How Creativity Flourishes in the UKERU Philosophy

By Sara Porcaro | November 19, 2019

In Charlestown, individuals receiving Adult Residential Services live in a spacious, cozy home, one whose wood walls and high ceilings make for a wonderful space to relax in after a day out on the town. One individual, Jimmy, returns from a party, where he enjoyed the company of his friends and good food; as he gets settled in, he grabs his sketchpad, one full of his favorite T.V. characters. But those characters don't only live in his sketchbook. They also decorate a large foam pad from Grafton Health Inc.'s UKERU program--one that, thanks to the creativity and innovation of Perspectives Direct Support Professionals, is tailored just for him!

For a year and a half, Perspectives DSPs have worked hard to support residents through UKERU, a program that works to change the core philosophy behind preventing and managing crisis. The program, developed in 2004, takes a trauma-informed care (TIC) approach, one that focuses on providing a compassionate, healthy outlet for individuals' emotions while ensuring the safety of support professionals. However, over time, some professionals sought more creative uses of the equipment provided than the traditional usage to better support residents in their homes.

"Originally," says Site Supervisor Cassandra Hall, "bringing the pads to manage crisis only got Jimmy to associate them with crisis--and that didn't help him relax. We had to rethink our approach to best support him through tough moments."

After the first year and initial eight-hour training session, DSPs took a two and a half hour refresher and troubleshooting course, where they were able to discuss challenges with the program, ask questions, and further engage with the core philosophy of UKERU: one that recognizes the role trauma plays in an individual's life, and the necessity of creating a safe environment for individuals to avoid being re-traumatized. With this refresher, and the refocus on TIC, Cassandra went to UKERU Refresher Trainer and Director of 24-Hour Services, Colleen Wise, with an idea: painting the pads with Jimmy's favorite characters from a cartoon called "Jumpin' J."

Service Coordinator Rachel Morgan says, "We invited Jimmy to paint the pads with us, and that let it become something completely different for him--something he associates with fun, not crisis. He finds comfort in it now."

The shift came about not only with the painting, but with the pad's new creative application. Rather than use them as blocking pads, Jimmy now uses the pads as a seat and a springboard. The cartoon animals painted on the front--the same ones in his sketchpad--are ones that bring a smile to his face rather when he sees them, and that happiness and positivity are wonderful tools to help Jimmy stay calm during challenging moments.

"If something's making him upset, we just get the pad and say, 'hey, Jimmy, let's jump on the pad!'" Cassandra says. "Then his whole mood flips, and he's having fun again. It helps us prevent challenging moments before they start, so everyone stays safe and comfortable."

Rachel adds, "We saw that UKERU isn't really about the pads; it's about understanding where individuals we support are coming from and what we can do to best help them in moments of crisis with the equipment we have. That's how we got the most out of it."

At the end of an exciting day, Jimmy settles down on the couch to watch his favorite programs and draw more of his favorite characters, all while surrounded by those who love to see him happy. Our professionals are always hard at work to bring innovative ideas to the table, ones that support individuals in leading happy, fulfilling lives--and that's evident in the smile Jimmy wears as he gets cozy at home!