COR Presents Tech Talks

In September 2014, two UofR Kinesiology and Health Studies students, Megan Barss and Leah Fiorante, were given the task of creating an event that brings awareness to IDPD as a requirement for one of their classes. Megan and Leah had heard about “Let’s Connect” and watched the videos that Strategy Lab created to broadcast what the course was all about. Megan and Leah thought it would be great to do a follow-up video of how “Let’s Connect” and technology in general has aided in improving accessibility, community, and connection for those within COR who now utilize their iPads frequently. Over the course of a few months, and many meetings and correspondence, “Tech Talks” was brought to life.

“Tech Talks” was held at the Science Centre on December 2nd 2014. There were approximately 50 people in attendance, all of different abilities, ages, and backgrounds. “Tech Talks” began with some appetizers and wine, and as people began to socialize the room grew with excitement and interest. The first speaker of the evening was Jeph Maystruck, who works at Strategy Lab and is involved with many other initiatives across Regina. Jeph spoke about how technology is influencing our society as a whole, and he captivated the audience with his discussion around never saying something is “impossible” and continually seeking new opportunities and potential for growth. It also doesn’t hurt that Jeph gave out lottery tickets to the audience members who answered his questions – he expanded our minds and our wallets! Jeph began the evening by instilling a sense of hope and inspiration in the audience, which laid the foundation for an evening that was all about capabilities and reaching goals never thought possible with the help of technology.

The second speaker of the evening was Kevan McBeth, who has been an advocate for people with disabilities for over 11 years, which began after the birth of his daughter Lauryn who was born with Down Syndrome. Kevan spoke about how important technology can be for those with disabilities, and in particular the ways in which technology has allowed his daughter Lauryn to grow and learn in a way that is unique and appropriate to her individual needs. Kevan spoke about many apps that can be downloaded to assist with spelling, math, or writing, as well as features such as Siri, which acts not only as a companion for many, but also encourages people to annunciate and speak fluently in order to have their commands understood. Skills such as this are transferrable to real life situations and are taught through the apps in a way that is patient, understanding, and at a pace that is appropriate to the individual. Kevan shared many stories of how technology has allowed individuals, and in particular his family and his daughter, to connect and communicate on a new level, which most often has a positive impact on the persons overall quality of life.

The third speaker was Stacey Laing, who is the coordinator of the “Let’s Connect” program at RDACL. Stacey shared with the audience the ways in which she has seen people grow and flourish as a result of utilizing their iPads. Stacey shared many inspirational stories about individuals who now get their needs met by taking photos of groceries and other items they want and then sending these pictures to their supports; individuals who now connect with old friends, supports or family who they had previously lost touch with; individuals who have never had a meaningful item all to themselves and who now find such pride and joy in using their iPad; and many more amazing stories of success and growth. Stacey stated that “Let’s Connect” is expanding and many other organizations within the province are receiving training on the course and are now rolling out the program in their own districts. Upon conclusion of Stacey’s discussion, the follow-up video of the “Let’s Connect” course that was created specifically for IDPD was shown – it can be viewed here:

Tech Talks: In Celebration of the 2014 International Day of Persons with Disabilities from Creative Options Regina (COR) on Vimeo.

After the video was shown, I, Kasey, invited up 4 individuals from COR who had participated in the “Let’s Connect” program to share their own stories of the ways technology has impacted their lives. First, Erin joined me on stage and discussed how she utilizes her iPad for school and connecting with friends and supports. Next, Patrick came on stage and discussed how he uses his iPad to connect with friends over various social media platforms, as well as how he utilizes apps such as the Weather Network to help plan his day accordingly. He also discussed his hope to eventually use a transit app to aid in planning his transportation around the city. Next, Ruby came on stage and shared her love for YouTube and watching craft videos. Ruby even brought a wooden crossbow that she made by watching an instructional video – but don’t worry, nobody was hurt during the display of the crossbow… it was made out of wooden sticks and rubber bands! Last but not least, Andrew joined me on stage and spoke to the audience about how he loves to use the calculator app to figure out the exact hours, minutes, seconds, and milliseconds that a person has been alive – he is very creative with the use of his iPad! All 4 of these individuals use their iPads in different ways that are special to their own interests and needs, and it was great to hear from them about how technology has improved their ability to communicate and connect.

After Erin, Patrick, Ruby and Andrew shared their stories, Tech Talks came to a close. Many people stayed after to mingle, ask questions, and network. There was a buzz in their air that is difficult to describe… It felt as though there was a common feeling of hope and inspiration in the room. I feel that “Tech Talks” encouraged those in attendance to strive to consistently challenge their ideas of what people with disabilities are capable of and to always see the ability in others in order to continually provide opportunities for inclusion and growth for those with disabilities in all spheres of our communities. We can all utilize the brilliant world of technology to help bring to life each individuals unique and valuable strengths, to help formulate and accomplish individual goals and understand and appreciate everyone’s abilities and desire to be included and contribute to our communities in a meaningful way. Technology has shaped our world in ways that were never thought possible. Technology has allowed for us to uncover medical and scientific discoveries that have never been explored before, to travel to unknown depths and spaces to find new species and cultures, to share ideas and spark movements with people across the world that shape our social and political realms each day… It is time that we fully include the population of individuals with diverse abilities into this wonderful world of technology. The world as we know it can be shaped and inspired by the unique and valuable perspectives of those with disabilities, all of which can happen at the simple touch of a screen.

