Patience and Empathy have Great Value!

As a support person at COR, I have been privileged with the opportunity to support six incredible individuals so far. The way I try to create/maintain a culture of gentleness is by being patient, empathetic and having high energy. I’ve found that no matter how bad my day has been, any time I’m supporting I am much happier. Staying patient with the individuals I support has gone a long way for me in building trust and a relationship with them.

Because these individuals have been through so much in their lives, I try to empathize with them when they are having a rough day, rather than  look down on them. This method has helped me as a support, but also as a person outside of COR. I find being patient and empathetic to everyone has great value and has made me a better person, friend, teammate, support and leader. Being high energy is important because many of the people I’ve supported feed off of that energy and it makes them happy or wanting to do something with me because they know I will be engaged and putting my full energy into supporting them.

Caleb, COR Support

It’s all about your pace.

Have you ever stopped to think about the way that you walk?

I know that it is a strange question and if you chose to stop reading here I would likely understand. But  I promise you, I’m on to something. Now I am not talking about the physicality of your walk: do hips sway with a hoola-hoop like action, or is one leg shorter than the other causing a noticeable limp. More so, when you walk with a friend or companion, do you walk as if it is the end of the world and speed to wherever your destination may be or do you walk intentionally taking in your surroundings and the conversation that you may be having.

For the past three years I have been married to the love of my life. It has been an incredible adventure and we have enjoyed every minute of it: including the bountiful walks that we have taken. However one of the things that I noticed early on into our marriage is that my wife walks as if she is an Olympian speed walker–it eventually got to the point where I had to tenderly grab her hand and ask her to slow down. To ally my naysayers out there, it wasn’t because I couldn’t keep up to her, rather I didn’t like the feeling of being rushed in moments where I felt like I could relax.

I have been thinking about this idea of “pace” for a long time and it finally struck me: the way we pace ourselves not only determines when we finish the proverbial race, but also how we finish it.  As supports, friends, family and others associated with COR and the Gentle Teaching movement has this idea fully penetrated our hearts and minds, thus being embodied in our words and actions?  I ask this because I was convicted about it in my own heart, when I began noticing the young man that I support was always a few steps behind me. At first I didn’t think much of it, but as time passed I was frustrated: not at him, but myself. I had become the ‘Olympian’, though accomplishing much, missing the view.

So do me a favor, after reading this blog: stop whatever you are doing and ask yourself a few questions:

  1. What is the pace you are moving at?
  2. Are you noticing the ‘view’ and slowing down to assist others?
  3. Take a few moments to review the four tools of Gentle Teaching  and honestly ask yourself how you are doing in each of the following areas.

a)Loving Eyes/Gaze

b) Hands

c) Loving Words

d) Loving Presence

 

Ben, COR Support

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

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

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

 

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 Featured in the Warehouse District Newsletter!

Well maybe featured is a bit much, but COR had a wonderful writeup published in the City of Regina’s Warehouse District Newsletter – Summer Edition!

The best part was a quote from Brenda Rossow-Kimball, PhD, President of the Board of Directors:

“We support people not clients; we facilitate rather than dictate; we hope to craft companions not employees; and we embrace authentic selves that tell a story of who a person truly is, rather than a fictional self and story created by others that tells the world who you should be.”

Regina's Delightful Warehouse District