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I was inspired by these interactions and how the 4 pillars of gentle teaching were incorporated into everyday interactions almost seamlessly.

Before I started working at Creative Options Regina I had never heard of the term “Gentle Teaching.”

I had never worked with people with disabilities before – and to be quite honest – I was afraid.

I was afraid because my entire life society told me to disregard and disengage; to completely forget about what it means to show compassion, friendship, and above all else, acceptance to those with disabilities. After taking Gentle Teaching Level 2 the first week working in the office I can’t tell you that I was “changed” or “different,” in fact I was quite the same. Gentle Teaching started to shape my inner self through the interactions and observations of those around me: the supports, the office team, and, most importantly, the people we serve.

I was inspired by these interactions and how the 4 pillars of gentle teaching were incorporated into everyday interactions almost seamlessly. How gentle teaching opened this door to interactions I had never thought I would WANT to have. Slowly, I was able to incorporate myself into the lives of the people we serve, learning about them, caring about them. I also didn’t realize this was happening outside of COR with my daily interactions with family and friends. Gentle Teaching doesn’t happen over night and it is something you can never master. But, you learn everyday a little bit more and grow a little bit more. That is what I love about Gentle Teaching and that is how I move forward to engage, to love, to be loved, and provide safety to all those around me.

 

Tom

COR Family Member

‘Mend the heart. All else will follow’: Creative Options Regina creates new life for many with disabilities

Pamela Cowan, Regina Leader-Post Pamela Cowan, Regina Leader-Post

In this season of giving, reporter Pamela Cowan is profiling some of the organizations and people working to make the lives of Reginans better. Watch for her stories for the rest of the year as we showcase the 12 Days of Difference-Makers.


Staff crowd around Andrew Ronnie and hug him as he blushes. It’s his 35th birthday.

One can feel the love inside the room.

Ronnie says softly: “Now I’m safe.”

It’s a feeling he hasn’t always felt. For many years, Ronnie didn’t feel loved and, in fact, was feared and shunned.

A number of years ago, he spent six months in the psychiatric unit at the Regina General Hospital. After his release, he was in and out of the emergency department.

No one could deal with the violent outbursts he was prone to until a group of special people uncovered his giving heart and his desperate need to feel safe.

He was the catalyst for the development of Creative Options Regina (COR) — a non-profit organization that develops personalized supports for people with a wide range of intellectual disabilities, and often mental health issues.

“They care about me a lot,” says Ronnie, the first person to receive COR services.

“What’s really important to understand is that these aren’t bad people,” says Michael Lavis, executive director of COR. “It’s just the system wasn’t flexible to be able to meet the needs of these folks to provide them with the care they required.”

And so, Lavis Says, COR started working with people “nobody else wanted.”

Andrew Ronnie and executive director Michael Lavis, right, play foosball at the Creative Options Regina office. Michael Bell / Regina Leader-Post

COR was created in partnership with the Ministry of Social Services in 2009.

A year before its creation, the provincial government identified 448 Saskatchewan people with intellectual disabilities and other complex needs who couldn’t access services — many from around Regina.

“We’ve seen families say, ‘We can’t do this anymore’ and they cut ties and that’s hard,” Lavis says. “I can only imagine how painful it is to drop their loved one off at the emergency room and abandon them. That’s happening all of the time.”

So COR, working with others in the community, connects individuals and their families with whatever services are required.

“Ultimately we’re providing support to everyone who is connected to that person’s life,” Lavis says.

The government gathered community-based organizations to discuss who required specialized services and how to provide them. Many were homeless, living in psychiatric units, shelters or hotels and two-thirds had a mental health diagnosis.

Complicating matters was that many were involved with multiple government departments.

“What happens to the people that touch two, three or four of those government departments?” Lavis asks. “What we know to be true is often they fall into these huge gaps that exist in our service delivery system.”

For example, people with mental health issues are the responsibility of the Ministry of Health. Those with intellectual disabilities deal with Social Services. Aboriginal people receive federal supports through Indian Northern Affairs Canada. Those under 21 fall under the Education Ministry and people in trouble with the law are involved with Justice and Corrections.

A number of adults connected to COR endured significant trauma while growing up in foster homes or group homes.

“Trauma that was inflicted upon them by the very people that were intended to protect them,” Lavis says.

