Working for the eye contact

Communities of practice can operate at various levels in a care setting.  When I began working in the capacity of Social Learning Mentor at the Hesley Group, the most obvious communities of practice involved the members of staff in a particular area or on a particular team, or a group of staff in the same role (eg. Speech and language therapists).  For these communities of staff there was existing management, collaboration and time for the group to get together.  For me, with the role of facilitating social learning of Intensive Interaction, it was natural to begin with these existing groups.
As I started teaching on the 3 week induction course I found that the new starters had an energy and passion for the practice that often exceeded that of the people already in the job because their perspective was not inhibited by preconceptions or scepticism.  My experience is that, on the whole, new support workers see immediately how communicating responsively is going to make a difference to their job tomorrow and so they are receptive to the teaching, are enthusiastic to try it out and are looking for opportunities to develop the new skills.
After the induction session I make an effort to follow up with the new starters to see how they are going.  One such support worker gave me the following feedback:
“I attended the August Induction training and I would never have thought of copying someone’s behaviour if it wasn’t explained to me in the video and by Matt.  Now whenever I support someone new to me I look at their behaviour for ways to connect.  I find that if I get positive eye contact then this usually leads to a good day.  For example, when I supported one individual I was told that he only likes his regular staff.  When the other staff saw me doing the Responsive Communication that Matt taught us they asked me if I was an assistant psychologist!  I told that I was just doing what I was trained to do on induction.  Now I work for the eye contact and this leads me to moments of this is why I come to work… It makes me smile everyday.”

Three Pieces of Advice – Part 3

As I explained in the other parts of this series, the first two pieces of advice to people starting an interaction with a person with a communication disability is first ask “What are the offers here?” and then join in with the offers and Do What You See.  The purpose of this method is to see new opportunities for interaction and then hang out with the person, sharing their space and beginning to develop a rapport.  There is one more thing  however that newcomers to the practice often miss and this is where my third piece of advice comes in.
To mirror a person’s behaviour closely a practitioner must be able to improvise and follow the person’s lead.  This requires the practitioner to let go of his/her objectives or goals and be more mindful of what is happening in the moment.  My third piece of advice relate to not this letting go, but to what we actually add to the interaction, what we bring.  This is what I call Celebration.
When you have observed the offers and joined in with them by Doing What You See, don’t just copy the behaviour… copy the behaviour and celebrate it like this is the best idea the person has ever had and there is nothing that you would rather be doing right now.  What is really interesting to me is that a practitioner can choose to celebrate or not and that it feels nicer for the practitioner to celebrate something even if reluctant and the celebration is done on purpose.
Celebration is a key factor in developing rapport and is something that is often missing from my staff obervations.  Of course some people are very celebratory by their very nature and this is not something they have to work on but for others, particularly those working in stressful conditions, the emphasis on celebration has really helped them to find connections and also more job satisfaction.

Three Pieces of Advice – Part 2

In the first part of this series I explained my first piece of advice to new support workers – to observe a person’s behaviour and ask “What are the offer’s here?”.  The purpose is to open the practitioner’s eye’s to new behaviours that could be a starting point for an interaction.  The second piece of advice is what to do next.
After asking what the offers are the next step is to “Do What You See”.  Look for the offers and then join in with them.  Other ways to describe this step include copying, reflecting and mirroring.  I prefer “joining in” because the word “join” suggests two things being brought together to form a single relationship while “copying” and “reflecting/mirroring” describe one person doing something to another. For similar reasons I tend to avoid the word “mimicking” which suggests one person making fun of another.
What is the purpose of Do What You See?  Simply to hang out and share the space, showing the person that we love to do what they are doing and that we are a fellow rocker, tapper or singer.  This is first step to creating the rapport upon which playful/emotional communication is based.