When it began…
It all started with a social media post from a friend. She was asking if anyone had any experience working with those who have special needs or clients who are deafblind. While I had been a special needs worker with the same client since 2004, I had no idea what this position would entail. I submitted my resume and the process skyrocketed from there. My email had a response within the hour and an interview was booked for the following day.
Upon interviewing me they advised that I would be working with two individuals who had just graduated from high school. They had moved into their first home without their parents. I remember thinking to myself: “How much support would two high school graduates require …?” Excited and nervous, after the interview I headed home and anticipated a call. I didn’t wait too long before I was contacted and given information about my eigh-hour volunteer shift.
Intervenor’s Motto: Do with, NOT for!
The BIG day!
A little less than a week later I pulled up to the address that had been provided to me. I was completely worried that I was going to park in someone’s spot, use the wrong door, be at the wrong house or worse the consumers (I learned this word for the individuals with whom we work in the interview!) would not like me. I knocked and was greeted by the Intervenor Services Coordinator. She welcomed me with a big smile into what I was hoping might be my new workplace.
The day was a blur; I was learning so many new things, it was invigorating being given the opportunity to discover the daily schedule of an individual who is deafblind. And let me tell you a little secret … it isn’t much different than someone who has sight and vision. Housework, grocery shopping, cleaning, laundry to name a few, are all completed by the consumer. They rely on us (intervenors), to bridge the sound and sight gap. Which is why our position is crucial. Not to mention our motto: “Do with, not for.”
As my first volunteer shift came to an end my IC approached me, wanting to check in as it wasn’t a seamless day. We had ups and we had downs, we had medical routines, meal routines and toileting routines. I remember as clear as day she asked me: “So, Victoria is this something you could see yourself doing?” In that single moment my fears of the consumers not liking me, fears of what door to use, which spot to park in -- all of it fell away. I knew in that exact moment that this was exactly what I could see myself doing, as long as they would have me.
Must learns and quick!
IV, IC, four key principles of intervention (A.M.C.C), About Me books, medical routines, outing routines, etiology of their deafblindess, likes, dislikes, memorize entire CDBA Ontario website! Learn Sign Exact English!
Training us, the right way
When your IC tells you that you get to go to Paris for training there, is a little piece of you that cannot believe they would do that! Probably because they wouldn’t send you to Paris, France, but the Paris they do send you to is a little town six hours away from Sudbury, Ont. If I thought I was nervous before I was wrong, these nerves were far worse. Going to learn intervention at a state-of-the-art resource centre built solely for individuals who are deafblind, a safe place to explore, learn and contribute to the community. Boy, I was feeling the butterflies! Surrounded by seasoned intervenors I began my first week of three for training. The instructors were phenomenal; the content was beyond valuable and each time I left the resource centre I believed more and more in my skills and abilities as an intervenor! Every time I returned back to my consumers’ home I found myself using my newly developed skills and applying them. I would have to say the best part was learning ASL (American Sign Language) even though my consumers communicate more with Sign Exact English, once you learn the alphabet you can pick up on a lot more!
If you don’t use it you lose it! Practice, practice, practice. Sign! Download signing apps!
When you finally get it
Recently my consumer had a difficult time that resulted in needing emergency care. In that setting I knew my only job was to keep them calm and provide them with all the situational information I could. I wanted them to know that I was there, supporting, encouraging and reassuring that all would be OK. To be honest I wasn’t sure if they really cared that I was there or if I was doing anything right or making a difference. Between the nurses and the doctors coming through I was the constant, my voice, my signing and our bond from the past nine months. Nine months may not sound like a long time at all but for my consumer and I it was long enough to build the foundation of trust and security. The big moment came when I was asked to step aside, I notified my consumer that I would just be to the side and would still be with them in the room. Within a couple of minutes hospital staff were asking me to come back to their side as I was helping to keep my consumer calm.
As an intervenor we sometimes don’t get an opportunity to test our bond, we don’t really know how deep or how strong it truly is. A bond between a consumer and intervenor is different for everyone. What my bond looks like may be entirely different than my colleagues, and that’s OK.
Not all of us are the same, and that is important for our consumers as they get distinctive things from different intervenors. You need to trust that when you are providing intervention each day, working on sign language, consumer goals, calendar systems, life skills, routines and enjoyable activities that they are all part of the bigger picture. In the grand scheme of things, the way in which we approach each activity, situation (positive or negative) or problem sets the expectation and groundwork for where our bond begins and ends.
“Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see.”
What the last year has taught me
The life of an intervenor may not have been something I knew I wanted to choose for my career. However, the stars aligned for me to do so. My first year as an intervenor thus far has been full of surprises, I have my doubts, my fears, my amazing moments, my bonds that continue to grow, and knowledge that continues to develop. I have learned a lot by trial and error, but primarily I have learned the most from my consumers, their families and the intervenors that surround me each day. We as intervenors are a rare and patient breed; we have an inch and make it a mile. We have to continuously be thinking not just outside the box but as far out and abstract as possible, to make the very most out of every single activity and excursion.
Being an intervenor isn’t for everyone, especially if you don’t have amazing supervisors, managers and mentors. Answering my friend that day was the best decision I could have made. CDBA Ontario is a phenomenal organization to be a part of and what’s better than waking each day excited to go to your job where you know you’ll make a difference.
“The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched - they must be felt with the heart.” -- Helen Keller
From one intervenor to another
We as intervenors are a rare and patient breed; we have an inch and make it a mile. We have to continuously be thinking not just outside the box but as far out and abstract as possible, to make the very most out of every single activity and excursion.
Intervention isn’t for everyone, especially if you don’t have amazing supervisors, managers and mentors. Answering my friend that day was the best decision I could have made. Intervention is one of the most phenomenal careers to be a part of and what’s better than waking each day excited to go to your job where you know you’ll make a difference.
“In the middle of every difficulty lies opportunity.”
- Albert Einstein
Victoria-Anne Holmes is new to intervention and works for CDBA Ontario in its new Supported Independent Living Program in Sudbury. Her previous experiences include 14 years as a personal support worker and two years as a house parent dealing with a diverse group of children, youths and teens. Since having gastric bypass surgery in July of 2016, she felt it was important to branch out to a different career path not only for herself but for her family as well. She is now able to take her passion of working with others to new levels as each consumer has different needs and wants. Her knowledge and understanding is constantly growing and she is only just beginning!