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Author Archives: CareHelps

Our Stories: We Started as a School and Dormitory

In 1968, a group of parents and community members came together forming an organization that would advocate for the education of children with developmental disabilities. At that time, children with developmental disabilities were not accepted into the regular school system.

The organization was registered under the Societies Act in 1969 under the name Peace River and District Association for the Mentally Retarded.

That same year the Association purchased land in Peace River for a school location and a classroom was rented in Falher to teach children with developmental disabilities. In 1970 there were two classrooms in Falher with 12 students.

By November of 1971, a portable classroom called Cosmos School was moved onto the land purchased in Peace River east of Glenmary School. It sat next to a dormitory called Sunshine House on the same property. That year both facilities became operational making Cosmos School the second school under the Association’s operation at that time.

Soon after the opening of Cosmos School and Sunshine House, Falher members of the Association formed their own society.

An official opening for Sunshine House was held in 1972 that was attended by numerous community members as well as government officials including the Lieutenant-Governor of Alberta who unveiled a plaque and planted a spruce tree in front of the home.

In 1973 the Peace River School Division took over the responsibility of operating Cosmos School and Sunshine House became a full-time group home.

What is Positive Programming?

Positive programming is “the longitudinal instruction designed to teach skills and competencies to facilitate behavioural change.” – Institute for Applied Behavioural Analysis. Positive Programming means teaching new skills and abilities over time to replace behaviours of concern.

Punishments for behaviours of concern are not part of this process. Though a punishment may result in a quick decline in a behaviour of concern, it simply doesn’t work in the long run. Think of punishment as a bandage over a gunshot wound. It may staunch the bleeding for a short period of time, but it is not a permanent or lasting fix for the situation. This is because the Individual may not be able to understand why they are being punished; unable to relate action to outcome/consequence. Punishment also doesn’t teach skill or work to find an alternative, appropriate behaviour.

Once we’ve identified a behaviour of concern, we look at its function. The “why” behind the behaviour. If someone is hitting because they find a task too difficult, but don’t have a means to express this, we need to look at offering alternatives to hitting. What can we teach that satisfies that function? Well, that all depends on the person. Perhaps we teach them how to exchange a “Break” card with their Support Worker when they feel overwhelmed by a task. Maybe we teach them the sign for the word “No” or “Break” so they can express themselves in a more functional and less harmful way. Once we teach an Individual an alternative behaviour, we encourage and reward them every time they use it. That, in a nutshell is positive behaviour support.

For more information about positive practices and the use of positive supports, Support Workers are encouraged to enroll (coming soon) in Positive Practices and Proactive Supports: Understanding Complex Needs. You can also check out this short video for a brief overview.