People are growing older … help!


When we surveyed direct support staff the biggest single concern they had was their ability to support people as they age. We made this beautiful module so your staff will know how to support people as they grow older.



On successful completion of this module, your staff will be able to:


  • Understand the changes the people they support may experience as they grow older, and how this may affect them.


  • Understand how to support people to age well through staying healthy, keeping friendships and connections, and adapting their life style.


  • Help people to cope with challenges and difficulties they may face, particularly as they become frailer and lose some independence.


  • Support people at the end of their lives.


Learn more about this and all of our modules here.


For a free demo and trial please email


You don’t know her name



This weekend marks the third anniversary of the death of Heather Roselli. Heather Roselli, who had a developmental disability, died on on June 18th 2017 after being pushed to the ground and held there by the staff of the New York group home where she lived until she died of asphyxia and internal injuries, including broken ribs and a lacerated liver. This attack was prompted by her insistence that she be allowed to call her stepfather. It was Father’s Day.


On the anniversary of her death, the world is rocked with upheaval triggered by the police killing of George Floyd. The similarities are shocking: death by asphyxiation due to an incorrectly performed but theoretically legal restraint. The inciting desire to call her father, echoed in George Floyd’s call for his “Mama”. The lethal use of force by an authority over a devalued member of society, with little consequence (Only one of Heather’s killers will see jail time, and likely for a sentence of less than a year).


But what is most telling is where the similarities end. For while the world has rightly risen up to demand justice for George Floyd, the name of Heather Roselli has been all but forgotten. Why this silence? Why do we not demand justice for Heather? Why do men and women with disabilities continue to suffer the highest rates of every kind of abuse? Why do they continue to die in silence at the hands of their caregivers?


The answer, as in so many of the injustices that wrack the disability community, lies in isolation. Heather Roselli lived and died with only her paid support workers as witnesses. They and they alone were the arbiters of her days, and they proved to be terribly and tragically unworthy of the task. George Floyd had friends and allies, in his personal life, in his faith community, and eventually in government and in the media. These alliances came too late to save him, but they may have at least assured he did not die in vain.


Heather Roselli died as she lived, with only the state to guarantee her value and safety, a role it failed utterly to provide. She had called emergencies services to express her fear that she was going to be killed there, fears that were dismissed. She had no allies but her family, who she was killed for trying to contact. George Floyd was known by many, and because he was known by many, he was loved by many. Because he was loved by many, and they are loved by many, the many have risen up. But Heather Roselli, though loved by those who knew her, was known by few, and is even now being forgotten.


A life of isolation in care is not how life is meant to be lived. It is not only a sad and lonely way to live, but as Heather’s case shows us, it is not even safe. So much of the work we do is in the name of safety, but we have neglected the most important factor in protecting a vulnerable person: a robust and vocal community of natural relationships.


A person who has difficulty advocating for themselves needs witnesses. They need advocates. They need friends with voices that will be heard and listened to. This is why our most important role as paid caregivers is to make ourselves unnecessary. We must not be indispensable. We must be a necessary evil, a crutch until the bone heals. We must be the bridge that those in our care cross out into the real world, where they may be met and come to be cared for, to become friends, to become beloved. For if they are known, they will be loved, and if they are loved they will be safe. They will be missed when they don’t show up at work or at church. Their bruises will be seen and asked about. Their cries for help will be heard, and answered, before it is too late.


Perhaps the most disturbing thing about Heather Roselli’s death remains how little it is known. Almost no one, even among the professionals of the field that killed her, knows her name, though she died only three years ago. What is forgotten is repeated. The walls of a group home are soundproof. It is a place of muffled silence and muted tones, and what is not shouted is not heard at all. We must shout the name of Heather Roselli. We must write it on our hands and brand it on our hearts. And in Heather’s name we must help those we support in breaking down the invisible walls that still surround the group home, that keep those that live there from knowing and being known, from loving and from being loved.


Mike Bonikowsky


Support & teach advocacy then shut up!

“I used to think that my voice was equally important, if not more so, than the people I supported. In this story I saw this man advocate for himself, speak for himself, and voice his own dreams. It was at this point I understood that I was his ally not his advocate and that only he could advocate for himself. Our job then is to support advocacy, even teach advocacy, but once those are done our primary job is to shut up.” – Dave Hingsburger



This video is an excerpt from the Open Future Learning Mini Module ‘Helping People be in Control.’ Taking 30 minutes to complete, this Mini Learning Module captures everything you expect from Open Future and delivers it in a bite size format.



