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

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

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

Refuting the Bystander Effect

Kitty GenoveseIn 1964 a woman by the name of ‘Kitty Genovese’ was murdered but was not found out for two or three weeks later. When her death was later published in a local newspaper, numerous neighbors came forward telling the police of  their accounts of the murder. When questioned why they didn’t come forward sooner, the majority of the neighbours claimed that they didn’t feel like it was their place or responsibility. This became known as the bystander effect.

The bystander effect is a phenomenon that refers to cases in which individuals do not offer any means of help to persons in need, when others are present. The probability of help is inversely related to the number of bystanders. In other words, the greater the number of bystanders, the less likely it is that any one of them will help. Why is this?  Some say it is because of self-apathy, others argue personal boundaries, but I wonder whether or not it could be that we (as a society) have forgotten or neglected how to live in human relationship. Believe me, I am all for my own space but I wonder if we use that as an excuse sometimes to keep us from real, honest and true relationships.

Within the Gentle Teaching model, I believe that the four pillars of SAFE, LOVED, LOVING and ENGAGE, equip people with the  ability to refute the bystander effect: calling us as individuals to first and foremost work on our hearts, while we turn towards serving and caring for others.

Ben, COR Support

 

COR is not like any other job that I have had in the past!

I heart my job at CORWhen joining the team at Creative Options Regina (COR) I had no idea what I was getting involved in.

Everything I knew about COR consisted of knowing I would be working with individuals with intellectual disabilities, that I would be there to help improve their quality of life and to help these individuals through their day as a support person. After six months at COR I have realized that this kind of work goes well beyond what I initially believed I would be getting into. As stated by COR itself, we as support workers follow two ideals: “first, giving each person a sense of feeling safe and loved with their caregivers as companions, and second, helping individuals to express love to others, both in the COR community and in the greater community.”

COR is not like any other job that I have had in the past.

Working other jobs, such as retail or customer service, I was able to distance myself as an individual after I left work; with COR this is not the case. The individuals I support in COR have taken on a role in my life, as well as I have theirs. When I am not supporting the individuals I am usually with, I often find myself wondering what they are doing that day, how their day is going and even missing spending time with them. This kind of relationship goes far beyond that of a working relationship. It becomes a friendship. As with any kind of friend you want to see them lead a good life, make good choices, and improve as an individual; these are all qualities closely related to the ideals followed by Gentle Teaching.

It is because of the friendship I have developed with the individuals I support that I believe I maintain a culture of gentleness. I treat the individuals I support the same way I would treat anyone in my life; with patience, tolerance, compassion and happiness. I am able to joke around and have fun with the individuals I support the same way I interact with my friends outside of COR. This is a special relationship that helps us create a healthy environment for these individuals to thrive and grow. Being able to view the individuals within COR in this light is what makes us different from other organizations that use physical restraints, consequences, and the use of reward and punishment for behavioural interventions.   If we used these traditional practices it would hamper the kind of friendship that develops over time with the practice of Gentle Teaching and I would not be a capable support person or friend to the individuals I spend time with. It is because of the Gentle Teaching philosophy that I have come to love my time with COR and look forward to the time I spend with the people I support.

Kelly, COR Support

Working With People in a Culture of Gentleness: May 20-21, 2014

Working with people, a gentle teaching practicum-Creative Options Regina

Working With People in a Culture of Gentleness is a  two day training designed for direct care-givers and supervisors.  It teaches the basics of providing positive supports and the important role of a gentle caregiver.

COR’s partnership with the Center for Positive Living Supports (CPLS) has proven to have a tremendous impact on our organization! With only two organizations in Saskatchewan rooted in a culture of gentleness, the center has been instrumental in supporting the development of our caregiver training programs and leadership development initiatives; all of which serve to enhance the knowledge and skill set of our caregivers, subsequently improving the quality of life of individuals served.

Saskatchewan is currently in the midst of great change! With our Premier’s commitment to make Saskatchewan the best place for people to live in Canada with a disability, and with the planned closure of the provincial institution in 2016, we are collaborating with our provincial government to further expand and deepen this culture of gentleness across Saskatchewan; we are truly grateful for the support of the Center for Positive Living Supports for their commitment to collaboration and support in cultivating a culture of gentleness in a region far from the state of Michigan.

On May 20-21st, COR will be welcoming Deirdre Mercer, Senior Training Consultant, CPLS to Regina. Deirdre is a licensed social worker with a Bachelor of Science in Special Education from Central Michigan University. She loves the opportunity to spread a Culture of Gentleness and uses the lessons learned at MORC to teach others.  Her motto is, “Be kind for everyone you meet is fighting their battle too.”

Gentle Teaching Symposium

Gentle-Teaching-Symposium

Gentle Teaching Symposium
Date: Wednesday, April 9, 2014
Time: 7-9pm
Venue: Research & Innovation Centre, Lecture Theatre 119 (University of Regina)   

This community event, hosted by Dr. Jim Daschuk & UofR students enrolled in Health Studies 301, will bring together COR Supports, families and community stakeholders to hear stories of how Gentle Teaching philosophy and practice is influencing people’s lives across Canada.