Posts

Gentle Teaching isn’t about trying to change behaviour…

Through my 3 and a half years of experience with COR and the philosophy of Gentle Teaching, I have attained a wealth of knowledge and an everlasting impact on my life. When I first started with COR, just like most people, I was a bit skeptical of the whole ideology of unconditional love. In latent terms, I perceived it as ‘give them whatever they want’ or ‘they can do whatever they want without consequences’. At the time, I failed to realize it was so much more than that. The whole basis of Gentle Teaching isn’t trying to change the individual’s behaviour, but rather changing our approach on how we serve the individuals.

My ability to use Gentle Teaching had never really been challenged until I began supporting at a new home and more specifically supporting one individual at that home. When I began, to be 100 percent honest, I was quite nervous. I had heard all the stories that this was the hardest team to support on. To my surprise, it really wasn’t! I got off to a good start with two of the guys. The only one I hadn’t connected with was one of the guys. Every time I would enter his space or try to interact with him, he would completely shut me down. This really bugged me personally. I am the type of person who really likes to get along with everybody, and at times, will over step boundaries to be liked by that person. This happened one day when I was supporting him. I came in that day with what I thought was a solid game plan. I was going to force myself to stay with him, we were really going to joke around and have an awesome time together. I also had the idea to take him to a Rider practice that day thinking it was going to be an amazing experience. I was completely wrong. Sure, he enjoyed the idea of going to Rider practice and seeing all his favourite players, but he still didn’t feel safe around me. I struggled to interpret what he was saying numerous times throughout the day and it led to numerous negative moments, the worst being at the Rider practice where he hit me. After that day, I came to realize that by forcing myself to be in his space, I had removed one of the most fundamental and most important pillars of Gentle Teaching; feeling safe.

They have taught me if I adjust how I provide care and unconditionally love them, rather than force them to be who they are not, that they will reciprocate it back in their way

In order to fix this, I needed to change how I provided care, while also trying to encompass the tools of Gentle Teaching to build the four pillars. For the next couple of months, I took a step back and really focused on observing, rather than forcing myself into situations for my own personal reasons. I was selective and patient in choosing the times that were appropriate to help strengthen his sense of feeling safe around me. Most of these interactions were focused around watching sports games or going out to grab a drink from 7/11. I tried keeping the interactions short and consistent allowing him to become comfortable around me. As time passed, I was able to get him to feel safe by changing how I provided for him. Once I had the sense of feeling safe around me, the other three pillars (feeling loved, feel loving towards others, and feeling engaged) came much more naturally.

Through my experience with all the individuals I support, they have had an everlasting impact on my life. They have taught me if I adjust how I provide care and unconditionally love them, rather than force them to be who they are not, that they will reciprocate it back in their way.

 

Brydon, COR Family Member

Gentle Teaching has inspired me to become a better person

The way I maintain a culture of gentleness at COR is simply being friends with the individuals I serve. When I am supporting, I look at myself as a guest in a friend’s house. I am not there to ‘take charge’ and tell them how they need to be living their lives. Again, I am a friend and a friend will never judge a friend’s decisions. If anything, I would suggest better choices for them just like any other friend would. For example, if one of the individuals I serve wanted to spend their entire pay check on a $200 used game system, I may suggest other options for the reason of helping them manage their money or I may ask nicely how important the game system is to them. From there, they could hopefully tell me that the game system is not important enough that they spend their entire pay check on or they may choose a cheaper option. If not, they buy the game system and we move on. At the end of the day, it is their choice and if that choice makes them happy, that is all that matters.

anyone-can-better-themselves-and-no-one-is-ever-too-old-to-improve

Gentle Teaching has inspired me to become a better person. I find myself using the Gentle Teaching philosophy in all aspects of my life, which has allowed others to feel more respected and warm when they are around me. My Mother first noticed this in me about two months after I began working for COR. She told me that I had came a long way with my personality and the way I show myself to others. Growing up, I was not the child with the best personality or the child with the most respect toward others. As I get older, I am improving in these things every day. It was nice to hear that from someone who sees me almost every day. I know that I am nowhere near perfect, but some progress is better than none. In the end, anyone can better themselves and no one is ever too old to improve.