Our members use this module so their staff know how to help people to:

  • Make good decisions.
  • Stay in control while remaining safe.
  • Use self-advocacy as a powerful way of taking control of their lives.


First month free:

Email to schedule a demo of the Open Future resource and then receive your first month free – no contract of use.


Learn more about all of our modules here.



An important message for disability support workers.

We know that supporting people with developmental disabilities can bring joy and meaning. But our work also often results in stress, burnout, and high levels of turnover. And that’s before the onslaught of COVID-19, the novel coronavirus.


Enjoy this message of encouragement from Peter Leidy:



Here are some thoughts on what we can do to take care of ourselves and others during this unexpected, uncertain, and challenging time.


You, and people who count on you, need you to take care of yourself as best as possible, when you are on as well as off of work. In a minute, we’ll get to a few ways you can do this – and engage others around you in your “self-care” during these difficult times.


But first, consider this. There’s a reason airline passengers are instructed that if the oxygen masks drop, adjust your own mask before assisting others. It’s not to be selfish; you can’t be your best for someone else if you’re not okay yourself.


In this film David Pitonyak asks, “Are you someone who helps people to get to dry ground or are you destined to push them further under water?”



This bears repeating, but I’ll phrase it differently. You can’t truly support another person well if your own needs are not being met. A key question here is: How are your needs being met?


In my experience, both personally and professionally, a person’s needs are met not just by what the person does for their own care, but also how others contribute to that person’s wellbeing. I do what I can to take care of myself, but I am also blessed with others in my life who help meet my needs. We take care of me.


People in support roles often feel isolated, on our own. If I don’t do this, no one will. This is totally on my shoulders, at least until the end of my shift. We need to support each other: ask what we can do to help out, check in, be present, be responsive. Family members, managers, support workers, teammates: We all act together for good support.


Okay, now back to some ways you can take care of yourself – not just for your own physical and emotional health, but for the sake of those you are supporting. Here are some ideas which may bring light to your support relationship, to you when you are alone – or both:


  • exercising
  • noticing beauty in nature
  • mindful breathing, even for a few minutes, focusing on the inhale and exhale
  • yoga and/or meditation (lots on YouTube and Zoom these days)
  • calling someone who’s currently socially isolated
  • offering to help a neighbor
  • taking a 15-minute walk in the morning (or any time)
  • writing positive messages with sidewalk chalk
  • offering something you have that others may need


… just to name a few.


When I’m with groups in workshops or training sessions (which I’m taking a break from now, except virtually!) I might ask people to bring to mind something or someone they’re grateful for.


How about trying this right now? Go on, I’ll wait for you. Honestly I’m not going anywhere! What is something or someone you are grateful for?

Often, it turns out to be a person. If it was for you, I ask that you tell that person – now! Call or text and let them know THEY popped to mind as someone you are grateful for. Why? Because being mindful of our gratitude improves our own wellbeing, and sharing it improves the other person’s.


If you didn’t try that right now, have a go later or when you are next with someone you support. Who or what are you thankful to have in your life?


University of Wisconsin epidemiologist Malia Jones offers some important insights on our current global crisis (interview, Capital Times, 3/18/20.) She says, “Public health by nature is a community project.” We have to cooperate, listen to each other, help each other, ask for help from others. Sound familiar? This is our work.


Good hygiene, safe practices, protecting vulnerable people: doing what we can to stop the spread of the COVID-19 virus. All of this is so important.


But let’s not ignore what else is needed as much now as ever: Listening, self-care, practicing gratitude, cooperation, helping each other, and seeing this crisis as an opportunity to build community.


By Peter Leidy


What is everywhere you went Peter Leidy went with you?



Email to schedule a demo of the Open Future resource and then receive your first month free – no contract of use.


Learn more about all of our modules here.



Can we go out today?

A disability support worker shared these words with me and it is one of the most beautiful, insightful and compelling pieces I have ever read.


Founder | Open Future Learning


Each morning since the pandemic began, I leave my home and drive down the empty highway to the location where I work. I enter the home, sanitize my hands, and greet the five men who live there. Each morning, their expressions and vocalizations are a little more anxious and a little more intense than when I left them previous afternoon. Each morning, I answer their questions: Can we go out today? No, I’m sorry, we can’t. When can we go out again? We just have to take it one day at a time. Why can’t we? Because we could get sick. Is it just us? No. It’s the entire human race. Each morning they respond with a little more resignation, and a little more despair. We settle in for another day of shelter-in-place.


