May 1, 2014 10:03 am

Gentle teaching changing lives of adults with disabilities

Watch above: gentle teaching is helping to change the lives of those with disabilities

SASKATOON – Barry Halliday embarked on an educational journey 35 years ago when his daughter Jamie was born with Down syndrome.

He knew virtually nothing about the genetic disorder at the time.

“What is Down syndrome? What causes Down syndrome? What are the factors leading to it?” he recalled.

So he began his quest for knowledge at the library.

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His daughter was enrolled in an early childhood intervention program by the age of two and by 20, she had moved into her own place.

“Because you have a disability, I have to manage you. That’s part of what our culture has taught people over the years. I have to manage you somehow,” he told Global News.

“The biggest piece of any of this is I just have to be here with you to support you.”

The approach he refers to is known as ‘gentle teaching,’ a concept created by an American doctor. It is based on the psychology of human interdependence.

He credits the philosophy with helping to give his daughter the opportunity to be productive, flourish and be independent.

“It has to be a real driving intention in our relationships and every interaction,” explains Saskatchewan Alternative Initiatives (SAI) executive director Tim Jones.

“We find ways with our words, with our body language, with our eye contact – to just demonstrate to other people that when you’re with me, you don’t have to be afraid.”

Jones’s non-profit group has been working with adults with intellectual disabilities since the late 1990s. They now offer vocational and daytime supports for more than 50 people in Saskatoon.

‘The concept is the same, whether I’m supporting one of our individuals or whether it’s how I relate with my wife and my children – or my co-workers,” said Jones.

He says when it comes to gentle teaching, it is about asking questions including why a person is acting a certain way. In essence, it is about getting to the heart of the matter.

For more information about gentle teaching and SAI, visit their website.

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