By Wendy Schulz. Wendy is setting up a group in Victoria to explore possibilities for learning, using and teaching the Haven Communication Model. Read on to find out more, and how to contact her if you want to take part.
Since completing my first Come Alive more than eight years ago, I’ve seen the Haven Communication Model drawn on a white board, practiced it, discussed it and thought about it more times than I can count. In putting it to use I’ve been bold, I’ve been terrified, I’ve been sure and unsure, I’ve been vulnerable, and each time I went about it differently. I would say each time I believed I understood the other better and believed that I was better understood; I certainly understood myself better.
About six years ago, I began to make an employment shift into working with people who live with diverse abilities and developmental delays. The first assignment I had was working with a young man living with Down syndrome. In my research I read that those living with Down syndrome are usually fairly gentle in nature, compliant and friendly. The young man (let’s call him Rob) I first began to work with was angry, mistrusting and recalcitrant, if not belligerent, and all for very good reason in my opinion. We were to spend time out in the community for six hours a day for four days a week. I was told many things about what Rob would or wouldn’t do, all of which I tucked away for possible future reference in considering safety while we were out in the community, and set about getting to know Rob on my own terms. I was terrified, as I was warned Rob would wander away, that he was non-communicative, and I was not to let him overeat or stop anywhere near a casino.
In my terror I asked myself what skills or resources did I have to do this work and decided that I was going to consciously employ the Haven Communication Model, and that I would break it down as simply as possible and focus on gaining permission from him, with a heavy dose of curiosity (given Rob had been violated so badly and as a person with diverse abilities he had very little real opportunities to exercise choice in his life). The results were immediate – letting Rob know that I was seriously interested in knowing what he wanted to do (within the realm of what we were allowed to do) gave him options. As I waited until he decided and then let me know, I could feel him soften and lean in as the minutes went by. As I followed through on my plan Rob began to trust me, I began to relax and we embarked on a journey together – person to person, based in trust and communication. Rob began to smile, even laugh, and became much more willing to try things he would not try before. Perhaps most exciting in my time with Rob was that he became verbal again and was able to speak up for himself.
On a personal level, I’ve committed to integrating this model into my life as much as I can and keeping fresh with it. As I become more intimate with myself and the model I see a great need for it in social interventions and community building as I am involved in online communities in both these areas. Bottom line I’m interested in learning more about the model, about communication and about myself in communication with others by learning to teach it. I have a belief that most issues can be resolved through this model. I’ve brought this idea forward to several people at The Haven and we have been brainstorming possibilities to extend this opportunity to others, including the potential down the line for certifications and on-line applications. If these ideas are exciting to you, please consider the invitation to be part of an inaugural dialogue to explore possibilities – including steeping yourself in the communication model, bringing it into your own life more fully, and learning how to teach the model. This is my dream, as I see the trouble that happens through poor communication and I see this model as an antidote.
I am motivated to begin with an in-person group in Victoria and there may be minimal costs for room rentals, etc. The dialogue and training opportunities may also be a combination of in-person and on-line via Zoom with Haven leaders. Please send an email to Wendy if you would like to stay in the loop about this. We are open to including people who have not taken any courses at The Haven and who are interested in improving/advancing their communication skills and deepening relationships in their lives.