We follow the rules and stay home. We forgo our regular routines and entertainment. The bowling trips, the painting classes, and karaoke at the day program are cancelled. Dwain, whose mental health is closely linked to a stable schedule and his twice-daily bus rides to the local Wal-Mart, is finding the days particularly difficult. When it feels like the walls are beginning to close in, we pile into the van for long drives through the silent countryside of early spring. Gas is cheap. Until this week, we risked the Tim Horton’s drive-through and cradle gently our totemic double-doubles, sipping this rare elixir of normalcy. Together, we watch the live news broadcasts, Trudeau on his porch.


At first I was reluctant to have the news on, worried it might prompt anxiety – for all of us. But when I’d ask what they wanted to watch, their answer was always “the news”. They appreciate keeping up with the latest updates. While it might seem kinder to keep people “in the dark,” respecting choice and self-determination is all the more crucial in times when our options seem so limited. This is their home, not mine. They are adults, so it does not make sense to simply follow the protocols I keep with my children. Similarly, dignity demands that considerate honesty must come before my own desire for a sheltered and calm working environment. We are, after all, truly all in this together.


As we hear announcers share the rising numbers, we try not to think about what an outbreak would mean in this small split-level residence, home to five men of advancing age and already-compromised immunity. We wash our hands again. We stay home some more. We stop risking the drive-through, make our coffee at home, drink it together while we watch the news.


I am afraid. I am afraid for them, but also for me, and for my family. But they are not. In many ways, COVID-19 has not disrupted their lives to the extent it has mine. They are now old men, tough and wise, who came of age in the crucible of the institutions. They have known hardship I can’t imagine. They have friends in the unmarked grave behind Huronia, and do not fear death as I do. They have lost more than I can understand and have lived through much grief – along with joy and celebration. Though not of their own choosing, social isolation is often not a new experience for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. These men, despite their depths of hard-won wisdom and delightful companionship, are well-accustomed to strangers keeping their distance in public places. The conditions we ironically bemoan on social media are barely distinguishable from how they have spent most of the days of their lives. They are old pros at quarantine, and they are teaching me.


My shift ends. I gratefully wash my hands and guiltily break the quarantine, to drive through a numbed town that has lost its freedom. The parks are empty, and the bars and the movie theatres are closed. For the first time, the rest of are learning the taste of institutional living. It is our liberties that have been curtailed, our habits that are being judged, our behaviour that must conform now to programs designed by others. All homes are experiencing increased legislation, restricted freedoms, and pressure to act and behave in certain ways. Throughout history, these demands we now face have too-often been the experience of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. I hope that I – that we – can bear these conditions with half the grace and humour that these men have for so many years. Now we do so to protect vulnerable people from the coronavirus. In the past, vulnerable people have often been asked to act and behave in certain ways only to protect the status quo.


Back at my own home, I find myself without so many of the social connections that add meaning and fulfillment to my life. I taste the marginalization that is part of the daily experience of so many people. We have so much to learn from one another. I am just now learning what many others have been training for their whole life: that when our work is taken from us, when our hands fall still, and when our distractions fail us, we are left with what matters most. We come face-to-face with ourselves, and those who are closest to us. So let’s be good to one another. Let’s be kind and patient. Let’s have grace for lack of social skills, for poorly chosen words, and for tempers lost. Let’s share the television remote and swear at missing puzzle pieces together. Let’s care for one another and be grateful that this isolation is not forever. It is an act of love for a broken world. And when these quarantines end and we once again find it easy to take our casual gatherings for granted, let’s remember Dwain and others for whom “social distancing” has too often been an unchosen reality of marginalization. Let’s stay home together. And when the time comes, let’s leave our homes together as well.


By Mike Bonikowsky


Mike Bonikowsky lives and works in Dufferin County, Ontario. He is a direct support professional with the local Association for Community Living and spends the rest of his time raising two young children. He has been living and working men and women with developmental disabilities since 2007.

How do you talk about COVID-19 to people with intellectual disabilities?

Coronavirus is changing people’s lives dramatically. People can no longer take part in activities outside the house, meet with friends, go to work or clubs or anything else that involves groups of people. People can no longer visit elderly relatives, and people’s families can no longer visit. Suddenly, the holiday someone you support had been looking forward to is cancelled.

