After several fun times like those, I noticed a significant increase in Hannah’s looking at the faces of those around her. We then took the skill one step further to introduce referencing, or reading, faces: we changed our excited verbal cues to excited, but silent, facial cues.Pamela is doing well in many ways: she is much more flexible than a typical autistic person, she enjoys verbal games (we substitute the "wrong" words in her self-stim phrases and she thinks it is hilarious), she has a great imagination. However, she does not give much eye contact, nor, more importantly, try to read faces to decipher meaning. I remembered Mary's post about referencing and body language, which I did not understand at the time, and remembered that she was trying RDI with her teenager, too! I ordered two books by Steve Gutstein, Solving the Relationship Puzzle and Relationship Development Intervention with Children, Adolescents and Adults and have been reading them, supplemented by Internet searches (instead of, *ahem* blogging).
Now, remember, I am a born skeptic and statistician. I am not going to run out and change my lifestyle because some autism guru and a bunch of groupies (no offense to Mary and Sonya!) rave about a fairly new autism approach. I loved the fact that both Dr. Gutstein and Charlotte Mason started off with the very same habit in Stage 1, attention! I also liked the emphasis on changing habits (any CM homeschooler will think "Habits is Ten Natures" when that word is flung), lifestyle changes, and the goal of improving quality of life. What worried me was the cost!
I decided to do the closest thing I could to a "blind" study (Stephen Edelson describes how to do this in greater detail). As you recall, I mentioned in an earlier post the idea of Mom and Dad doing a "blind" study on food where one parent gives a child a potentially questionable food without the other knowing. Starting last Wednesday, I started making small changes in my communication habits with Pamela while my husband Steve was at work: (1) declarative language as opposed to imperative language, (2) making my words important by slowing down and speaking fewer words ala the "My Words are Important" and "Unexpected Sounds and Actions" exercises from the manual, and (3) trying some lifestyle activities in which I nearly cut out words and exaggerate my facial expressions as depicted in video clips. Using gestures and facial expressions, I did things like have Pamela help me bake brownies (after she requested them), put salad fixings in the refrigerator, get out her shampoo and put it away when I washed her hair at the sink, etc. I did not give Steve one single clue about our activities, nor did I fish for compliments. I made sure to treat Pamela as usual in his presence.
My goal was to start some of the formal lab activities next Tuesday through Sunday while my dear husband was on a business trip. I remember reading somewhere that some children can make some dramatic progress in as little as thirty hours of implementing RDI activities. If Steve noticed a difference in Pamela, then I would have the green light to fork out $150 for the DVD with the "new" RDI operating system.
Well, Steve blew my plans! Today, while we were eating lunch, he remarked nonchalantly, "You know what Pamela has been doing lately? She's been looking at me a lot!" I exchanged glances with Pamela's brother, who promised to keep our doings an absolute secret because he is home all day and knew something was odd. Between our smirking and stifled laughs, Steve had to know what was so funny, so I told him about my little test.
So, now the goal is to keep it a secret from our friends at church and family to see if they start to notice any differences. Since they do not read my blog, I can safely post my intentions.
In terms of me being impressed, RDI moved up a couple of notches today!