#082 – Sarah Buffie and The Value of Purpose, Not Problem Solving

#082 – Sarah Buffie and The Value of Purpose, Not Problem Solving

What would happen for our kids with disabilities if we were able to centre purpose over problem solving? And what does that even mean?

Sarah Buffie and I discuss this, and so much more on this podcast covering trauma for people with disabilities and how connection, affection and direction are big clues for healing.

One of the core quotes from this interview? “We know that trauma doesn’t happen in isolation and neither does its healing. They both happen in relationships.”

Sarah believes that nothing has the power to heal like supportive relationships. Specializing in trauma responsive care, she helps organizations and individuals disrupt current models of thinking by building empathy and understanding around the effects of trauma. Sarah has worked in community organizing for over a decade, has a Masters in Social Work and is a previous Americorps volunteer service member.

Sarah’s focus is on spreading awareness about how trauma affects the brain and the body, and teaching effective approaches for developing resilience within the people that the organizations strive to serve and the people closest to the work (caregivers and direct providers).

“It’s not the functional aspect of disability that prevents a good life, it’s the social isolation,” says Sarah, and if you follow the podcast, you know I couldn’t agree more.

Listen now to hear Sarah’s amazing way of unpacking some really complicated ideas including defining trauma, discussing the resilience factors and the 5 Valued Experiences.

You can listen to this podcast episode on iTunes or Spotify.

Sarah Buffie

Transcript

Genia:
Welcome to the Good Things in Life. The podcast that helps us support our kids with intellectual disabilities to build good inclusive lives at home at school and in the community. I’m your host, Genia Stephen. I’m a parent and a sibling, and I’ve been learning and living the good things in life and the struggles with people with disabilities and their families for basically my whole life. And I’m so excited that you’ve joined me here today. I’m really glad to be here with Sarah Buffie, talking about resilience factors and valued experiences. Sarah has a Master’s in Social Work from Northern Kentucky University with a focus on trauma, positive psychology and mindfulness, which she brings to her practice. Sobered consulting. Sarah believes that nothing has the power to heal like supportive relationships, specializing in trauma, responsive care. She helps organizations and individuals build empathy and understanding around the effects of trauma. Sarah has worked in community organizing for over a decade and her focus is to spread awareness about how trauma affects the brain and body and teach effective approaches for developing resilience within the people organizations strive to serve and the people closest to them. Sara, welcome. And thank you so much for joining me today.

Sarah:
Thanks for having me excited to be here.

Genia:
I’m excited to have you, so I wonder if you could start by just giving us a definition of what is trauma.

Sarah:
I love the question. Particularly because my, I feel like my role in this field is a one of a translator, so there’s a lot of research in neuroscience and big words and big language out there. I can totally find it. Yeah. and I kind of pride myself on that and that the best definition that I’ve found to communicate about what is trauma, it’s essentially an experience when you’re unsafe, unseen and unheard. We know that when you experiencing experienced something as traumatic, the event stops, but that memory lives on in your body continuously. So to heal from trauma, we need to help people feel safe, seen and heard to counteract that it’s really interesting because the, that definition implies that even if something really horrible happens to you, you know, if you’ve been, if you’ve been, if you feel seen and heard, even if you were, in fact, unsafe during that, during that terrible experience, you’re there, the results or the impact of, of that experience may be quite a bit different than if you weren’t seeing, weren’t heard weren’t safe and bad things were happening. Yeah, exactly. And I think that a trauma and an essences as an experience of being isolated and being living in secrecy. Right. So I think you’re absolutely right. What makes something Shift from stressful to toxically stressful is when you’re in the absence of safe relationships. So to, to go through a really hard time with protective relationships around, you can make all the difference in the world. Right.

Genia:
And what is trauma informed care?

Sarah:
I actually shift the question and sure. Ask what is trauma-responsive care is what I’d like to name trauma-informed care is looking at people in situations from not, what’s not what’s wrong with you, but what happened to you? But a lot of our work myself and my colleagues is really about trauma-responsive care, which means not again, not what’s wrong with you, but what ha what happened to you and what have you been doing to survive? Right. A lot of times someone’s solution is a problem for us, right? Overeating self-harm kind of destructive what we call in our field, challenging behaviors, which that drives me crazy. That drives me nuts. But those are, those are all survival strategies. So trauma-informed care tries to look at what’s underneath what’s going on. And so we have information trauma, responsive care is I know what to do with that information. I know how to respond versus react to a situation.

