Trainer Spotlight: David O’Keefe

Q: How long have you been an Ukeru trainer?

A: 2 years

Q: What population do you work with? What inspired you to get into this field? 

A: Adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities

Q: What part of Ukeru do you enjoy teaching the most and why?  

A: This is difficult to answer. However, there are a couple of points that stand out to me:

1. If we truly believe that all people want to inherently do well, we must start from a place of kindness and compassion, with the desire to help.

2. Trauma literally changes the structure of the brain. Sharing this knowledge with our staff helps them to better understand that challenging behavior is often triggered by one’s previous trauma. Expecting people to control their impulses may be impossible until we are able to support them in feeling safe.

Q: What would you say to someone who is unsure about using Ukeru? 

A: As someone who started as a Direct Service Professional almost 30 years ago, I have developed a reputation of being able to successfully support people who frequently display challenging and aggressive behaviors. While proud of the positive relationships I have built with the people we support, I can confidently say that had I received Ukeru training early in my career, I would have been able to avoid the majority of the physical interventions of which I implemented.

Q: What advice or tip would you give to a new Ukeru trainer? 

A: Remember many of the staff you are training have a long history in the field and likely have experienced caregiver trauma, which makes it more difficult for them to respond rationally rather than emotionally when someone they serve is becoming aggressive. Practice techniques to assist people to self-regulate and calm their own amygdala.

Q: How has Ukeru impacted your life? 

A: Having had the opportunity to learn about how trauma impacts the brain has resulted in me being more self-reflective and to evaluate how my personal traumas have shaped my behavior. I have become more inquisitive as to why people behave the way they do.

Q: What is your favorite quote or a motto that you like to live by? 

A: “Make way for a positive day.” – Bob Marley

Q: What three words would you use to describe Ukeru?

A: Informed, Compassionate, Receptive