Foster and group homes aren’t equipped to provide the supports these kids need, so they’re bounced around in the child and family system, he says. When they reach adulthood, they’re bounced around some more.

Supports through COR are tailored to each individual’s dreams.

Services range from daytime, recreational, supported living and employment supports. Depending on an individual’s needs, home supports might be provided for a few hours a day to 24/7 care.

Based on a companionship model, staff promote each individual’s independence.

“They might help them get up and get ready, grocery shop, prepare meals, do medication management and then help them connect with the broader community, both socially and recreationally,” Lavis says.

Many under the care of COR are society’s most disenfranchised.

When Ronnie moved to a home, he required two-on-one support around the clock. He couldn’t have a roommate because of his violent history.

“(He) came with case file after case file of all the horrific things he’s ever done in life,” Lavis says.

Candidly Ronnie confides he’s “had lots of temper and anger.”

But gradually Ronnie’s life was transformed. In 2012, he moved into a new home with a roommate and now receives one-on-one care.

“I’m working on no self harm and I’m working on not trashing the house — that was in the past,” Ronnie says proudly.

He hasn’t been to the hospital for more than a year, which Lavis credits to COR’s “gentle teaching” philosophy.

When dealing with behavioural issues, staff are taught: “Go for the centre. Mend the heart. All else will follow.”

Among those they had to mend was Gerald, a man with cerebral palsy who was unable to speak.

The first time Lavis met Gerald he was trussed tightly in his wheelchair with restraint upon restraint upon restraint. Boxing gloves and a helmet with face mask prevented the young man from hitting, pinching and biting those around him.

Gerald’s wheelchair was bolted to plywood to prevent him from toppling because of his constant thrusting.

“I remember looking at Gerald and thinking, ‘This is horrifying — straight out of a movie.’ Imagine, in 2009, that this exists in our own community,” Lavis says.

When COR staff started caring for Gerald the first thing they did was remove his restraints. There were ongoing struggles as he continued to pinch and bite.

“He couldn’t walk because he’d been in this wheelchair for so long that he had zero muscle capacity in his legs,” Lavis says.

While the team tried to build trust with Gerald, they gained a champion in the health-care system who discovered he had a bowel obstruction and dental issues.

“When we dealt with those underlying health conditions, the pain stopped and the hitting of the head stopped,” Lavis says. “Some of that violence that we saw was him trying to tell us, ‘I’m in pain. I hurt.’ ”

Eventually Gerald moved into a home with a roommate and has learned to walk unassisted.

“He has to hang on to the railings in the home, but there’s no helmet, no gloves, no restraints,” Lavis says.

***

Over eight years, the non-profit organization has grown to 170-plus employees who support more than 50 high-needs people.

“If there was a blanket diagnosis that I could give to everyone that we provide services to, I would say that it is a deep sense of loneliness,” Lavis says. “A deep sense of disconnect. These are folks who have very few, if any, true friends — unpaid, natural supports in their lives.”

In Saskatchewan, 170 community-based organizations provide services to roughly 5,500 adults with disabilities.

Within that group of people, approximately 100 have been identified as having complex and challenging support needs. COR supports 19 of the 100 people.

Funded by the provincial and federal governments, COR has an operating budget of $7.8 million.

A number of COR participants have had lengthy stays in the mental health unit — the shortest being three months, the longest being 19 months.

“When you sit down and evaluate the cost of daily police interventions and all of the emergency room visits that happen weekly and the stints in the acute care settings — this is a fraction of the cost,” Lavis says.

To meet a growing need, Rory McCorriston, director of people and culture at COR, hired 30 employees in the past year.

“The majority of our organization is made up of support people,” he says.

The average age of staff is 28 — a good fit for the people they serve who are, on average, in their 30s.

Rory McCorriston, director of people and culture at Creative Options Regina. Michael Bell / Regina Leader-Post

It’s not uncommon for COR to hire people without previous disability experience.

“In some situations, it’s almost preferred because often if you have people who have done this type of work in a more traditional setting or have done it for a long time, they come in with their own set of ideas about caregiving,” McCorriston says.

Staff turnover is low and jobs aren’t posted because people send in unsolicited resumes after hearing COR’s story.