Genia:
So the respondent trauma-responsive care is about how the person who was traumatized is responding as opposed to the care provider.

Sarah:
Yeah. It’s, it’s really looking at what is this person been doing to survive and how do we start to honor those survival strategies? Again, people call these behaviors, but if we can understand them as survival strategies, we can honor what has kept people alive. Then we can help shift those to more prosocial ways of being right. So we’re still looking at trying to get to the root of what’s going on.

Genia:
And I feel like for, for you and I am probably for everybody listening, this is now a redundant question, but I want to ask it anyway, Just to make it really transparent and on the table, why is this relevant for people with disabilities?

Sarah:
Sure. I want to be clear in answering this, that and you, you notice as a mom and it’s silly, you said having a disability, that’s not the trunk. Yeah. And I’m forgetting exactly who said it, but it’s not the functional aspect of disability that prevents a good life. It’s the social isolation. Yeah. So I think this is a particularly important conversation for families or folks with, with disabilities because that, that notion of being unseen and unheard, that can be a traumatic experience, right. Where people continue to talk about me as if not in the room, they treat me like a perpetual child. They have low expectations, right. Versus having high expectations and be able to meet me wherever I land. I also, I see a lot of times people who are mislabeled and misdiagnosed with either a mental health label or a disability label when it’s, it could actually be a symptom of the complex childhood trauma they experienced. So we see a lot of kids who are misdiagnosed and then put in special segregated systems that just perpetuate otherness, which is its own form of trauma. Right. Being segregated, isolated. Exactly. Yeah. Yeah,

Genia:
Yeah. Again, I think, I feel like I’m Kind of saying things, repeating things or things that are really super obvious. So you and I, and People listening, but I think the experience Of rejection, which I would argue pretty much every human has it To some degree and people with disabilities in our society have experienced quite elaborately in their lives meet some of those specifically means all of those definitions or, or your definition around trauma. Right. It’s almost like the definition of rejection and the definition of trauma are so closely tied to it. Like so closely mirror each other.

Sarah:
Yeah. Also what I see a lot is kids who have a, you know, where people have a developmental disability label, they get put in systems that continually misunderstand them. And that’s then where the trauma comes because now I have power over approaches or my power is taken away. And that’s another definition of trauma when power is over you or your power is taken away. So if I’m subject to a system that doesn’t understand me and keeps trying to address my behavior versus, or react to my behavior versus responding to my emotions. Now we’re behind the eight ball. We can see a lot of damage that can come from that.

Genia:
Yeah. So in your Work, what do you do about it? Like what, Yeah, what’s your approach, right?

Sarah:
Um because I’m, I’m not a neuroscientist, but I’ve been fascinated by how understanding how, you know, the brain and body are impacted by trauma. I have a couple, a couple of different approaches one, well, where should I start? One thing that I’m finding is that no matter what tool or approach or program you have in your toolbox, whatever strategy or intervention, right? All of those can just be used as weapons. If we’re not coming from an internal, emotional space where we’re oriented to a person or a situation in a trauma-responsive way. Right? So there are five things that I talk about a lot. If we could, if we could break down the whole field of trauma-informed care and the five things these are the things I like to, I call invitations cause I’m inviting people to consider these things as true.

Sarah:
And if they are true, how do they impact the stories that we tell, how do they influence the stories we hear and ultimately, how do they show up in the work that we ended up doing? So trauma stored in the body, right? Trauma is not a bad memory. It’s a body memory. So we have to stop centering the Talkspace, especially for folks who have who communicate in alternative ways, maybe not using verbal communication, right? I’ve seen a lot of therapists close out cases cause the person won’t talk well. Trauma is not a bad memory. It’s a body memory. So we have to engage the self. Regulation is a practice, right? We talk a lot about coping skills in our world, but coping skills we ended up shaming and blaming people for not using their coping strategies, right? You didn’t use your coping skill.

