The final session in our RDA went very smoothly today. Even though I did not follow-through on the exact plan we mapped out last time, Pamela managed to accomplish what we needed. While I did seek opportunities to practice the points, nods, and gestures, she managed to transfer these abilities into real-life situations like when we chatted about the princess dress. Our consultant was very impressed at how quickly Pamela takes responsibility for applying new skills in real life. She asked me how we do it and, honestly, I have no clue! Apparently, it typically involves a four-step process for most children to own a new skill. All I can think is that, between her struggles with speech and her desire to communicate, she latches onto every nonverbal thing we show her.
Our consultant gave me a broad vision of what we will be doing in the next month or two. We are hoping for Pamela to discover how to be more declarative in her communication rather than imperative. Since she finds nonverbal communication easier, we focused on gestures. We determined that most of the time her gestures are also imperative (because that is how we have always communicated with Pamela--she picked up what we have modeled for years).
We focused on receptive gestures first--gestures people use as listeners to let others know whether or not they are listening and understanding. Just about any website on body language lists what constitutes attentive body language. Pamela already gives attentive eye contact because she references our facial expressions and body language to improve her understanding. First, we worked on pointing, nodding, and head shaking to tell me she was receiving and processing my communications. We also established Pamela has no problem showing me her lack of interest by walking away or changing the subject!
Now, I need to assess in a non-sedentary situation how well she orients to me if I am turned away from her. Pamela already knows to tap me on the shoulder, but I am not sure what she will do if I do not automatically turn to her. After that, we will work on the posturing skills of an active listener: leaning forward, tilting head, or furrowed brow.
If Pamela does not automatically transfers these skills, I may need to let her know how much body language helps me know if she understands or is confused. We will role play to see if she can tell if I am listening or tuning her out. Think about how often autism spectrum children turn people off by their long monologues. Part of the issue could be ignoring the body language of someone who is not listening.
Once she masters these steps, we can move onto expressive imperative, which Pamela has already aced, the the final piece, expressive declarative, which has five major components which our consultant will cover in our July phone call.
In case you are wondering what an RDA is . . . The RDA is an assessment collaboration between a consultant and parents (and actually child, if the child is at a higher stage) to figure out where children and parents are in the various stages and objectives, to set up a program and working relationship between all parties, and to select an objective and break it down. Our consultant did not follow the usual plan for us because after the first two sessions she knew we had several major pieces in place (master-apprentice and co-regulation). She also reads my blog and knew that I have a working knowledge of RDI.
Before the RDA, our consultant collects background information through paper work and conversations with the parents to assess commitment to working with their child and understanding of RDI principles. Typically, consultants and parents proceed along this six-step path:
Session 1: Film each parent interacting with the child according to RDA-1, basically a set of playful activities under various frameworks (verbal, no words, etc.).
Session 2: Having viewed footage collected in session 1, the consultant develops hypotheses about the child's abilities and then tests them out during this session.
Session 3: The consultant debriefs the parents on the information gathered and explains guiding principles of RDI.
Session 4: The consultant coaches the parents in guiding the child to practice important components of the RDI lifestyle.
Session 5: The consultant and parents discuss goals, objectives and strategies for an RDI program, discuss how to implement and modify goals as needed, address any potential obstacles, and identify potential strategies to overcome them. They focus on the working relationship between the consultant and parents, too.
Session 6: The consultant coaches the parents in guiding the child on the specifics discussed in the previous session, so they can make any revisions. The consultant outlines the overarching goals for the next few months.