 

Jason, COR Support

A Conversation with a COR Support…

Describe a place or time where Gentle Teaching has helped you in your personal life.

This hits home to me! I am so blessed to be a part of COR; I have grown so much both within this organization and outside it. I truly saw myself becoming a better person and becoming a role model at home, at school, and at work every day. Gentle Teaching has definitely allowed me to learn more about myself!

I truly saw myself becoming a better person and becoming a role model at home, at school, and at work every day. Gentle Teaching has definitely allowed me to learn more about myself

Tell us about a bond that you or someone close to you shares with someone you support.

I have bonded well with all the individuals I support. When I come to their home for a support time, I feel as though I am invited to be there. Every time I walk into their house, I feel that I am coming home to my family or that I am coming into a house of close friends. I am grateful for the opportunity that COR has provided me to develop the relationships that I currently hold with every individual that I support.

 

Discuss a scenario where someone you support taught you something.

Recently, one of the individuals I support decided to manage his paycheck and put the money toward future plans and paying his bills. This was a rare occasion because in the past, his paycheck would be gone within a day or two from social outings alone. It was the first time that I had witnessed him making a plan with his paycheck and his willingness to learn to budget his money was amazing. From that moment, he unknowingly taught me that you can always grow and become a better person! It was a humbling experience to be able to see a 31-year-old man literally grow in front of your eyes. He has grown so much since I met him and I can truly say that I’ve watched him grow each day. It’s unbelievable!

It’s amazing to see that the individuals that I support are so passionate about so many things

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

Like I mentioned earlier, using the Gentle Teaching approach to supporting individuals has allowed me to become a better person than I had ever imagined. My Mom has mentioned to me a couple times where she sees the growth in me and she was proud of how far I have come. My parents were worried about me when I was in grade 9 and 10 because I had the attitude and the personality of someone who was not capable of success. So for them to be able to witness my character grow so much, it’s a sigh of relief for them for sure.

 

Describe how you have been able to share one (or some) of your passions with the individuals we serve.

First off, it’s amazing to see that the individuals that I support are so passionate about so many things. Being able to share my passions with the individuals have definitely helped with the friendship that has developed. For example, one of the men and I share a passion for hockey. I know that whenever he is having a rough day, I can always bring up hockey topics and news and we can have a long-lasting conversation about it. There was a moment where he and I were at a Pats game and I remember thinking that our relationship had come a long way since we met. The Pats scored a goal, I looked over and he had a huge smile on his face and he ‘fist pumped’ full of excitement. He never does this! This truly was a special moment. It touched my heart to see how joyful he was to be experiencing the Pats playoff run with me.

 

Jason, COR Support

 

I try to create a culture or atmosphere where the idea of support doesn’t exist.

I am creating a culture of gentleness with the woman I support slowly. Gaining trust between each other was, and still is, difficult not only for her to trust me, but also for me to trust her. Something that I think that is unique that I have done is to never treat her differently than I would treat anyone else I care about. I talk to her like she is no different! For lack of better terms, I’m not afraid to be myself. I have created a relationship with her where I can treat her like a friend. This is because I like to help people. It’s in my nature to try to make people happy. I slowly but surely developed genuine care for her.

By creating a comfortable environment and creating that comfortability you can then slowly begin to stretch that zone, and shape it to a bigger and broader comfort zone and I believe that, that is a key to growth. I also think that gentle teaching is growth. I believe in walking beside someone, and holding their hand. Not following behind them and allowing them to go where ever they wish, as that can sometimes be harmful to people unknowing or unaware of their true desires or what it is that truly makes them happy. Also not walking in front and forcing or pulling in a direction that may not be fully desired. Together and side by side you can guide, not force or follow but guide. I try to guide the woman I support. I try to allow her to be her 41 year old self, whose loving and caring and a truly genuine good person and guide that to create more of her wonderful growth. I think walking in front of her would not be as beneficial if any benefit. Walking behind her would also not benefit, because everyone who has ever lived on earth needed or needs a hand every now and then.