Sarah:
That’s a behavior violation. I’ve heard that before. So regulation helping the nervous system come back to a state of calm on a daily or weekly basis and a patterned approach. That’s really important to support people in perceived threat and real threats feel the same in the body. So a lot of times, especially with folks with disabilities, we as caregivers or supporters, we argue with their reality, right. We try to convince people with that they’re not sad or they, they just need to calm down. Right? So that’s a misunderstanding of how emotions show up in the body. Then they’re not in the thinking brain they’re in that feeling brain. Right. I try to help people understand that trauma symptoms are survival strategies. So again, when we see things, instead of talking about bad behavior, we need to start honoring where people are at understanding their fight, survival strategies as just that.

Sarah:
And we need to help people get their fight energy out in safe ways. And then the last one healing happens in relationship. We know that trauma doesn’t happen in isolation and neither of it’s healing, they both happen in relationships. So centering that relational field is the main part of my work. I really lay out these five invitations and then I help us back up as professionals or as parents. And how do we start to take all the energy we would put outward towards our children? How do we start to put that back to the self, build our own capacity to keep hanging in there no matter what. So I’m not a big believer in fix, help save I’m about how do we join people on the healing journey? Meet them in their world, not try to pull them to two hours and hours is in close quotes. Right.

Genia:
Right. Okay. So let me, as you’ve been talking people listening, won’t see this, but we can see each other right now. And I’ve not been looking at you because I’ve been scribbling notes here. Okay. So I want to, I just want to recap what I heard and make sure I’m understanding. So the five invitations that form the foundation of the work that you do is understanding that trauma is a body memory, not a bad memory. And so we need to incorporate physical responses and ways of healing helping people with regulation. So helping people address their nervous system in a sort of pattern And habitual guessing, I’m guessing that’s because More, almost like meditation, the more you practice, those patterns of nervous system responses, the less peaks and that You experienced, because you can feel the, you can feel yourself Self kind of sliding offside a little bit, and you’ve got the practice doing that.

Genia:
Okay. And then understanding that perceived threat and real threat is experienced as the same in the bot. That is the same thing In the body. That trauma Honoring trauma symptoms as survival strategies and starting there with people as recognizing that they are in fact using what they have available to respond to their experience of trauma. Uh and then understanding that both And healing happens in relationship. And so trying to bring people together Um as sort of partners on that healing journey and that, that last one, while they all, they all make sense, Sense to me and they, they all have lots of questions I could ask about all of them about what that looks like, but I’m, I’m really curious about the relationship piece and what that, what does that look like to connect people together on a healing journey?

Sarah:
So one, if your, your self or your listeners have heard of the adverse childhood experiences study, so the ACEs study, that’s kind of, one of the seminal works that really got a trauma on the radar as a public health issue. We know that these early childhood adversity impacts the brain and body in very specific ways and early complex childhood trauma has, can lead to adverse health outcomes and adulthood, right. But the presence of one positive, safe adult can mitigate the effects of that trauma. So when I, when I think about that and my personal experience with working with people, one on one, whatever therapy we were engaged in or whatever, Oh yeah.

Sarah:
We could get people out of bed and, you know, get, you know, get dressed and have, you know, get, get out in the world. But if we didn’t have a place to belong, if we weren’t building connections, relationships based on gifts and passions and interests, the healing work would really plateau. So when I’m saying healing journey, I’m looking at it from a more holistic approach, not one of where you are, the client or you’re the patient, and you need to heal because you’re broken. But really that this journey is not a linear, right? It’s a, it’s two steps forward 100 steps back. But if we leave, if we think about, Oh, I got to fix it, you got to heal before you can go out in the world, we’re missing the healing elements of actual relationship. Right. So for me, it looks like getting to know someone, what are your gifts? What are your passions? What are your interests and who else in your community, literally your physical community, who else, and where else are those gifts and passions, interests shared. And yeah. Sorry, I just want to interrupt you for one second. I want to come back to something that you just said, because I think it’s really, really important. So base, so basically I can’t remember your exact words, but basically what I heard you say is that

Genia:
If people Shoot, I’m already losing the people because the healing is in the connection and in the being with people, a readiness approach, like you have to heal in order to be, to be ready to come into community is missing the point about how the healing happens. And it seems to me that there’s a couple of things that I just want to point out about that one. I think that’s true for all the readiness approaches. We lose upon people with disabilities, whether it’s language development or curriculum access to the curriculum or any, you know, any of those re readiness models are deeply flawed for that exact same reason. And when I think about what we do to people who whose responses to trauma are difficult for other people, it is all to pull them from community and the opportunity to develop meaningful connections with other people who share their interests and need their gifts. Every single one of them, whether it be a classroom or an institution or a longboard in a hospital or a jail it’s, it’s all the same kind of you know, separate, not connected response.