We often think about “bad news” in relation to serious illness and death, but really, it could be anything that makes your future look less bright than you had thought.

How bad news is experienced, is affected by someone’s concept of future, their ability for abstract thinking, and the things that they had looked forward to. People who have difficulty coping with change may experience any kind of changes to their routine (even seemingly minor ones) as “bad news”.

This makes the coronavirus very bad news indeed.

Coronavirus is particularly difficult for people with intellectual disabilities, many of whom are particularly reliant on routines, on familiar activities, on seeing their families and friends. How can you support people to understand what is happening and to cope with the sudden changes in their lives?

Here are five hints and tips.


1. Talk about the Coronavirus!

This is important. The coronavirus is all over the news and everybody is talking about it. Nobody should be excluded from these conversations. How you do this, and how much you explain about what coronavirus is, depends on how the person usually communicates and understands things. There are easy-read resources available that may help you find simple words, and help you explain what it is we all have to do now (regular hand washing, social distancing etc). But for some people, this information may be too complicated (especially for those who don’t understand words or pictures), or too overwhelming or frightening.

You can keep it fairly simple:

Coronavirus is making lots of people sick. We have to stop people catching it from each other. That’s why we are not allowed to go to work/see mum/go on holiday. Or: That’s why we have to wear a mask.

The important thing is to answer any questions openly, honestly, and factually. You can check what the person has understood, by asking them to explain it back to you.

Stick to statements that you know are true. Never pretend that you know something when you don’t. It is okay not to have all the answers – nobody does, especially not about coronavirus! However, if the question is important (as most questions are), see if there is anyone else who could answer it: “Shall we ask the manager/ look it up on the internet?”


2. Share the emotions

You do not need to make things better. Don’t say “Never mind, we can go on holiday next year”. Cheerful reassurance can be very confusing, and may stop the person showing you their true feelings or telling you what is worrying them. It is OK (indeed it can be very helpful) to talk together about how upsetting this is, and how angry it makes you all feel.

The people we support can be very upfront with their emotions. Distress, worry, fear, anger, excitement, and happiness can all surface very quickly, triggered by something seemingly minor. Some people cry easily and readily. It is important to allow it. Remember it is not you who has caused the anger or the tears – it’s the Coronavirus! By allowing the expression of emotions, you are helping people cope with them.


3. What is the “bad news” part of the Coronavirus?

It is helpful to consider how, exactly, the coronavirus impacts on the life of the person you support. What is the worst of it, for this person? Is it not being able to visit mom, or not being able to go to the café, or being supported by someone you don’t know because your regular support workers have all gone off sick? Talk about that.

Even if someone really cannot understand what is happening, they will still experience the impact of coronavirus. For people who understand the world through experience rather than through words, it may be that your support has to be around particular changes of routine. Rather than explain why you now all have to wash your hands more often, you might focus on helping the person grasp a new hand-washing routine (perhaps 20 seconds is as long as their favorite song). Perhaps you can’t explain why they can’t visit mum, but you can help them see mum on Skype or Zoom. Which brings us to…


4. Find ways of coping with the changes

We all have to find new ways of doing things. Your managers are probably working hard to make sure that you can manage the changes in your work. Your task is to help the person you support find new ways of managing their daily life. People on the autistic spectrum, in particular, will find it helpful to have a clear new script.

For example: “We can’t have tea at your mum’s house on Saturday, but instead, we will make a cup of tea in your apartment and she will make a cup of tea in her house. And then we will call her on Skype so we can see her and talk to her.”

Or: “We are going to write down of all the things you do in the week, and if we can’t do them, we’ll write down what you will do instead. And we will pin it up in the kitchen so that if I can’t come in, and a new support worker comes, they know about it.”


5. Find ways of sharing with colleagues

Why not organize a regular video meeting with your colleagues, and talk about the things you find hard? Working as a team is so important.

We just have to find new ways of doing it.

By Irene Tuffrey-Wijne


About Irene:

Irene is a professor in intellectual disability and palliative care and works at St Georges and Kingston University in London. Irene has conducted research into end of life care for people with intellectual disabilities and specifically how to break bad news and how to talk to people about difficult changes in their lives.


More about Irene’s module:

Breaking Bad News: Nobody likes to break bad news. We worry about how to do it, how someone will respond, and how we will cope with their response. It may seem easiest not to break the news, or to get someone else to do it. Many people even try to pretend that the bad news event hasn’t happened. This module will guide and support you in the process of helping someone to understand bad news.

