One of the greatest strengths of Woods is our ability to meet the service needs of a diverse group of individuals with complex challenges. Woods has particular expertise in treating people who have intense behavioral challenges, particularly those with self-injurious behaviors (SIB) or those who pose a physical threat to others.
We provide care through acceptance, respect and compassion and have been doing so for more than 100 years. We continually advance our care according to our field’s best practices. A new advancement includes the implementation of the Ukeru® Systems method and its “comfort vs. control” approach when de-escalating aggressive, challenging behavior to ensure the safety of the individuals we serve as well as our staff.
In June 2017, Woods partnered with Grafton Integrated Health Network, Inc. on the implementation of the Ukeru method. The Ukeru method was developed by Grafton to reduce the use of physical restraints as well as seclusions. Ukeru, the Japanese word for “receive”, is a safe, comforting, crisis management technique developed by and for behavioral health caregivers and educators. Ukeru is recognized by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) as a best practice in restraint reduction.
“The whole idea of comfort versus control is to take a step back and think about how we would want to be treated ourself or how we would want someone that we love to be treated,” said Kim Sanders, President, Ukeru Systems. “We believe that you need support, you need comfort and you need someone to be kind to you during those times.”
The main components of the Ukeru program include verbal and nonverbal communication, managing and de-escalating conflict by converting/diverting aggression, building an environment focused on comfort versus control, and recognizing traumatic experiences of individuals who receive services for developmental, behavioral and mental health needs.
“The trauma-informed approach has opened my eyes to why people do the things they do. There’s a story behind every behavior we exhibit. It comes down to how can we change the negative and make experiences more positive,” said John Spanier, Case Manager and Ukeru Champion at Woods. “It enables you to see past the ‘bad’ and focus on the ‘why’ in order to understand people better and walk in their shoes.”
The Ukeru method teaches a variety of physical techniques that minimize the need for physical restraint. It also involves a system of blocking techniques with the use of pads to protect oneself and others during behavioral episodes.
“The blocking pads are a way for staff to help an upset individual work through negative emotions while keeping hands off,” said Trish Cottman, a Woods Training Department Staff Member and Ukeru Champion.
The implementation of the Ukeru method began more than a year ago when Woods engaged Grafton to provide training and consultation. Grafton’s first visit to Woods included a meeting with employees from all levels to hear directly from them the challenges they faced related to behavior management. During their next visit, a group of Woods employees, known as the “Ukeru Champions”, were trained in the Ukeru method and are working hard to train all Woods staff members. Following the training of the Ukeru Champions, the Ukeru method was then carefully introduced to Woods residents and students through the use of a social story.
Social stories are a way to share information in a reassuring manner that is easy to understand. Ukeru created a social story to help introduce the blocking pads.
“We customized their story by using Woods staff and resident photos. Several Champions went into the Day Program and residential areas to introduce the pads using the social story. It gave them an opportunity to see and touch the pads and to learn that the main purpose of Ukeru is to ensure safety for everyone in all of our environments,” said Cottman.
“The pads were placed in the hallways, classrooms, and residences so everyone could get comfortable with them being in their environment,” said Sam Banks, Gardner Education Supervisor and Ukeru Champion. “So if a person became aggressive or unsafe to themselves or others and staff used a blocking pad, they would know that ‘this is a tool to keep me safe’.”
Ukeru’s award-winning behavior management tools and techniques have virtually eliminated the use of restraints in the residential treatment and school programs at Grafton and other organizations and that remains the goal for Woods. So far, the feedback at Woods has been overwhelmingly positive with staff, residents, and students all embracing the Ukeru method. The Ukeru philosophy has been instrumental in de-escalating incidents at Woods that may have led to restraints in the past and Woods is already seeing a measurable reduction in restraints. Additionally, the use of Ukeru pads have ensured the safety of individuals and staff while teaching alternate strategies.
“One of the residents I was working with had extended periods of aggressive episodes. When I utilized the pads when he became aggressive, he realized that the hitting, the kicking, the punching, weren’t going to work and he got tired of doing it and began to sit down and talk,” said Will Rogers, Woods Training Staff Member and Ukeru Champion. “(Our residents now see) there is another path, other than physical aggression, other than self-injurious behavior.”
Another positive benefit that the Ukeru Method has provided is a fundamental shift in the culture at Woods. The implementation of the Ukeru method is as much about the safety, comfort, and care of residents and students as it is for staff members. The Ukeru method has a strong focus on teamwork and cooperation. This emphasis on teamwork has a positive effect on the overall environment of each residence, classroom, work area, and on Woods as a whole.
“One outcome we really look forward to achieving is to create a living, learning and working environment where everyone feels safe, both emotionally and physically, and has the opportunity to grow to their fullest potential,” said Cottman.
For information on Ukeru, visit www.ukerusystems.org.