Posts

Reverse Effects

“We keep trying to establish feelings of companionship and forming community among those who are marginalized. Yet, we struggle to create a sense of connectedness in a culture that demands independence and self-reliance. We listen to newscasts that announce this. We hear newscasts tell us the strong must control the weak. We read newspaper stories that trumpet the glory of the self. These cultural attitudes become part of our care giving. We have been trained to seek compliance and control. We demand that those whom we serve choose what is right and good when they do not trust us, in fact, often fear us. We live in a world that places the individual above the community.

As care givers, we have to reverse this trend and begin to question what the other needs — to feel safe with us and loved by us. A psychology of interdependence assumes that we find ourselves in others and in the strength of our connectedness to others. It is the foundation of who we are and what we are becoming. It leads us to develop a sense of companionship with those who distance themselves from us. We have to move from a culture of self-reliance to one of human connectedness and from a culture of self to one of otherness. As we do this, we are slowly moving toward the formation of community where we will feel collectively safe, loved, loving and engaged.

Interdependence is based on our shared values — the wholeness and inherent goodness of each person in spite of violent behavior and the thirst that we all have for a feeling of being one-with-one-another in spite of paradoxical behaviors that push others away. These values are difficult to maintain, but are necessary if we are to help those who cling onto the slippery edge of family and community life.”

John McGee,
Mending Broken Hearts: Companionship and Community

It’s Time To BULK-UP Your Shoulders

I am a firm believer that exercise is a necessary evil.

If I could get away with never working out I would be an incredibly happy man! However, there is something strange that began happening to me once I graduated high school; my ‘average size’ frame began morphing into something that resembled the shape of a Teletubby. What was described to me as the ‘freshmen fifteen’, in reality became the freshman thirty-five: I had lost control!

Instead of crossing my fingers and wishing for the weight to miraculously dissolve, I made the hard choice to eat better and begin working out. At first going to the gym was incredibly intimidating; but with every time I kept my commitment, it became easier and more comfortable. Once again I began noticing changes. I felt healthier, stronger and my shoulders became more defined.

Shoulder’s aren’t typically something that you wake up thinking about: unless you are an Olympic body-builder and yet my post today focuses our attention on this idea: Do not be dismayed, this is a challenge that runs significantly deeper than the physical. I believe that we as living and breathing people need to continually ask ourselves, ‘what am I able to bear and what is my breaking point?’ This question comes to mind after weeks and months of dwelling on the question “whose responsibility is it?” Particularly thinking about the disability sector and the desire on COR’s behalf to be leaders within our community by embracing Gentle Teaching—and challenging the status-quo.

Whose responsibility is it when the police are called to a house because of a yelling match between roommates? Whose responsibility is it when a customer in line at the grocery store glares cruelly at the person we support, and utters comments under their breath? Whose responsibility is it to put the house together after an escalation that resulted in property damage? I’ll stop here, but please don’t think that this is a compulsive list—No! It can entail anything and everything that falls within a grey area, including care for those that we support as well as those that we support with.

bulk-up-your-shoulders

On going relationships should motivate us to dig into unconditional love and share the load of others burdens. Giving the emotional encouragement and mental strength, so that the love of friendship spurs on that individual to continue. We have often said that we desire to work in a community of like-minded people: in order to do this we need to learn to carry the burdens and stress of others. Assist where needed and when available in order to bulk up our shoulders.

From my meager perspective, the greatest way to do this is to question your intent in everything. Are you noticing the down-trodden parent, the intimidated support worker or the overwhelmed team leader? Or, are you so caught up in the happenings of your own life that others are hidden in the background: with a painted banner over their heads that convinces you they are “happy”, “fine” or “will pull through with time”. I am convinced that we need to learn to become more intentional, bend down to help the helpless and bulk up our shoulders to carry the burden of others.

 

Ben, Director of Culture and Mentorship

 

A House Is Only a House Until a Family Makes It a Home

” I am an advocate of the common phrase, ‘mi casa es su casa’, which translates into ‘my house is your house.’ Though figuratively speaking, I feel that by taking the extra effort to make a house a safer place to live is possible. I believe a house is only a house until a family makes it a home. This, I find is a crucial part of my role as a support worker. I know that being dedicated and reliable with a healthy mix of willingness to learn, is vital to creating a fun, vibrant and effective family home. As it only takes one stone to create a ripple, just as personally I have been caught up in another upon me; I feel to carry this is an extraordinary phenomenon.

