Spotlight Interview: Wesley Spectrum Family Services

Recently, Ukeru had the pleasure of following up with the team at Wesley Spectrum Family Services, a Pittsburgh-based nonprofit providing behavioral healthcare services and support programs to children, adults, and families. Wesley began using Ukeru a year ago and we were eager to talk to them about their experience. Here is what Randi Hill, Milieu Supervisor, and Amber Angellotto, Behavior Health Worker, have to say. 

How did the first year of using Ukeru go for Wesley Spectrum?

Amber: For our room, it was amazing. Our restraints went drastically down. You could see the kids felt more safe, more comfortable at school. It was amazing to see the transformation for them, from feeling unsafe before Ukeru, to feeling so safe with it

Randy: I think it went that way with all the classrooms. Staff-wise, we were nervous that the kids would want to play with the pads the whole time. But that really didn’t happen except for in the first week. I would say they were more curious about them than wanting to play with them. In times of crisis, sometimes a kid would give a pad to the staff, so that was kind of interesting. I’ve seen that done in some classrooms.

We’ve been in crisis in the hallway and had a student say to us, “ Do you want me to get you some pads?” And then they would Run down the hall and hand them to us. Those were the kind of things I wasn’t expecting when we rolled it out.

I also think, comfort versus control can be a challenge for some staff. But, our trainers did different refreshers and wrapped it into our existing crisis management tools which helped it to all fit together.

Amber: I also think Ukeru definitely helped improve the burn out rate here, especially in the moments of crisis. You’re able to stay longer; to help longer. You’re able to feel better as you’re intervening with the kids. I think that is very helpful.

How did you feel using the Ukeru blocking materials? 

Randy: Using the Ukeru pads added a whole different perspective for me. I’ve been here ten years and, by using the pads, I felt like, “This is awesome – I don’t have to go into the third or fourth restraint now.”

What was the impact on the use of restraints and seclusions in your organization?

Randy: I’m a supervisor, so I’m on the emails when, previously, we would have16 restraints in one day. This year, using Ukeru, our max was maybe four.  And even that was not every day; we had days when we didn’t have any.

Amber: I remember specifically in our room last year, before Ukeru, we had 25 restraints in one week. And this year, I think the most we had was two to four in a week. That is a serious improvement.

What guidance would you give to other school systems thinking about using this approach?

Randy: Make sure that your leadership is all on board and bought into the program. We had that here, which was tremendous. Be willing to have the hard conversations with staff – for example, when you see the pads are out but aren’t being used. Have that tough conversation the same day and ask them, “what prevented you from using them?” Not being afraid to have that conversation is the biggest part. If there is a problem with using them, help them problem solve how to use them differently. Make sure you’re using your teamwork and getting behind each other.  And have refreshers.

Amber:  We practice it every day. We debrief —  what worked, what didn’t work, what could we do to better help that child in crisis — every day.

Randy: We debrief every restraint, too. One of the questions we added to that process is “how could we have used Ukeru?’” Getting the staff to problem solve, “We didn’t take an extra pad to the gym. But we can do that next time.”  Put a debriefing component into standard meetings.

Any final thoughts on year one of using Ukeru?

Amber: The improvement is amazing.

Randy: Even when things are being thrown at you — lego pieces and small things, — (putting her hands up to re-enact blocking), it’s awesome!