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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

 

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

 

 

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