Sarah:
Yes. And w another way to put it, we talk about time in versus time out, right? So a traditional parenting approach is go calm down and think about it, go to your room and come out when you’re ready. What again, with your, if you’re parenting a child with complex trauma or even not right. I think we can, [inaudible] a 17-year-old right now. And I’m often thinking this. Yeah, yeah. Paul and Ben, right? We are, we’re wired for human connection as human beings. And when we’re in our infancy stage, if we do not have human touch and human connection, part of our brain will atrophy and we will die, right?

Sarah:
So we’re not going to atrophy and die as we grow up. But now that we have our brainstem helping us function without our thinking brain having to do any work, but we, you can literally feel physical pain in your body from you can feel physical pain in your body from isolation. I think that’s something we don’t pay attention to enough. Isolation can lead to that pain, which will lead to bad behavior, right? And I’m not feeling good in my body or my mind. You will see that manifest in another way. We end up punishing people for having a hard time. And that’s my, my biggest call, I think, is not to teach, you know, certain therapeutic models or certain approaches. What I’m trying to get across is we are the intervention, our capacity human relate. Yes. That is that, that is the healing element, right? Our capacity to be a human with another human. That’s how we heal. That is, that is the intervention. We are the antecedents, right. I can use all these languages here. But that’s the thing I think we miss the most in our, in our work.

Genia:
So you started before I looped back to this before I looped back, you were talking about connecting people around their gifts and their strengths and their interests. And I want to come back to that, but you’ve just been talking about the fact that we are driven as human beings for human connection. It’s humans are the intervention, And now we find ourselves living in a period of time where, you know, depending on the peaks or the valleys of this pandemic Community To, for, you know, in order to take care of each other, to stay away from Each other. Yeah. Curious about your perspective about around preventing trauma. You know, during this time preventing trauma from, you know, the pandemic and from isolation, and then, you know, how we would go on to then you know, respond to, to people’s need for connection as a form of healing.

Sarah:
Yeah. This is obviously been one of the biggest things, biggest struggles, and one of the most important questions that people have been asking. One, I would not underestimate the power that like what we’re doing right now. We can see each other across this video platform and the capacity to engage our mirror neurons, right. To really see one another is huge. So we can interact socially with technology. We just have that we have to lean in a family friend said, we just have to remember, we’re not reading Turkey bacon, it’s not bacon. And we all know it’s not bacon. Right. We know Bacon’s better. Right. But we’re, we’re eating Turkey bacon. So, you know, a manager expectations around that. Right. I think one of the first things we do as a punishment or a consequence, quote, unquote, especially for young people as we take away their technology.

Sarah:
Right. But now we have to center technology cause that’s how people are getting their social interactions. So I think we have to take advantage of what we do have here. I also just using the language, not just social distancing, but physical distancing. I was on a call just the other day. And we’re talking about is kind of a case call. We’re hearing about some a family’s going through a really hard time. And I asked them, you know, they’ve got 24 seven staff or their three children. They each have their own support staff. And I said, are they allowed to leave the house? Because I’m a big believer that home intervention, right. Staying home is gonna lead some more social isolation. So getting out in the community, using your support staff time to go and explore right now, you might not be able to go into gyms or to clubs or to the indoor spaces, but we can get outside, which brings me back to our original point around engaging the physical body more. So I think movement is important

Sarah:
Connecting with nature, right? So yes, we are wired for human connection, but we can engage nature and other sentient beings to help fulfill that, that need for co-regulation and relationship. I think there’s a lot of ideas we can come up with, but I, one of the things I’ve been realizing is that the stuff we’re asking teachers and in parents to lean into now are the same things we were talking about before. But now we have more urgency to be more creative. And that’s, I think we’re at a pivot point. How do we get fueled by this versus stuck and depressed with our distance.