Kasey, COR Support

Don't Listen to The People Who Use The Word Impossible

Support Appreciation Night: February 28, 2015

COR Presents Support Appreciation Night

 

See Worthy

At the age of eighteen I had applied for a job at a coffee shop in the city that I had been living in. I had visited this establishment numerous times and fell in love with it; at the time I had seen it as a place that screamed adulthood, something that I was craving in my life. To my surprise, I had been asked to come in for an interview; I was ecstatic! As I entered the meeting I was greeted by the manager. He asked me a few questions about my work experience, desire for growth and future plans that I had for myself. The overall interview didn’t span more than ten minutes before the manager offered me a position at his coffee shop; My teenage dream came true! For the next few minutes he talked to me about work expectations (what I should wear and when I would be trained). For the next twenty minutes the manager began to blast me with statements such as,

“I know people like your kind–you better not disappoint.”

“All you teenagers are the same.”

” If you ever dare to call in sick because you are hungover, you can guarantee yourself an early retirement from this job!”

Your boss woud never yell at you at COR

I left the interview feeling deflated and heart-broken. ‘How could I be treated like this?’ I thought to myself. I wasn’t seen as the person I am, but seen as a stereotype. In that moment any worth that I had was extinguished with a swift blow and no filter on a over opinionated mouth.

In the world today, the idea of worth is something that doesn’t go unnoticed. A person is able to see the value of ‘worth’ on a daily basis. Whether it is the constantly changing stock market which drives the worth of our currency, the title that falls before the name of a person, or the color of robe that is worn at graduation ceremonies; a person’s worth is often built upon standards that society has crafted over time. While economics, academics and professional titles are not the problem, we need to work hard at challenging our perspective. Think with me for a moment: When a baby is born there is something magical about the community that seemingly appears out of no-where to celebrate this thing we call life. As quick as we take a breathe, this baby has been given value and worth–yet as the child changes and grows into an adolescent and then an adult so does the societal view of worth. Choices are made; some good and some bad. As much as we hate to admit it, we are capable of becoming hardened towards people and deflating a sense of worth.

Our role as part of humanity, friends and supports in building the worth of another person can be viewed through the  lens of a child’s building block set; we have three options: We can either stand idly by and do nothing, which is of little value, we can build the tower of worth up, or we tear the tower of worth down. In his book, ‘Mending Broken Hearts’, Dr. John McGee says, “The self is seen not so much as independent or self-determining, but as connected with others who help the person feel worthy because he/she is safe and loved.” The choice is yours– but I would challenge you to build.

Ben, Director of Culture and Mentorship

 

A House Is Only a House Until a Family Makes It a Home

” I am an advocate of the common phrase, ‘mi casa es su casa’, which translates into ‘my house is your house.’ Though figuratively speaking, I feel that by taking the extra effort to make a house a safer place to live is possible. I believe a house is only a house until a family makes it a home. This, I find is a crucial part of my role as a support worker. I know that being dedicated and reliable with a healthy mix of willingness to learn, is vital to creating a fun, vibrant and effective family home. As it only takes one stone to create a ripple, just as personally I have been caught up in another upon me; I feel to carry this is an extraordinary phenomenon.

Such simple acts of caring for the next support person coming into the house helps usher in a stress-free environment (dishes, sweeping, bathroom etc.). It is often these little things that encapsulate the idea of Gentle Teaching and strives to create an environment of selflessness.”

Tony, COR Support

It Is Important To Listen

“For creating and maintaining a culture of gentleness with the guys I support it is important to listen to what they have to say, help the guys to feel safe and loved; and to be engaged. The way I do this is that when they are talking I make sure I am looking at them and responding to them even if I already know or have heard what they are telling me. Also, when they are upset or angry, I attempt to give them their space until they are ready to talk about what was upsetting them. I never get mad or yell!

Some of the ways that I make the guys feel safe is by telling them that I am here for them and that I am not going to let anything happen to them. Some of the ways that I show the guys love is by taking them to a place they love or by watching a show or a movie over and over just because it makes them happy. Another way I show that they are important and loved is that even when I am not supporting I will still come to hangout, answer calls or texts and play games. The main way that I help the guys feel loved is by telling them that they are smart, good and that I love them: I will also give hugs freely.

The way I get the guys feeling engaged is by taking them to my house and meeting my family; by engaging them to help me personally, or with tasks that need to be done around their houses. In creating and maintaining a culture of gentleness with supports, I try to be as helpful as I can by being flexible with open support times. Also instead of getting upset or questioning an issue, I either ask questions or talk to someone, like my team leader.”

Jenna, COR Support

COR is Such a Perfect Fit For Me!

“I have always been a very sensitive person, which allows me to feel compassion and empathize with those around me. This is why I believe that COR is such a perfect fit for me! By reading the website and from my first experience shadowing as a support, I instantly knew I was extremely lucky to be hanging around such amazing, strong people.

I have always been drawn to people with disabilities as I find a deepened sense of honesty and a genuine spirit: there is no fear to be themselves, which is something I fully admire. I do my best to involve the guys I support within the community, but I am grandstanding when they are hesitant as the majority of them have had their fair share of struggles in life. I am very much attached to the men that I support and consider them very good friends. I don’t believe I could have formed the type of relationship I have with them if I were to use any philosophy over Gentle Teaching. I believe that Gentle Teaching, equips people to listen, to act in love and to be diligent in selflessness. I believe that Gentle Teaching comes natural to me, as I am a very gentle soul, and although there are tough times when the guys are going through difficulties and sometimes it may be hard to remain clam, Gentle Teaching always prevails and makes me realize that there are reasons for their struggles and my role as a support, and a friend is to help: not to alter behaviour in any form of condescendence or discrimination.”

Marie-Claire, COR Support