“In this industry of disability work, it’s common for an organization to have high staff turnover,” McCorriston says. “But when the basis of our philosophy of caregiving is building relationships, it’s hard to build a relationship if you’re only there for under a year.”

Staff help people gain abilities and return power to those who have felt helpless for years.

“Every day we’re hoping to come in — not to dress them, but to help them pick out the right outfit,” McCorriston says. “It’s not cooking and cleaning for that person, but doing it together.”

***

Chris, another young man, was a conduit for great change in Saskatchewan.

“He fell victim to that trap of living in the psychiatric ward for 19 months,” Lavis says. “Can you imagine, at a cost of $2,000 a day? He was there because there was no place for him to go.”

COR worked with Social Services and Regina Qu’Appelle Health Region’s Mental Health and Addictions Services to create supports for him. Provincial funding was used to hire a psychiatric nurse. Together they provide proactive mental health supports.

“Much better than queuing up at the emergency room and waiting for a six-month appointment with a psychiatrist, which is the norm,” Lavis says.

Another initiative rolled out two years ago after COR was asked to help a 14-year-old boy with autism who had significant behavioural challenges.

Executive director Michael Lavis. Michael Bell / Regina Leader-Post

“The system was really challenged to provide supports to him,” Lavis said. “Through that process, we changed our mandate to include youths and get involved earlier with these kids so we can put an end to that revolving door and they don’t fall off that cliff when they graduate to adulthood.”

Now COR supports youths who have intellectual developmental disabilities and mental health issues.

“Our hope — and I say hope because it hasn’t happened yet in the province — is that these kids are going to be able to transition from Child and Family programs to Community Living — the department within Social Services for disabilities — and the transition doesn’t disrupt their lives,” Lavis says.

This summer, COR opened its second youth home and currently provides 24-hour support for three individuals.

“The plan is to add another one or two kids this winter, but we’re also providing support to children who are living in the family home,” Lavis says. “Often the system forces the families to the brink and they have no other option, but to hand their child over to the system.”

More avenues opened four years ago for those with disabilities when COR partnered with Campus for All, a unique program at the University of Regina.

Every year, 12 students with intellectual disabilities participate in the inclusive post-secondary education program and convocate after four years.

“Campus For All was doing a fantastic job of the academic and social piece, but where they were struggling was the employment part,” Lavis says. “We have a number of folks really starting to thrive in the community and they want to work. They want a paycheque and they want meaningful work.”

To address that need, COR and Campus for All partnered to create 4 to 40, funded through the Ministry of Economy.

The employment initiative connects individuals involved in Campus For All and COR with employers who provide a flexible four-to 40-hour work week.

“Community employers want to be inclusive, they want to have diverse work forces and they understand the importance and the value that diversity brings, but they don’t really quite know how to do it and they need help — particularly with the demographic that we’re serving,” Lavis said. “There’s a lot of fear and apprehension around what that looks like.”

Brittany Bechard, left, and Serena Bernges at Creative Options Regina. Michael Bell / Regina Leader-Post

COR participants work at individualized jobs at businesses including SeedMaster, SaskTel, Dutch Industries, Meyers Norris Penny and Farm Credit Canada.

Employers are not subsidized and the paid employment includes benefits and pension.

Job descriptions and work hours vary, but the benefits of a meaningful job are the same — greater self esteem and inclusion.

“We have a guy working at the SaskTel warehouse that went from a few hours and now he’s up to 30 hours a week,” Lavis said.

Job coaches from COR help individuals integrate into the workplace.

“It’s really helping to set that person up for success,” Lavis says. “When I talk about success, I mean developing not only their skills, but connecting them to the relationships that come with any place of employment.”

***

Lavis is passionate about his work.

“So many people that we serve have been given such horrific labels and diagnoses — this laundry list of all these bad things they’ve done and these are some pretty amazing people… How do you give them that opportunity to shine so others can see that value as well?”

Prior to becoming one of the founders of COR, Lavis spent 12 years working with marginalized children and women in post-conflict zones around the world.

The 38-year-old worked on projects funded by the Canadian government, Oxfam in Great Britain and other international development organizations in places like northern Uganda and southeast Asia.

Back in Regina, Lavis insists he’s one of a team working to make a difference.