I try to create a culture or atmosphere where the idea of support doesn't exist

I try to create a culture or atmosphere where the idea of support doesn’t exist. I think that when activities are changed, and adapted to minimize or remove limitations and the focus is on abilities and effort than disability no longer exists. I want her to feel free. It should always feel like friends are over for her, and for us it should never feel like a job. Although it is a job and we do have duties I try always to implement a lesson in what we do so that when we’re done she has not only had a great experience with her friends, but also gained a lesson and learnt something that will allow her to grow which is our goal. Being with her is very important. Even when she is feeling down or sad, and may not want to talk.

Presence is how I show her I care. That no matter what, I’m still here and I got your back. I allow her to run her house as if it is her own, because it is her space and she should feel that she has control over it because in turn that allows her comfort levels to raise. Every person deserves the right to feel comfortable in their space of living. In the space they call home.

Sometimes it’s hard for me to do what I need to do. Helping create, and doing what I can to maintain a culture of gentleness with the woman I support has overflowed into my own life. I can say that this job has changed my life. I hope that I can return that favour within the organization and within my own life and the woman I support, whom I’m blessed to have had the opportunity to meet, and lucky enough to continue to spend time with.

 

Jeff, COR Support

 

To truly promote a culture of gentleness one must apply it to all relationships in their life.

The nature of  the job at Creative Options Regina inspires  its employees to “take their work home with them”. It is my view that an ideal support at COR nourishes a culture of gentleness  in all facets of their life, not just when they’re on the clock at COR. Personally, I maintain a culture of gentleness in my life by applying gentle teaching principles to everyday relationships, and by persistent self development.

I firmly believe that gentle teaching is a mindset that one sees the world through. Although I feel that the pillars of gentle teaching are innate to me, there are always ways to improve and broaden ones understanding. Reading books about neuro-science and psychology has given me a much better understanding of myself, and hence others around me. I’ve learnt that you cannot truly understand others if you do not know yourself. The nature of my degree at the U of R has also contributed to my self growth at COR. The main objective of the inclusive education classes that I have taken is to provide people with intellectual disabilities the means  they need to succeed; many of these skills transfer over to my work at COR. Lastly, and most importantly, to improve my ability to create a culture of gentleness, I work on myself through introspection. For me it is as simple as writing thoughts, new knowledge, and questions down in a journal. This allows me to organize my thoughts and be able to focus on what is important when I am supporting.

As I mentioned above, to truly promote a culture of gentleness one must apply it to all relationships in their life. Naturally I apply what I have learned from gentle teaching trainings in my everyday interactions with the man I support, however, I am proud to say that I take my work home with me. I have used GT techniques to navigate my way through my relationships with family and friends. My relationship with my loved ones is one specific example where GT techniques have dramatically impacted my life. This way of life has enabled me to help a loved one through depression at a time when I was at a loss for what to do. I went from being just another person in their life, to being their mentor.

Personally I maintain a culture of gentleness in my life by applying gentle teaching

Upon doing my internship last fall at a community school, I quickly realized that the school setting was also a place where gentle teaching has great value. Being a community school, many of the students attending came from “rough homes”. My knowledge from COR enabled me to form meaningful relationships with my students. They were excited to come to school, and so was I. Being at school was home for many of the kids that I taught; I was the only stable adult in their lives. Were it not for gentle teaching I likely would have just been “another adult” to these students and squandered the opportunity to be a positive influence in their lives. Yet, with gentle teaching, I found I was being my candid self in front of the class, staying after school on my time to talk with the kids, and attending their events that they were passionate about such as sports, band and drama. I was completely invested in their lives.

The last facet of my life (and where it all started) where I promote a culture of gentleness is my relationship with the man I support. I often wonder whether he promotes a culture of gentleness in my life or I do his. Either way, I love the guy to death. He has been in my life for two years and he has become a brother to me. I’ve seen our relationship evolve from an awkward “get to know you” stage, to now, where we crack jokes and laugh our butts off. I feel like I can do and say anything at this point in the game with him. I trust him wholeheartedly and that trust is reciprocated. When he is upset I tackle his problems head on, I want him to be bigger than his fears and anxieties. I push him to be the best person that he can be. In any situation the end choice is always his; but you can bet that I’m challenging him improve the whole time. His growth in the past two years is astounding, it has been an absolute joy to watch him progress from one milestone to the next. In his life I switch between the roles of being his friend, family member, and motivator; it is a responsibility that I do not take lightly. My role in his life is ever changing as he becomes more independent, I promote a culture of gentleness in his life by actively listening and evaluating him, thereby providing the most effective support that he needs to succeed.