Email to schedule a demo of the Open Future resource and then receive your first month free – no contract of use.

Learn more about all of our modules here.



Is COVID-19 an Opportunity?

As every human service organization on the planet will be in, or is approaching, its own “state of emergency” here are some words to consider.

This is not medical advice. There are plenty sources of advice from Governments for dealing with the health and economic implications of the pandemic. Go there or ask your employer if you need advice.

Instead the six points below seek to connect us to the experience of people with intellectual disabilities in a pandemic.

1. Promote reassurance, not fear or anger.
Many workers will be scared, as will the people we support. Fear is more infectious than COVID 19. Frightened people need reassurance. It’s hard to give to people supported when we can’t dig deep and find the strength to reassure ourselves and our families. So, build the future you want to be part of.

2. Choose inter-dependency, allow and enable people to “give”.
A lifetime of dependency leads to dependency. Perhaps it’s time to think about inter-dependency and work out how people we support can “support” the people who support them. That would be a great outcome from the pandemic. Power relationships finally equalized. All that work we’ve done on “gifts and talents” should support us to work out how.

3. Choose to see strategies, not behaviors.
Frightened people express themselves more emphatically. When routines that people rely on to understand their world begin to disassemble (they surely will as services close and shift from individualized support to basic cover and risk management) some are going to express their fear emphatically, potentially to workers who don’t know them like regular staff or family. Let’s choose to see “confused, scared and frightened” as strategies people use to cope, NOT “behaviors”. Let’s “Normalize the worry” and rewrite people’s stories.

4. Choose honesty.
People who find things difficult to understand need stuff explaining in simple terms. Nothing new there. Adults need to be treated like adults and not cosseted to ease our working life. The rule of thumb is “tell it like it is, simply, and then help people to work things out in a way that makes sense to them”.

5. Choose relationships, they matter.
We’ve talked forever about the importance of continuity in human services without really agreeing what we mean. For some it means an “activity timetable” and for others “everyone saying the same thing”. In unprecedented times continuity fundamentally means “people who know me and relationships I can trust”. If everything changes let’s make “relationships” the bottom line. “Relationships I can trust”. Keep them intact. If you can’t be there in person you can still get to someone by Skype, Facetime or a similar platform. You can still offer connection when self-isolated. You can still support your colleague who doesn’t know someone as well as you do.

6. Build connection.
Human services support some lonely people. Some have no-one in their life who isn’t paid. Brilliant support services have worked hard to build community connections for people many of which, like clubs and groups, will now be suspending activity. Maybe it’s time to reach beyond the activity to secure individual “connections”. It’s what we always meant to do, but the current crisis allows us to be blunt and “ask” for help and connection. Get brave. Ask people in your community to help!


Human services will go one of two ways. Some will hold on to the humanity of our work, preserve the intimacy of relationships and help workers and the people supported to hold on to those. Others will suffocate under changing rules, guidance and procedures. There’s more than one kind of “health” for us to maintain. Rules place emphasis on physical health, for good reasons, but mental health matters too. Choose physical and mental well being.

With the right approach it’s just possible that a pandemic could release people from old stories. Extraordinary circumstances offer extraordinary opportunities. Let’s be brave, focus on that possibility and use crisis as leverage we have always needed to build a future that we didn’t manage to out of the ordinary.


By Judith North


Judith has worked in social care since 1986 and now runs Orenda. Orenda provides training and consultancy focused on improving the lives of people who use and work in human services organizations. Judith is featured in and helped to write ‘Autism’ and ‘Autism and Sensory Processing’ for Open Future. More about these modules:


Autism: This module combines a straightforward introduction to autism with a broad range of practical strategies and approaches. The short films within the module balance the personal perspectives of people who have autism with the opinions and experiences of a number of leading professionals.

Autism and Sensory Processing: This module expands on the learning provided in our module “Autism.” Please complete that module first. Understanding and gaining insight into your processing system takes time and effort. Understanding someone else’s requires really careful observation, imagination, and empathy. In this module you will learn how your processing works and in turn we will teach you how to better understand and assist the processing realities of the people you support.

Email to schedule a demo of the Open Future resource and then receive your first month free – no contract of use.

Learn more about all of our modules here.