“We have this incredibly passionate young board made up of community professionals from varied backgrounds that are really committed to social change,” he says. “They don’t have a background in disability — most have zero connection, like myself, to disability. They’re very supportive of what we’re doing because they believe in the vision.”

When Serena Bernges, one of the younger residents of Valley View Centre in Moose Jaw, moved to COR in 2016 she was adamant she didn’t want to live with roommates or a group of people.

She wanted her own place in Regina.

Bernges has a soft spot for Valley View where she had friends throughout the institution, but she has new-found freedom in Regina.

The 43-year-old lives in a self-contained suite in a small bungalow with another woman. No longer does she share a bedroom and best of all, she gets to cook her own meals.

“I make stuffed mushrooms, lasagna and sausage and hot dogs,” Bernges says. “I live in the best house in the world.”

pcowan@postmedia.com

Read the article on the Leader-post website here.

 

Dylan Morin is an extremely hard working and dedicated citizen in the Regina community.

Dylan Morin is an extremely hard working and dedicated citizen in the Regina community. His days are filled with student life, working part time for Dutch Industries, and volunteering for one of the countless clubs he is a part of. He makes himself available whenever he is needed and never shies away from a challenge. Dylan is everywhere.

Dylan is dedicated to his studies at the University of Regina. He is currently in his 4th and final year of the Campus For All and plans to graduate in the spring of 2018. When asked what his favorite part of being in school was, Dylan was quick to reply, “Meeting new people!” He also mentioned that once he graduates he really wants to continue his studies at the U of R auditing classes, furthering his education and broadening his scope of knowledge. In his own words, “There is so much information out there.”

At Dutch Industries, Dylan has developed a strong relationship with a family run business that is designed to “bring quality to its customers for generations.” It is this mantra and his personal connection to his boss Greg that keeps Dylan passionate about his work. When asked what he does at Dutch Industries, Dylan said proudly, “quality control and shipping. I package bolts for farming equipment across North America (Canada and the US) as well as the UK and then prepare them for shipping.”

His days are filled with student life, working part time for Dutch Industries

Another reason why Dylan enjoys his work at Dutch is because “they are great at helping [him] balance his time with what is important and the things he loves to do.” Dylan has been an amazing advocate for Friendship Club, Best Buddies, book club, Special Olympics bowling as well as track, and the Wind On My Wings Sailing Club to name a few. Being involved in his community and taking part in special events around Regina is something Dylan truly enjoys. In getting to know Dylan over the past couple years I have learned that his passion for serving others is unmatched. He is a fantastic public speaker and enjoys pounding the pavement looking to connect people and organizations, alike.

Finally I asked Dylan what his dreams were once he graduated from the University. Dylan replied without hesitation, “I make a good pay cheque already. I plan to keep working and saving. I will probably take some more classes but I don’t think much will change.” To conclude our interview I asked Dylan what his dream job would be if given the choice to do anything in the world to which he replied, “I would love to be a flight attendant for WestJet. I think it would be amazing to fly from Chicago to LA or even Vancouver again!” Dylan, with your passion and dedication to doing a thorough job, the sky is the limit.

Thank you for modelling passion and dedication, Dylan! We could all learn something from you.

 

Ben Morris,

Community Education and Outreach

 

Vulnerabilities of Caregivers – John J. McGee

“Although our vulnerabilities and the external threats to our wellbeing are in many ways nothing compared to those of the persons whom we serve, it is important that we recognize our own before dealing further with the vulnerabilities of those whom we serve.

We are all vulnerable to breakdowns in our personal values. Sometimes these can be due to how we feel and what we are experiencing within ourselves; at other times we can be part of a system that makes it harder for us to respond to our shared values. If a caregiver is afraid of being hurt, he/she then becomes more likely to use restraint to control violent behaviors. Or, if a caregiver is depressed, then it is extremely hard to bring joy to others. If we are being beaten and de-valued at home, it is hard to bring non-violence into someone else’s home.

John J. McGee’s “Mending Broken Hearts” CPLS Newsletter

Many of our vulnerabilities are worsened by lack of adequate training and hands-on supervision. Some caregivers are quite isolated and seldom have the opportunity to discuss their problems and search for new responses to challenging situations. It is critical that caregivers recognize their weaknesses and find ways to overcome them. Community leaders need to listen to caregivers and find ways to offer support and encouragement.