Genia:
Oop, that’s very self muted there for a second. Okay. That’s encouraging to hear that you think that there is some trickle of like, of re realness around connecting online? Because I think so. I think sometimes people are unsure if it, you know, if it matters or it makes a difference at all. And I know a lot of I’ve spoken to a lot of parents who have said, well, my child’s not interested in the, in people on the screen. And I believe that I believe that that is often true. But also I think about my mom and trying to get her connected with technology and the you know, help her get connect, literally connected, you know, the, you know, digitally on there and just the learning curve of, for having not had you know, the experience over years, like she’s, she’s been a parent advocate for 44 years and T and couches were the technology of that connection, you know, for, for, for decades.

Genia:
And so this idea of sort of like connecting with people online is still not her, her first preference. And of course, we know that being in person with people is more powerful. Like there is real about that, but as she’s getting used to it and she’s, she’s sort of settling into it a little bit. She is of course becoming more comfortable and more proficient and gaining more from those conversations and interactions than the first time she was trying to log on to zoom and her, you know, all we could see was her chin and, you know, like all those kinds of things. And I think often, you know, with kids with disabilities, when I’m, you know, when we unpack those conversations a little bit, you kind of flash the person up on the screen and the child’s like, Hmm, I’m not interested. And then that is the end of the story is that if they haven’t, you know, immediately kind of shown that they get it and that this is, you know, that

Genia:
That they’re not going to get it. And I think that’s really unfortunate because I think that the, the flip side of that is that the parents who’ve had that initial experience and persevered. I found that over time their kids are, they are getting engaged and they are experiencing, and I know one inclusion Academy member was saying that in-person events when her son would go to family events, he would often not be super engaged at the event, but then would talk about the event and all of the people for weeks afterwards. And she’s finding the exact same thing now with online events, right? The initial impression is I’m not super engaged with this, but over time, you know, it’s creating opportunities for follow up after those events and reaching out, know all those kinds of things. So anyway, that’s just my little plug for persevering with what we have available to us at the, at the moment and having high expectations about what’s possible over time.

Sarah:
And I think too remembering that, just talking, isn’t going to be the best thing for everybody. So having an activity to engage in together, yes. Hey, bring your sugar scrub materials. We’ll do that together, right? Like we can, you know, Netflix, you can have a watch party right there. There’s all kinds of ways that I think our culture is again, pivoting to center engagement and center connection. It’s just looking a lot different. And so I think that I think we can look, you know, people with disabilities and their families are not new to social isolation. This is something that y’all, y’all training for this. Exactly. Exactly. So how do we learn from folks and or how do we, how do we use this as an invitation to connect us differently? Now we don’t have a big mystery of what it feels like in our bodies to be isolated. So maybe there’s a shared empathy, right?

Genia:
I’ve been saying that exact same they’re there they’re opportunity. Not that this isn’t terrible because it shows, but there are opportunities in that people are feeling more disconnected than they ever have, and they’re craving connection. And I believe appreciating invitation yeah. That they may not have previously. And I’ve been talking to parents who have kids, like my son’s got a lot of medical complexities and stuff like that. And doesn’t for him, it’s not lately it’s not been a detrimental, like in person time at school and stuff like that. But for a lot of parents whose kids are sick all the time, they’re missing out on that in-person thing. And so they just get farther and farther away from their peer group. Well, now, like all the kids are on the same playing field, as far as like you can accommodate your, your health needs and your physical requirements and still show up Uh you know, online and connect in these ways. So I think there’s some opportunity there as well. So I absolutely do.

Sarah:
Yeah. One thing that I, I have a lot of things that kind of draw me bonkers around vocabulary when I hear people say about people with disabilities. Oh, you know, he really wants to be so well, no shit, but we are human beings. Right. And there’s not a, it’s not a big mystery. We just have this assumption that people don’t want to be social. Yeah, that’s right. But if people are still humans and humans need things, connection, affection direction. Right. We need that again in community. And I think that we have an opportunity now to learn from folks that have been kind of systematically ignored and, and, and pushed aside. But now we can center a new conversation.