Meet Victor

People with intellectual disabilities are three to four times more likely to experience mental illness. Victor wants to end the stigma once and for all:



Our new module ‘Mental Health’ captures the experiences and perspectives of leading thinkers to offer a comprehensive insight into mental health.




– understand mental health.

– support a mental health difficulty.

– help people cope with difficult situations and emotions.

– protect and promote mental health.



– with groups of staff.

– on your phone.

– with the people you support.


Schedule a demo and then you can get your first month free! No contract. Email for more information:


Learn more about all of our modules here.


Do you have permission to touch disabled people?

Do your support staff seek permission before they touch people? Our members use us to create better support relationships. Watch this video:



Our new module ‘Personal and Intimate Care’ offers several very practical strategies that can be used to seek permission even when people do not use words to speak.


Parallel talk is one such example. Parallel talk simply means describing your actions before and as you take them. It can be as simple as: “I’m just going to reach over for the shaving foam…okay I’m ready to start by helping you wet your face…now are you ready for me to carry on?” The key is ensuring the person is always aware of what is happening well before it happens. A key word, phrase or behavior can indicate someone’s choice. Many people give permission without speech – it could be their facial expression, their posture or simply their gaze. So you wait for their response, then move on.


In the busyness of our work we can forget about humanity really fast. Parallel talk slows us down and reestablishes that connection. Plus when combined with a routine that all staff follow, it can encourage learning. Every time you describe what you do, the individual gets to hear and experience the routine. Without knowing it, learning starts happening and at that point even people with profound disabilities will start to participate in the routine.


Preserving dignity and promoting control are two of the most important tasks a support staff person undertakes. Why? Because we expect it ourselves.



– with groups of staff.

– on your phone.

– with the people you support.


Schedule a demo and then you can get your first month free! No contract. Email for more information:


Learn more about all of our modules here.


Happy holidays?

For most of us, the busy holiday season means time to entertain, party and enjoy some down time with friends and family. But for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, it can be an intensely lonely time of the year when the social isolation they already experience only gets worse. Imagine if the only people you saw over Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year were those paid to support you?


Friendships – all year round, not just in the holidays – as Open Future contributor and self-advocate Steve Dymond says, are crucial:


“It’s important for me to have friends because without friends you haven’t got anyone else you can rely on. It’s a good feeling to know you have some people there if you need them. It’s all about sharing experiences and sharing different things between each other.”


Open Future Learning strongly believes that the support staff person’s most important role is to help people to develop and maintain friendships. Community and friendships help us to live longer and happier lives, yet a recent review of research showed that 50% of people we support experience chronic loneliness.


As Open Future contributor David Pitonyak says in this film: “Nothing is more important than building meaningful and enduring relationships.”

Helping people to connect with others in their communities can seem like a daunting task. Open Future contributor Margaret Cushen says a community mapping exercise is one way to start building connections, just by writing down or photographing local places and activities that are – or could be – important to someone.


Leading thinker Beth Mount adds:


“We have to know people’s communities inside and out. We go into community as an explorer. What are the assets of this place, what do people need done here, what do people need help with, where are the opportunities to contribute? Talk to people, go explore! Find out what is here in this place and how that might be a world that someone with a disability can bring and offer something.”

To build and connect someone to new friendships most successfully means being the kind of support worker who recognizes they are not at the center of things. Instead, their role is clearly to help people take control of their own lives as active members of the community. “As a support worker,” says Open Future contributor Jack Pearpoint “it’s really important for you not to create dependency…a key role is to expand the network of support, build the circle of friends, and engage people in the community.”


It is worth bearing in mind the basic tasks of good support as developed by John O’Brien which are as pertinent now as they were almost 40 years ago when they were first developed. To help people become full citizens, John said, the first step is to discover their gifts and interests, create opportunities in community and help people share those gifts.


One story David Pitonyak tells is about once working with a young man called Roland. Roland was very aggressive, but he and David made a connection. Returning to his shift one evening in Vermont, he noticed Roland had left the home without anyone noticing. David eventually found Roland tramping through the snow walking towards his house. David recalls:


“I realized that an essential place of Roland’s suffering is that he didn’t have anybody in his life. We knew he experienced autism; we knew he was aggressive. But nobody had ever noticed that he had no people that he wanted to be with.”


David shares that he used his close and trusted relationship with Roland to help Roland to explore and experience things he had never tried before. David explains that it wasn’t long before Roland was making expansive lists detailing all the things he wanted to do and all the people he wanted to see in a day.