Caregivers need to find their own self-worth from themselves, talking frequently, sharing their anxieties, and pointing out their goodness. Our own worth has to be generated from within ourselves. We need to form strong communities.

The question of burnout seems to be always present. Some caregivers give up and attribute their burnout to poor supervision, working in violent settings, receiving little guidance, or low pay. Since we are not only teaching feelings of companionship, but also a sense of community, it is important for caregivers to look at themselves, question their reality, and search for ways for themselves to feel safer, more engaged, and more valued. The first step in this is to step back and examine those things that make us vulnerable.

Let us take a moment to reflect on these aspects of our lives — recognizing these will help us understand better the needs of those whom we serve.”

 

~Excerpt from John J. McGee’s “Mending Broken Hearts” — CPLS Newsletter.

 

I love the leader that COR and gentle teaching has enabled me to become!

Gentle Teaching has become a main part of my life. During my university career, I have done many presentations and projects based on gentle teaching because it applies to so many different areas of study; whether it be Psychology or Kinesiology and Health Studies. As Assistant Home Team Leader, I dedicated most of my support times (and outside support times) to making sure the people I support are physically healthy. I continue to do activities to keep the guys active and engaged, but allow them to decide which activities are right for them! I pre-cook and freeze meals so that it is easily accessible for the rest of the team. This is done so that supports aren’t tempted to buy unhealthy food! Since this started, I have continued to encourage others on the team to do the same as well. As a result, the team has all begun to contribute to grocery shopping and cooking wholesome meals. This was not so they could be “fit” or “skinny”, but to better compliment one’s overall quality of life. I am a strong believer in how physical health affects one’s mental health, thus my pursuit of a masters degree in sport and exercise psychology.

what I learned at COR

Although I recently stepped down as Assistant Home Team Leader, I have continued to keep many of the same responsibilities. The title of ATL was not my motivation to be a leader! I will continue to be passionate about caring for the people I support, as that is the foundation of Gentle Teaching. Their companionship and presence in my life is enough to want to help with the quality of it. COR has shown me that I am capable of my own academic accomplishments. Sport and Exercise Psychology is not popular in Canada just yet, but that doesn’t mean I can’t continue to follow my interests and turn them into my passion. Even though I have stepped down from my ATL role, supports still contact me when certain issues arise; they still want to hear my advice and experience. I love this! For the first time, I feel like I am a mentor. I like knowing it is not my leadership status that motivates them to ask me for help. I feel as though they ask because they know I am effective at solving problems while still keeping one’s emotions in mind. It has become a very empowering experience. I love the leader that COR and Gentle Teaching has enabled me to become!

 

Kyla, COR Support

Gentle Teaching has become a main part of my life

Being WITH one another is one of the main lessons I have grown to appreciate since being introduced to Gentle Teaching.

Often when I have the chance to catch up with somebody I have not seen for a while, the question always seems to pop up: “So, where are you working these days?”. This is a funny question for me to answer because when you truly find something that you are passionate about and enjoy doing on a daily basis, it’s no longer considered work – this is how Gentle Teaching has transformed me as a person. After graduating high school, I soon found myself at a job that did not offer any growth for myself as an individual. A cooking job that provided forty hours a week, but had me asking myself if this is really how I want to spend the next however many years of my life, at a job where I simply show up for a nine to five shift, then go home. I can imagine that I was among millions of people who couldn’t wait to be done work to get home and relax, dreading the thought of having to go back the next day. I needed a change, especially knowing that I had much more inside of me than that. COR was an option that I had considered applying for, but was ambiguous about at first. It’s the type of organization that was very unfamiliar to me solely because I was one of many who had the common attitude that people with a disability may be seen as troublesome and based my perception on the idea of their “behaviour”. I took a blind leap into Gentle Teaching and soon realized that a critical part of this culture of gentleness is shedding these beliefs and valuing people for who they are. Now, two years later, I have found myself buried so deep in the lives of the individuals I serve that the thought of not seeing them throughout the week is unnerving.