Genia:
Yeah, yeah, yeah. It’s interesting. My mind just went in a couple of different directions of conversations, but okay. So one thought I had, which is unexplored on my part. So this is definitely a risk, you know, perhaps this is going to go horribly wrong, but you were just saying, you know, we really have an opportunity to learn from people who’ve been systematically ignored. And we’ve also been talking about people’s quote behavior, or, you know, the kinds of ways that people act as a response to trauma that may be difficult for others. And I think when we look at some of the behaviors that we have seen in the general population since pandemic shutdowns have happened, we’ve seen a lot of examples of what happens to people when they’re systematically, when they feel systematically ignored and it’s all the same kinds of things. Yes, it is.

Genia:
So which begs the question if we committed ourselves to one, if we were to commit ourselves to one focus in people’s lives, you know, specifically people with disabilities right now, if we were to commit ourselves to one single focus that would have the biggest impact, it would be addressing the systematic exclusion of people with disabilities and likely we would see you know, would that increase connection. We would see, you know, a return to, you know far, far less of those things that we, that are struggles for food, people around them. And I just, I want to kind of say even further, so focusing on connection for people and relationship for people and shared interests and ability to give their gifts

Genia:
And the human as the intervention Is more important than their physiotherapy, their speech therapy, their OT, their life skills there, you know, like any of those other, yes, ABA, like I don’t, I don’t, if you’ve got an intervention, you know, feel free to write it, But it is my, I feel like I’m putting a stake in that, Around here though. My listeners already know this, but I, I truly believe that you know, keeping people, helping people to get and stay connected and build relationships is be a far better predictor of their Success and happiness and wellness and safety in life. Right. Then any of the other shit that we know absolutely Spending their time doing

Sarah:
Time and money and resources, and I never want to discard or cast aside services or supports it can be helpful, but that’s why I say we have, right. Well, of course. Right. But we didn’t have, we can’t be endpoints to relationship. We have to be conduits to other safe people and Judith Snow who is an activist, or it was an activist and an artist, right? Yeah. So she said, there’s an article about her. I read recently. And she said, even therapy, even the end or even therapy becomes another loss of relationship. Something about even success in therapy just means another loss relationship. Right? So when we think about that, when I, when I talk to therapists who are supporting people with intellectual disabilities, I said, you might not be able to go physically out into the world and help someone’s connect to something around their passion, but you can help them brainstorm.

Sarah:
Imagine, think outside of the box, into the conversation on belonging, not behavior, right? So I call, I call it behavior the B-word, cause it’s a cuss word in my book. It doesn’t tell us anything. And you named it. We are all, we are all doing all kinds of things and no one calls it behavior and they just call it drinking or smoking or cussing, right. People treat us without disabilities with really more dignity. So I think that when we can center belonging above all else, I have seen personally, and I know we’ve seen in the world, we see a decrease in challenging behaviors when we focus on getting people connected and having purpose and passion so many. So often we demean people, Oh, they, they never wake up. They just sleep all day. If you have no reason to wake up, if you’ve got no place to go, no one’s expecting you anywhere. And of course, you’re going to sleep all day. I would too. Right. So how do we center purpose over problem-solving? That’s always a question I’m trying to bring to the table. And again, not to demean how tough things can be. We can be a lot more fun. I think I, yeah, I think one of the things, the other things that I believe is that if we, if we stopped taking kids, people with disabilities

Genia:
Out of community, and if we addressed connections and their interests and connected them with other people who shared those interests, we would need a lot less therapy. Most of us, most of us actually like think about something like contractures, for example, which are, you know, there’s multiple kinds of, kind of kinds of contractures that people can get. But if you think about something like some of those contractures Um which, you know, the treatment for that is, you know, movement and stretching and, you know, all of those kinds of things and sometimes bracing. And if we could get people you know, if people were doing all kinds of things and included, and involved, and people were adapting and accommodating, They would get their damn therapy. Yes, exactly. And it wouldn’t need to be withdrawn from society

Genia:
Need to go somewhere else, you know? And, and this is, I’m not coming from a place of perfection on this, like even using this example, you know, like, despite all of our tests, We still need That therapy and we still need, you know, a brace on a hand and we still Sure. So I’m, I’m there too. And it’s not a hundred per, you know, it’s not a magic wand for sure. Sure. The physical issues are real, But man, we are so happy to pull kids out of, you know, something like swim club PT.

