To find examples of how relationships and environment foster success, we simply have to look at our Programs for Persons with Developmental Disabilities (PDD). The program supports persons with multiple, complex developmental needs by providing person-centered and strength-based care and support in its residential, educational, and vocational programs.

When client Reid* arrived last year, he had no strategies to manage his emotions.

“He’s had so much trauma in his life, especially as a child,” said clinical consultant Terrea Woodward-Friesen, who works closely with Reid as part of his team of caregivers.

Reid also has other complex needs.

“When he arrived – when he got upset about something, or had anxiety about something, or was worried about something, he would just blow up. He would get so angry he would kick and punch the walls,” Terrea recalled.

Terrea and the team began working with him, teaching him coping mechanisms for his big emotions.

“(We taught him) that everyone has anxiety and anger and all these feelings, but it’s what you do with these feelings – how do you cope with those feelings?”

Reid has many strategies now – counting to ten, deep breathing, and talking to staff are a few that he regularly employs.

“In one year, he’s gone from having absolutely no control over his behaviour … to now, he’s able to really help himself. A lot of the time, he’s even initiating that himself, which is huge.”

Because of his increased ability to manage his emotions, Reid has been able to join a vocational program and is working regularly for the first time in his life.

“At first he just did a little bit, but now he’s doing laundry and he’s cooking and cleaning and engaging with everyone. And he’s making some money, and he’s so proud.”

He’s also joined Special Olympic sports teams in the city, joins his caregivers for grocery shopping and other community outings, and even sat through a whole movie for the first time in his life.

“All of these things, he’d never experienced before.”

Currently, Terrea is working with Reid to differentiate between small, medium, and big problems. Before they began working on it, something as small as losing a pen could cause him to go into crisis. Now, he understands that when a problem is a smaller one, he should draw upon his coping mechanisms instead of melting down.

“We’re trying to teach him that we’re all working together to keep him safe and that he has choices. We’re not here to tell you what to do, we’re here to support you. Building that relationship allows him to feel safe and secure.”

*Name changed for privacy