Monday, February 22, 2016

The path to more positive supports

Today we are happy to introduce you to Vicki Reina, director of behavior services at Heritage Christian. Enjoy as she shares a bit of her journey...

I was approached over a year ago to consider supporting behavioral challenges differently, specifically: How can we support people without the use of restraint? This was such a foreign concept that I shelved it, believing the supports we had were great and that we were mindful of why and when those supports were used.  Later, I spoke with someone I knew who worked at an agency that had successfully implemented restraint-free behavior support. He said doing so was “the greatest accomplishment of his career.” I respected him, I knew his career was long and successful, and it was at that moment I believed maybe we could, too.

The idea took hold and with two amazing colleagues we began to explore the idea, focusing first on education. We knew we needed to give people more tools to avoid using restraint.  We modified our curriculum and increased guidance on how to change people’s lives with love, respect, meaningfulness, and relationships.

The next step was changing our language: words matter and the words we use to describe negative behavior end up defining people.  The words we use tell people what to think. First, the behavior team shifted from using “negative behavior” to “challenges.”  We all have challenges. We all have things we want to do less of, or improve on. This one word shift eliminates otherness and connects us. Other words became highlighted: noncompliance, refusals and inappropriate. Ultimately, these words are used to say someone isn’t doing what you want them to do. What they really mean is the person has made a choice. This choice may not be healthy, or the one you would like them to make, but people make decisions in their lives. 

Maya Angelo said, “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.” This articulates the evolution of positive supports. We continue on this journey, exploring new ways to provide safe, meaningful supports. 

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Working to unite

By Marisa Geitner, president and C.E.O.

Humans are complex – and that means not everything is an easy fix.

For more than 30 years we’ve supported people with developmental disabilities by providing support that encourages people to learn and grow and give back to their community. And still, when we look at the statistics, we see that the unemployment rate for people with a disability is more than double the rate for those without.

We see that only 5 percent of Americans know what it is like to have a coworker who has an intellectual disability and that Rochester ranks No. 1 in the nation for the percentage of people who live in poverty and have a disability.

So, if we truly mean to partner with people who have disabilities so they can accomplish what matters most in their lives, we must also commit to joining other people and agencies in fighting poverty and other inequalities. And one way we do that is by working one-on-one with people to find a right-fit job because when people share their strengths in the workplace, they are valued by their co-workers. They form relationships. They gain confidence, and they bring home a paycheck.

They make progress for themselves and for others.

In fact, the United Nations Economic and Social Council “recognizes that poverty eradication and employment in decent jobs are crucial to achieving social integration and a society for all.”

That’s why we started the Employment Alliance to help match employers with talented people who have disabilities and that’s why we participated in the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle’s Unite Rochester Challenge – because we want to offer career services to others who are  marginalized, too.
We recognize that uniting Rochester across racial and economic lines is complex, but paychecks help more than our bank accounts. They help in creating a more equal society.