Sarah:
Right, right. Yeah. We are our society, we center services. And I think that that’s, that’s one thing that has the more services, the less actual capacity for being seen and heard because now I’m a client. Now I’m a patient right now. I’m someone to be taken care of. And I talk about this a lot that we kind of, in this world, we focus so much on independence. Cause dependence is the opposite. It’s so burdensome. Right. Independence just leads to social isolation. So we need the center interdependence. Right. If I’m and I, I think when I think about stretching and movement, yoga classes, hiking clubs walking, right. People always say, Oh, he’s a runner. He elopes, what are runners? Do they join with other runners? Yes. How do we use these things as gifts? One person’s problem is another person’s solution. So I think we’re, sometimes I talk about, we were sometimes having the wrong conversations and I go back to that notion of trauma, people will say like, is a trauma or is he an asshole? And I think that’s an interesting conversation, but it’s not a helpful conversation. It’s the wrong conversation. And the same thing here. I think a lot of times we sit around as professionals and we try to add more services. Right. But what about the human aspect? Human we’re in the human services industry. Right. But the human part is taken out so often. Okay.

Genia:
I’m not sure if you can tell, but I’m blushing just a little bit and feeling embarrassed because I have recently Said that about somebody in my Oh wow. Those exact words right now, trauma can make you an asshole, you know, that’s the thing. Okay. So you talked about the fi your five factors around resiliency and healing, but you also mentioned five valued experiences that you think are really key.

Sarah:
Well So I’ll back up, the five things I named are just five invitations on how we can wrap our mind around the whole field of trauma-informed care, right? Yes. So the five resilience factors are really stemming from Mary Vicario’s work with the resilience model. So she’s through her research has kind of narrowed things down to these five resilience factors that are a voice choice and control right out of the foundation of resilience, where we have agency power with others versus having power over you guys already.

Genia:
I’ve interviewed her. I don’t know whether this interview will be published first or Mary’s, but just some people listening. Now, if you haven’t heard Mary’s interview go back forward or look forward to, okay. Yup.

Sarah:
Well, and Mary Baker, she’s, she’s my mentor. And I got a lot of my training underneath her, specifically with the resilience model. So voice choice and control self-esteem external support. So things outside of us that we can rely on pets, plants, our spirituality guided imagery, meditation, those types of things. When, when people aren’t safe, external supports can lead to felt safety, belonging, which is of course my favorite resilience factor and then positive, safe adults. Right? So really centering a relationship. We know all of these are protective factors when it comes to healing from trauma or mitigating against the effects of trauma. The five valued experiences are the work of John and Connie Lyle O’Brien. And those of course, when I, I was really kind of grew up in this field at Starfire, which I believe that’s how we were connected from an old friend and colleague.

Sarah:
So their work is, is magical and really, really important. But the five I had experiences, of course making choices, experiencing respect, building relationships, sharing shared ordinary places. So again, not separate special segregated places, but ordinary places where other citizens are gathering. And then I knew this was going to happen. I’m going to forget the fifth one, but when I first came on board and started to learn more about trauma, I heard about the five resilience factors that I thought, Oh my gosh, these sound very similar to the five, the five valued experiences. And they are they’re centering relationship or centering belonging making contribution is the other five bite experience. That’s what it was. So go ahead.

Genia:
Let me just repeat those. So choices, making choices, being respected. I missed the third building relationships or building of course. Okay. And then ordinary places and making a contribution. Yeah. And all of those things, I just want to point out are mitigated by our social roles. Absolutely. So we don’t have choices receive respect, build relationships exist in ordinary places, or make a contribution outside of our valued social roles. And you know, the, which really kind of hearken, which really comes from the work of Wolf. Wolfensberger I don’t know if you know dr. Wolfensberger. Absolutely. Yes. I suspected you would. And so, and we’ll be talking more on the podcast about social role valorization and social roles, but I just wanted to, to really pull that out for people, you know, the idea when you were talking about you and we can loop back to this now, the helping people to identify their interests, figure out where other people are, who share those interests and where they can contribute their strengths and their gifts is that is sort of a fundamental function of most of our social roles outside of the early edge, not early ECE, kind of early education, but, you know, grade school and high school kind of thing, which is kind of prescribed for all students, but our community recreation roles are, you know, what we do after high school.