Such simple acts of caring for the next support person coming into the house helps usher in a stress-free environment (dishes, sweeping, bathroom etc.). It is often these little things that encapsulate the idea of Gentle Teaching and strives to create an environment of selflessness.”

Tony, COR Support

It Is Important To Listen

“For creating and maintaining a culture of gentleness with the guys I support it is important to listen to what they have to say, help the guys to feel safe and loved; and to be engaged. The way I do this is that when they are talking I make sure I am looking at them and responding to them even if I already know or have heard what they are telling me. Also, when they are upset or angry, I attempt to give them their space until they are ready to talk about what was upsetting them. I never get mad or yell!

Some of the ways that I make the guys feel safe is by telling them that I am here for them and that I am not going to let anything happen to them. Some of the ways that I show the guys love is by taking them to a place they love or by watching a show or a movie over and over just because it makes them happy. Another way I show that they are important and loved is that even when I am not supporting I will still come to hangout, answer calls or texts and play games. The main way that I help the guys feel loved is by telling them that they are smart, good and that I love them: I will also give hugs freely.

The way I get the guys feeling engaged is by taking them to my house and meeting my family; by engaging them to help me personally, or with tasks that need to be done around their houses. In creating and maintaining a culture of gentleness with supports, I try to be as helpful as I can by being flexible with open support times. Also instead of getting upset or questioning an issue, I either ask questions or talk to someone, like my team leader.”

Jenna, COR Support

Connections Help Build Relationships

The relationships and communication I maintain with the individuals I support have helped me establish a gentle, secure and caring presence within the homes of these individuals. By taking the time to get to know these people, I have learned how some of life’s little problems can build into a bad day. By being consistent, enthusiastic and a positive support, I have been able to help small problems stay small!

Sometimes, a little space and time to think is all that is needed to bring someone back to their personal best. It could be a trigger that can be removed from the environment, or even small talk about the Roughriders or Regina Pats. Knowing each of the people I support has taught me to truly consider how the world is uniquely different from everyone’s perspective and just because a problem may not seem like a big deal from my view point, it may be a crucial crutch in these people’s world view.

When I enter the homes of the individuals I support, I bring a friendly and supportive person into their lives. I have a lot in common with each person I support; these connections have helped build our relationship. It has been a wonderful experience to learn from these people and it continues to provide me with the opportunity to help someone see that there are a lot of great things in life and hopefully I can help make it a good day!

Mickey, COR Support

History Changes Our Perspective

History. Everyone has one, yet most of the time they are hidden like little secrets that blow in the wind. When you meet a person it isn’t the first thing that typically comes to mind.

If I was to meet a stranger on the side of the road (because that’s my normal hangout spot 🙂 they would most likely notice that I am a pretty outgoing guy, I like to smile and find joy in the small things and hopefully notice that I am kind in spirit. At first glance you wouldn’t know that I’ve moved half a dozen times in my life, travelled as a musician for year or had an eating disorder in my teenage years. You wouldn’t be able to tell whether or not my parents were married or divorced and what my relationship with them is like. You wouldn’t be able to tell that art is soothing to my soul, or that my wife was the second woman I had ever dated and the only one to capture my attention and keep. You wouldn’t be able to tell that over the past three years mild health problems have led to intense bouts of anxiety. You wouldn’t be able to tell that I have been in six car accidents and have a perpetual fear of sitting in the passenger seat. And you wouldn’t be able to tell that one of those car accidents was because of a grasshopper that latched itself to my eye—this has caused a lasting fear of insects like grasshoppers and lady-bugs.

Contrary to popular belief my goal is not to expose my soul to the eyes and ears of our internet readers: rather to challenge our ideas of “history” and how it effects the way that we communicate and relate with each other. If a person knew that I had an eating disorder as a teenager, the likelihood of them teasing me about being overweight, fat or “chunky like a monkey” most likely wouldn’t happen. Why? Because when you know a person, your response changes. The person becomes less of a stranger; they have shared the intimacy of their life with you—they reach out with open hands asking you to be careful as they seek to trust you in relationship.

As we know, not everyone is willing to share freely about their life and its past events—this makes our job as a people difficult because regardless of who you are and where you came from, you have a history—stories upon stories that have come to shape your life, beliefs and character. Our job, though difficult, is exciting! Learning to approach people with unconditional love which knocks on the door of their lives asking to be part of their story, in true and honest relationship in a manner in which we are constantly learning about who they are as people, and not who they are on paper.

Ben, Director of Culture and Mentorship

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 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