With COR, I now find myself getting lost in the moment with these individuals that I can honestly call my friends, forgetting about time all-together. From being part of a fast paced, aggressive work environment in the past, to now being a part of a community that practices Gentle Teaching in every aspect in life is truly a blessing. Gentle Teaching has helped me focus on building a sense of companionship and community with those that I serve and that there is no nine to five shift when it comes to being involved in others lives. The relationships you create and maintain with others directly revolves around the time you invest with them, being WITH one another is one of the main lessons I have grown to appreciate since being introduced to Gentle Teaching. This philosophy is truly something special, something you can’t just turn on or off when it fits. I believe it’s the unconditional compassion for others in which we all have inside of us.

 

Sawyer, COR Support

 

A culture of gentleness for me has come naturally by genuinely caring for the three gentlemen I serve.

A culture of gentleness for me has come naturally by genuinely caring for the three gentlemen I serve. Since I started at COR almost one year ago I have created relationships with the three guys I serve that without a doubt will last a lifetime. Being able to care for someone on a daily basis and watch them grow as people has been one of the most professionally satisfying accomplishments to date. Watching the look on the guys faces while they do things they love can turn even the worst of days around in a heart beat.

i-strongly-believe-the-culture-of-gentleness-is-created-by-those-who-we-serve

I would have to say I more so reciprocate a culture of gentleness however. To say I create a culture of gentleness would minimize the amount of caring that these individuals show us who come in to serve them. The three guys I support have some of the biggest hearts I have ever met. They will share what ever it is they have with out batting an eye. I strongly believe the culture of gentleness is created by those who we serve.

 

Danny, COR Support

 

How many jobs allow you to help improve the lives of others while building such meaningful relationships with those individuals?

When I heard the philosophy of Gentle Teaching, it seemed like the most simple and effective way of giving the individuals we support at COR the best quality of life. Safe, loved, loving and engaged- the four pillars that make up Gentle Teaching- make so much sense! When I look at my own life, I know that with these four pillars present I feel the most valued so I want to always make sure that the girls I support feel that way too.

Whether the girls are having a good day or a bad day, I feel like it is important to make sure they know they are still loved unconditionally and supported no matter what. I want them to feel that they can approach me and feel comfortable to communicate and be themselves with me. I feel that I best deliver a culture of gentleness through my communication. I let the girls know that I am here for them, we build trust in each other, and strong relationships form. I always remember that the girls are people first. We all go through rough times but that doesn’t mean that they are any less than anyone else. When, for example, the girls feel down, maybe frustrated or upset, we use our ability to communicate to help them get back to feeling their best. It is important for them to know that they are not bad nor have done something wrong. Instead, we talk through the situation in a way which lets them know that they are still supported and loved and our relationship has not changed. Having patience and a sense of calmness often works in the house that I support at. When the girls see that I am open to helping them and keeping them feeling safe and loved they respond better in the ways we communicate.

the-benefits-i-see-in-the-individuals-lives-that-come-from-the-culture-of-gentle-teaching

I feel like in order to maintain a culture of gentleness it is important to not think of supporting as work. At the end of the day, yes this is a job, but it is so much more than that. How many jobs allow you to help improve the lives of others while building such meaningful relationships with those individuals? The benefits I see in the individuals lives that come from the culture of gentle teaching make my life as a support so rewarding. Because of the benefits I see with Ruby and Lanie and the way Gentle Teaching works with them it motivates me to continue the way I approach my support times with the girls. They have experienced a lot of change in the last 6 months which can easily take a toll on them. Seeing the way our team has used gentle teaching over these last 6 months and the positive improvements it has made with the girls just reinforces once again the impact that it has and the importance of maintaining it in the way we support.

 

Elise, COR Support

 

Gentle Teaching has transformed the person I am today; I see differently; I speak differently; I touch differently; I vibe differently.

How has Gentle Teaching transformed the person you are or aspire to be?

For the first time in my life, I am employed by a company that has the same philosophies as me and provides countless opportunities and encouragement to dive deeper into an exciting journey of self exploration and self development. I will be forever appreciative for this experience.

Gentle Teaching has transformed the person I am today; I see differently; I speak differently; I touch differently; I vibe differently. I now understand how paramount things like safety, love, and engagement are in maintaining my current relationships and also building new, healthy, empowering relationships.