Genia:
Even in some ways, the way we contribute to our families is all really, for most of us determined by kind of figuring out where our interests and strengths are, and then figuring out where other people need those contributions and like to be around people with those interests and strengths. Right. And that can be our work rules, our volunteer roles, our memberships clubs, who, you know, any of that. And once we understand a social role, which we’re not talking about today, but once we understand how to break down, you know, what is a social role, we can be really intentional in helping people to do what you’re recommending, which is, you know, figuring out where the people who share those interests, how do I contribute my gifts and.

Sarah:
Where do I, where do people share my labels, but where do they share my gifts? And those might overlap sometimes. Right. But I think so often we unconsciously when it comes to our own unconscious bias about folks with disabilities, we unconsciously segregate and isolate. You know, we have these Starfire, they call a common arguments, right? Oh, they want to be together. Right. First of all, second of all, that is a, I think it’s something that we folks without disabilities project on people. Cause we’re not actually listening for not just what’s being said, what’s not being said, how do we use our creative

Sarah:
Capacity to listen for what’s underneath someone’s story? Right. a lot of folks have a poverty of experience. So we have to use our creativity, our imagination to expand and explore what, what gifts in this might, might not have been tapped yet. But yeah, I, I can’t wait to listen to your stuff on SRV cause that’s, that’s a tenant of my work as well. And it’s, it’s something I don’t, you know, we don’t know, we don’t talk about enough and in this, in this field of the disability or even mental health we’re not, we’re not talking about SRV enough. So I’m excited for you to tackle that. Yeah,

Genia:
Well, it’s definitely one of, one of my goals in, in you know, having the good things in life podcast is to, to share with other parents the, what I call the world-class, The only education that I received growing up, because, You know, a mom who’s a strong parent advocate and who decided Early in her journey, I had never met anybody with a disability and didn’t know what to do or how to do it. So she really surrounded herself with a community of thought leaders and mentors. And so I really kind of grew up in that kind of playing at the feet of Hollywood figures in the disability.

Sarah:
That’s amazing. Yeah.

Genia:
So few people have the opportunity to really access important ideas and concepts Like social valorization yeah. Concerning. and yeah. And so that’s kind of why I’m doing this is cause I want all parents to have the same kind of access To ideas and concepts and strategies and thought leaders and supports That I’ve had in, in, you know, my life as a sister. And, and certainly as my life in my life as a parent. Yeah. It’s, it’s a incredible gift. So Sarah, if, If people want to learn more about your work Connect with you, how would they find you?

Sarah:
Yeah. So, you can check out soulbirdconsulting.info, S-O-U-L, soulbird. Also if you, if you go to growingresilienceohio.org, I’ve been a part of something called the resilience project, uh, for the past five or so years it’s been going on since 2013. This is where I met Mary Vicario. She was the trauma consultant on the project. When I came on as a resilience workers, I was doing one-on-one work with folks. But through that project, we, actually Katie Bachmeyer who connected us was, she did the website and made a landing page for the work that we’ve been doing. And there are podcasts, there’s an ebook that’s free to download. There’s a stories and videos and really a good testament to the work we’ve been doing in Southwest Ohio around trauma and building resilience. So one thing I would just name is that there’s a, the ebook is a companion guide for parents, teachers for anyone who’s trying to be on the journey in a new way. And you’ll, you’ll see that the focus on belonging and connection is something we really tried to center to that project.

Genia:
Fantastic. I’ll make sure that those links are in the show notes. And if people don’t know, I also have a free resource around staying connected thinking about this idea of relationships and connecting during the pandemic and some ideas for how people can do that. And people can find that goodthingsinlife.org/stayconnected. Sarah, thank you so, so much for joining me today, this has been a really fun conversation. I hope it’s not our last conversation. Same. And when, when you were, when you were saying that you know, they were looking at each other over this video recording and I was thinking I’m so looking forward to an opportunity when all of these very, very awesome people that I’ve met and connected to over the podcast where I can just walk up and give them a hug.

Sarah:
Yes.

Genia:
A hug from me to you and in our future. Sarah, thank you so, so much.

Sarah:
Absolutely peace.

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Special thanks to SARAH BUFFIE for joining me this week. Until next time!

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