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