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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

Gentle Teaching Practicum: August 28, 2014

Gentle Teaching Practicum Poster 2014

 

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

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.”

A Night at the Ritz…aka BeerBros

Sleepless in Seattle Award-COR

The “Sleepless in Seattle” Award

In Saskatchewan the month of April is often the most anticipated month of the year: the snow finally begins to melt and spring slowly makes its appearance. People everywhere just seem a little bit happier. Unfortunately, this year Mother Nature didn’t get the memo and the cold just kept on coming.  So in lieu of spring’s arrival the fine people at Creative Options Regina chose to throw an Employee Appreciation Night, to lighten the winter blues.

In collaboration with the Gentle Teaching Symposium that was taking place in the city, a handful of us at COR set out to create a party atmosphere: bringing together both employees and guests to enjoy a few drinks, good food and great conversations. During the evening there was a buzz throughout the room—conversations were flying, laughter was boisterous: the energy was undeniable.

As part of a volunteer group of employees self-titled as the “Fun Club”, we set out to assist in planning social event’s within COR, for its employees and the individuals we serve. With our guests present there was no better time than to honor some of our own with employee awards. Not wanting our awards to be simply be accepted and then disposed of as soon as the winners walked into the front door of their homes: we thought that we would add some spunk and creativity of our own to the mix. In order to make things fair, we sent out the five categories and requested that fellow employees nominate those whom they thought deserving of the award. The categories, descriptions and victors are as follows:

    1. The Mother Hen Award was to be awarded to a person who gave freely of themselves to not only the supported individual, but also others around them. This person was to encompass a spirit of selflessness. The winner of this award went to Elaine Godon: a sweetheart through and through.
    2.  The Mentorship Award was awarded to Krystel Eddy for investing her time and energy into the lives of other supports, with the intent of building a stronger support system within COR.
    3. Kelsey Tiechrob walked away with the Swiss Army Knife Award. Over the course of his time with COR, Kelsey has dazzled his onlookers with his ability to be a multi-functional team player: being adaptable to new situations while being able to support almost anyone.
    4. The Sunnyside Up Award, was to be given to a person who exhibited a continuous spirit of optimism. When it came down to deciding a winner, the judges were unanimous, Ryan Robinson was the man! With his ‘perma-smile’ always locked and loaded, the choice was easy.
    5. The Gentle Giant Award was endowed to Matt Chin for exuding a spirit of gentle teaching: not only in his work life, but also in his personal life. 

And then there was one! A surprise award for Michael Lavis: to acknowledge all of his hard work and contribution to the organization as well as give a little praise, where praise is due. The award that Michael received was entitled, ‘The Sleepless in Seattle Award’: for getting the most done (and being successful at it) on the least amount of sleep. Did I mention that along with a small token of appreciation, came personalised tacky yet tasteful trophies? Embellished with ‘gold plated’, one of a kind figurines they were the envy of the ball.

The night was fun and with a great turnout of supports and guests it left everyone in anticipation for the next COR social gathering. If you want to join the ‘Fun Club’ pre-approved applications can be found by contacting Michael Lavis at michael@creativeoptionsregina.ca 

Ben, COR Support