Creating and maintaining a culture of gentleness strictly within the individual I serve is a flawed mentality. To truly be an agent of gentleness one has to apply it to every area of their life. In doing this, I have found that each circle in my life feeds off of one another. Instead of feeling drained after a day with the students, I feel energetic and fulfilled, ready to support, and vice versa. At this point in my life I know one thing to be wholly true: My career will revolve around being in the “people business”. Gentle Teaching has proven to be a significant influence on me throughout day to day life in the early stages of my career. Without it I cannot say that I would be enjoying the successes that I am experiencing today.

 

Matt, COR Support

 

COR Family Night: A Culture of Gentleness as a Promising Practice

Family members and friends of COR are invited to join us for an evening discussion on a Culture of Gentleness as a Promising Practice, with special guest: Deirdre Mercer, Center for Positive Living Supports (Michigan, USA). This interactive and powerful learning experience will better your knowledge of the important role of a gentle caregiver. Space is limited. Please contact Michael for more details.

COR Family Night

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Who am I to come into this person’s home with demands and unrealistic expectations?

I consistently strive to build and maintain a culture of gentleness among the individuals I support and spend time with. When I am in someone’s home I try to put myself in their shoes. Who am I to come into this person’s home with demands and unrealistic expectations? Trying to be mindful of what I say/how I say it and how I present myself to the person receiving support is always at the forefront of my thoughts. By using the four tools (presence, eyes, hands, and words) positively, I continually try to build on the relationships I share with the individuals I serve.

I continually try to build on the relationships I share with the individuals I serve

Ensuring that person feels safe where they are and who they’re with is an important first step. Afterwards is the point at which the person can begin to be stretched and grow. Remembering that the relationship I have with the person I’m supporting is one of interdependence, allows me to teach as well as learn. This is an attitude that I attempt to maintain both within COR with the individuals being supported as well as in my other social circles.

 

Jordan, COR Support

 

We all want the same things: to feel safe, to love, and to be loved.

I am so thankful for the training and knowledge I have received from COR. At the time I was hired I was simply looking for employment that was person centred in which I would be able to work closely with people. When I think about other agencies I could have worked for, I am truly happy I chose the path that I did. I understand that social work can be a very difficult job in which I may be required to follow strict policies which do not appear to better the individuals I am serving. At COR, I always feel that I am doing right by the individuals I work with and value the strong relationships I have been able to develop in such a short period of time. I owe this to the gentle teaching training I have received.
I believe we should be viewed as equal to those we support at COR; this is why I love the terminology of “support person” or even better a “friend”. I enter someone’s life and learn so much about them- their fears, their dreams, their hobbies, their family, their past and so on. I partly create my culture of gentleness by allowing them glimpses into my own life to be viewed as an equal. Having them over for lunch, allowing them to meet my family, and opening up about myself. I believe this allows people to feel more comfortable with you and that they will then feel safe opening up to you. Additionally, I always ensure I do not pass judgement. If someone opens up and tells me something about themselves or confesses something that has been bothering them, I ensure to be conscious of my facial expression, body language and tone when I respond. This allows for an open conversation in which they will come to me in the future and feel that they can talk and open up without judgement. COR has taught me about the power of my tools- my hands, my eyes, my tone… these can all have such a huge effect on your ability to make someone feel safe with you.

I always feel that I am doing right by the individuals I work with

In my eyes, a culture of gentleness can be broken down to simply mean what do we all deem to be valuable and important in our lives?

We are all individuals and yet, at a basic level, we all want the same things. To feel safe, to love, and to be loved. I have had the privilege of feeling safe in my life and it requires empathy to understand even the tiniest glimpse of what some of the individual’s supported at COR have gone through and what can change in your life when you no longer have to fight for basic needs. I have witnessed firsthand how much it means to someone to be able to give- to show love. For those I support to be able to teach me about something, to make me lunch or buy me a coffee; this means that they view me as a friend and care about me just as I care about them. I am proud to be a member of COR and proud of the strong relationships and friendships I have developed.