As David says, relationships are critical to our wellbeing. Having something to look forward to helps us cope better with our daily lives. “A lot of people who experience disability don’t have that much to look forward to…I really believe we should help people find more joy in their lives”.


And what better time to find that joy than this holiday season.


Learn more about the module ‘Building Friendships and Community’ and all of the Open Future Learning modules here.


Please email to schedule a free demo and trial.


Do people with disabilities have a right to choice?

Did you know?

– Our learning modules be used to train groups of staff.

– When you train groups of staff you only use one seat on your membership.

– You can complete our modules on any device.

– You can make your own modules.

– When staff access a custom module they do not use a seat.


Have a free demo and trial by emailing


Learn more about all of our modules here.



I don’t see your disability!


To recognize that every person is unique and to respect each person’s differences define diversity and the mission of our new module. Watch this:



Co written by Charles Archer, Karyn Harvey, Roger Ramsukh and Dave Hingsburger this module features four very different perspectives on diversity. These perspectives will in turn explore how you can allow people to define who they are, how they lead their lives, what they need to be safe, and how your support can lead them to reach their potential in all that they do.


Learn more about all of our modules here.



Supported Decision-Making

The people you support can and should make decisions. This module will help you to learn how.

The relationship you have with the people you support is an intimate one. Over time you develop trust, respect and understanding. This module will help you to understand how you can support people to claim their voice so they can express their opinions, and make their choices.

This module includes video presentations from Michael Kendrick, Malia Carlotto, and Bob Fleischner.

On successful completion of this module, you will be able to:

– Understand the different ways that people make decisions.

– Describe supported decision-making and how it works.

– Explain the support people will need to make their own decisions.

Module Length: 95 Minutes

Learn more about all of our modules here.


About Our Pricing

This video explains our pricing and how we work with our members to provide the very best value for money:

Learn more about our pricing here and if you have any questions please do not hesitate to contact us via


Building Valued Social Roles

Narrated by Beth Mount, this excerpt from our module “Valued Social Roles” explains the importance of helping people to build wide, deep and sustaining relationships.

This module is written by Marc Tumeinski from the Social Role Valorization (SRV) Implementation Project. Marc uses his intimate knowledge of SRV to help learners to reflect on both the barriers to the “Good Things of Life” and how valued social roles may help the people we support to have greater access to these good things.



This module includes video presentations from Marc Tumeinski, Gary Kent, Beth Mount, Steve Dymond, Jack Pearpoint, and Simon Duffy.


On successful completion of this module, learners will be able to:


    • Describe related elements of social devaluation: negative perception followed by negative treatment.
    • Describe a shared practice of human service involving vision, attitudes, and skills and actions.
    • Understand and articulate a shared practice for supporting the people you support.
    • Describe the “good things in life” and valued social roles with examples, and also explain how they are linked.
    • Describe devalued roles as wounds, how these occur, and what the consequences of these wounds may be.
    • Understand and articulate skills and attitudes which support our vision including: Stepping into the shoes of the people you support, serving one person at a time, and holding high, positive expectations for the people you support and for ourselves.
    • Describe how rejection, distancing, and communication can be potential barriers to applying this vision.
    • Explain how you can be a better listener.
    • Explain how person-centered planning can help to raise possibilities and expectations.
    • Understand the importance of, and how to enhance image and competency, and how to avoid the associated challenges that may include life wasting, lost opportunities, and society’s own perception.


Everyone Can Learn


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It might seem odd that a professional would ignore someone who is drowning. But as David Pitonyak explains, this happens all the time in our field. People who have disabilities and difficult behavior are often overboard and terrified, and we … Continue reading

Relationships, Dating, and Intimacy by Dave Hingsburger


Relationship, Dating and Intimacy expert, Dave Hingsburger, shares with you his knowledge about the importance of assisting the people we support with developing positive relationships, experiencing dating and intimacy in order to have a fulfilled life. This side-by-side module allows the people who receive support and the people who provide support to learn together. Continue reading

Difficult Families?


What can we learn from the families we support and work with? This video is a celebration of families and what we can learn from them. The moving and thoughtful words of the families who made this video will help … Continue reading

Slightly Inspirational Health and Safety Training


The words ‘inspirational’ and ‘health and safety’ may not sit easily together. But not many health and safety training courses feature contributions from leading thinkers like Dave Hingsburger, David Pitonyak, Dave Hasbury, and John Raffaele. This module will help to … Continue reading