Embracing a Paradigm Shift: Gentle Teaching Illuminates a New Approach

As I reflect on my journey with Gentle Teaching, a profound realization has reshaped my understanding of how we relate to and support individuals with intellectual disabilities. It’s a paradigm shift that challenges the conventional wisdom of “punishments and rewards” that I once believed to be the most effective approach.

Previously, my mindset adhered to a transactional model: “I’ll do this for you if you do this for me, but if not, then no.” This approach, while common and seemingly efficient, created a power dynamic that placed me in control, ultimately overlooking the true essence of caregiving. In essence, I was inadvertently signaling to those I supported that their actions were only significant insofar as they made my job easier.

A poignant memory serves as a stark reminder of the limitations of this mindset. I recall a situation where I was assisting an individual who cherished their weekly swimming sessions. However, on a particular Thursday, this person exhibited challenging behaviors, leading my team leader to instruct me not to take him swimming as a form of punishment. This decision denied him the joy he eagerly anticipated all week, solely because he didn’t conform to our expectations.

As I revisit this moment, a sense of discomfort and shame washes over me. The realization that I unknowingly wielded power and control over someone’s life for the sake of expediency is disheartening. What’s even more distressing is the possibility that this outdated mindset may still persist in the workplace today.

Gentle Teaching has illuminated a different path—a path rooted in empathy, connection, and understanding. It goes beyond the transactional nature of punishments and rewards, recognizing that true support involves fostering a genuine connection and acknowledging the inherent dignity of each individual. It challenges us to discard the notion that people should only act in ways that make our work easier, urging us to embrace a more compassionate and holistic approach.

As I continue to evolve within the Gentle Teaching framework, I am committed to fostering an environment where individuals are valued for who they are, not merely for what they can do for us. This paradigm shift has not only transformed my approach to caregiving but has also sparked a desire to advocate for change within the broader community. It’s time to break free from the confines of an antiquated mindset and embrace the transformative power of Gentle Teaching.


COR Family Member