Gentle Teaching has also transformed the hundreds of interactions I have each and every single day, whether that be with my family members, partners, friends, i-see-differently-i-speak-differently-i-touch-differently-i-vibe-differentlystrangers, or my pets. For example, I am constantly practicing Gentle Teaching with my fur-babies: two beagles. Beagles are stubborn, messy, loud, and stinky … but they also give the best cuddles, are the source of many laughs, and love me unconditionally. Sometimes, when they are not getting the proper attention and engagement that they need, they eat everything (literally everything – the bed frame has large chunk missing and the phone jack has been eaten off the wall), they puke on the new couch, howl at my neighbours, and are incredibly stubborn to train. Despite all of this chaos they cause in my life, I find it so easy to love them unconditionally. I no longer raise my voice or punish them when they do wrong. I only use touch and words in a positive way. However, sometimes when I feel like I cannot properly practice Gentle Teaching with my dogs and need time to myself, the pups visit Gramma and Grampa; this allows me time to recharge and recover so I can give them the best care I can. Gentle teaching has strengthened my relationship with my pets which is transferable to every other relationship in my life.

Despite all of the changes I’ve made so far, I’m not perfect. While I try my best to practice what I preach, sometimes I slip up. Honestly, I still aspire to be a more patient person. At the beginning of my Gentle Teaching journey, I often lost my patience on insignificant things; bad drivers, needy dogs, demanding partners. I feel like along my gentle teaching training was also a lesson in patience. I now know that the person is more important than the task at hand. It also taught me that, in disagreements, I no longer need to have the last word. Also, sometimes people have bad days and I do not need to take it personally. Hopefully, the relationship I have with that person was built on such a strong foundation that they can offer me the same compassion and understanding that I would offer to them when they need it most. I am also doing my best to love people unconditionally and aspire to have a positive journey to love without conditions and BE loved without conditions.

I have only been practicing Gentle Teaching for about a year. Now that I have a taste of this philosophy, I want to continue to change. I want to know more. I want others to learn the benefits of gentle teaching. I want to lead by example. I want to make a difference.

 

Diandra, COR Support

 

It is an amazing thing to be surrounded by so many kind, genuine, and warm individuals

The way that I create and maintain a culture of gentleness surrounding the women I support is through curiosity, warmth, and the building up of others. These three elements feed into one another and are tangibly helpful in sustaining the positive morale and affectionate atmosphere that are vital to a culture of gentleness.

Curiosity implies interest, attention, respect, and good-naturedness, all of which are essential to building and maintaining a culture of gentleness. In the time I have been supporting at COR, I have consistently made a point of asking questions and approaching those I serve and my team with openness and attentiveness. I have found that it is much easier to build pleasant, amicable, and trusting relationships when the other senses your interest in them. Approaching the individuals I serve with curiosity means that I do not assume I know what they want, nor do I cut them off mid-sentence because I think I know what they will say. Instead, I try to listen with fresh ears every day in hopes that I might see and hear things that might otherwise get missed for that individual. Approaching my fellow team members with curiosity means asking how their day went and actually listening to the response. It means refraining from gossip or judgement when someone has made a mistake, and giving that person the benefit of the doubt. I truly believe that this is an essential piece to maintaining good team morale, and by extension, a happy and healthy emotional climate surrounding the individuals we serve.

it-is-an-amazing-thing-to-be-surrounded-by-so-many-kind-genuine-and-warm-individuals-and-to-feel-safe-from-judgement-ridicule

Hence, I take that curiosity one step further by projecting genuine warmth and care to everyone in our circle. The most important aspect of the culture of gentleness for me is the sense of ease and comfort I feel when approaching others within our community. It is an amazing thing to be surrounded by so many kind, genuine, and warm individuals and to feel safe from judgement, ridicule, or rejection when moving through said group. It is important to me that others feel that same security in me, and so I strive to project amiability, not only to those I support and my teammates, but to everyone else within our immediate community.

That warmth and openness can be taken even further in the form of building up others around me. Greeting an acquaintance by name, remembering what they like, or asking a thoughtful question can make them feel seen and important. Encouraging and complimenting can likewise give someone a well-needed boost to keep doing their best. If I can build up the individuals I support, other supports or even COR friends and family members by doing any of these things, then that person I uplift is more likely to turn around and pay the same kindness forward to someone else. That, to me, is life force behind a culture of gentleness.

 

Ashley, COR Support