 

Shandrea, COR Support

Who The Other Is: Human Vulnerabilities and Gifts

Who the other is: HUMAN VULNERABILITIES AND GIFTS

Caregivers have to be very tuned into the life-story of the person and the significance and impact of inner vulnerabilities; we must also be astute at seeing or even sensing the life-giving gifts of each person such as forgiveness, curiosity, hope, and the slightest hints of a hunger to connect with others.

Vulnerabilities can be caused by a sorrowful, often undefined, vague, but morally defining, memories of years of segregation, loneliness, scorn, institutionalization, racism, sexual abuse, societal prejudice, illiteracy, poverty, imprisonment, neglect, war, dictatorship, torture, the loss of family members, political isolation, and poor health care. These experiences and often vague and ill-defined memories can be worsened by our lack of attunement or empathy for these conditions, ignoring their long-term effects, or taking a “lift yourself up by your bootstraps” attitude. Internal vulnerabilities can come from psychiatric conditions such as schizophrenia, manic-depression, depression or the often condescendingly cited “borderline” personality.  Caregivers frequently fail to recognize or understand the hidden power of past memories and the end result is comments such as knowing better, being manipulative, or attention seeking.

They can be made more difficult by physical disabilities such as seizures, sensory disorders, or the side effects of medications. The presence of developmental disabilities can make it more difficult for the person to defend self and reach out to others.

Each person is a unique expression of the human condition

Our human strengths and weaknesses are shared with those whom we serve. Each person is a unique expression of the human condition. Some are more troubled or burdened than others, but we all share the common thread of humanity. Within this fragile thread lie the values that bind us together. In our own personal lives, these vulnerabilities can arise at any time and threaten our well-being.

The question is to what degree does any individual need support when threatened by these and other forces. We need to recognize each person’s vulnerabilities and find ways to reach out to those who are more threatened. They are more than persons with vulnerabilities, mental illness, or behavior problems. They are full human beings with a range of gifts and vulnerabilities, a deep inner life that beseeches and long ago our attention, and longings that call for fulfillment.

While recognizing the need for teaching functional skills, our central caregiving role must focus on teaching each person to feel safe with us and loved by us. Although professional measurement tools to define the degree or absence of functional behaviors can play a useful secondary role in care giving, if the central developmental milestone of feeling safe and loved is not achieved, then any further discussion can be fairly shallow. If the center of the human condition has not been achieved or has been broken, the rest of learning is merely peripheral. If we can help form the center, skills will blossom. The assessment of our companion or becoming-companion is based on the assumption that we must focus on the center and then the periphery will take care of itself.

John J. McGee

Common Situations: Refusal to Participate

Common Situations: Refusal to Participate

If the person refuses to participate,

• Make sure there is a structured flow to the day, not just the emptiness of custodial care.
• Be aware of other caregivers who might be coaxing, cajoling, or bribing the person to participate.
• Bring about minimal participation by doing activities with the person.
• Continue to dialogue.
• Emphasize valuing and elicit it during any movement toward the slightest participation.

We are challenged to enable participation and establish feelings of solidarity

The major challenge in this situation is to make valuing occur, even in settings that contradict it. Many caregivers work in almost hopeless situations: institutions where the mentally ill are herded like animals, nursing homes where the aged are left to fade away, homeless shelters where the poor are warehoused for an evening. Although we need to fight for social justice and establish decent places for people to live, work and play, many caregivers still need to create hope and feelings of companionship where there is none. Thus, if we work alone in a setting that seems to be the antithesis of valuing and engagement, we have a special and difficult role: to bring hope where only despair reigns.

To bring hope where only despair reigns

 

We will often be ridiculed for our idealism and seeming naiveté. Yet we can express valuing and create feelings of companionship even in the midst of hopelessness. Our interactions are what matters. If the person in the most forsaken institutional ward runs from us and falls to the floor, we can keep on teaching the meaning of human engagement. If the person lashes out, spits, or screams at us, we can move toward him or her and continue to bring about engagement and give unconditional valuing. We are challenged to enable participation and establish feelings of solidarity regardless of the hellish reality in which we find those who are marginalized.

-John J. McGee, PhD