Relationship Development Intervention (RDI) cleared up a mystery I have been thinking through for a long time. Even though Pamela is physically 19 years old, academically doing 5th to 6th grade level work, and speaking at an early elementary level, she still enjoys watching PBS children's programming and Nickelodeon. She plays with stuffed animals, Barbies, and baby dolls. According to our consultant, Pamela's relationship skills are similar to that of a toddler, which gives me permission to stop worrying about her immature play skills. For example, Pamela's tia (aunt) from El Salvador is visiting us and wanted to buy her some books. Pamela chose Eric Carle's The Very Hungry Caterpillar and The Very Busy Spider, which is way below her actual reading level. Since her choice makes sense emotionally, I saw nothing wrong.
Yesterday, her tia wanted to buy a toy for Pamela and I used the opportunity to film how well Pamela does with orienting to me. Shopping at the very noisy Wal-Mart would test her to the maximum between sensory overload and the excitement of picking out a new toy. Pamela and I interacted very nicely, all things considered.
Pamela has two baby dolls now and she thinks our family-size has increased from four to six! She calls herself a "big girl"--too young to be the mother of the babies. So, when she decided to bring the babies on a trip to a peach orchard and topiary garden (to be blogged another day), she thought of her role as the babysitter. Because the weather is hot, she stripped them down to diapers so they would be more comfortable. The oldest one is Baby Alive, but she named the little brother Baby David (after her brother). Even though the new baby came wrapped in a pink robe, she thinks he looks like David when he was a baby.
Patty (Pamela's tia, or aunt) visited us last year for three weeks about a month after we began incorporating RDI into our life. She has noticed many wonderful changes in Pamela. Her face is more expressive, and she tunes into conversations much more. Today, in the car, Patty was trying to teach David to roll his r's and they were practicing saying that troublesome letter. They went through a series of words like carro, perro, and burrito. Patty was trying get David to emphasize the r in burrito and, suddenly and very dramatically, Pamela yelled out, "BURRITO!" She had us all in stitches!
Pamela spends less time pacing, hidden in her room watching television, playing on the computer, or watching television. She transitions to one self-selected entertainment choice to another rather than being stuck in one mode of play for long periods of time. She seeks being around us more than she did in Patty's last visit. Pamela is much more able to have back and forth conversations with Patty. She seems much calmer and more relaxed, less frustrated, and more able to handle change. She talks more spontaneously and less rigidly than last year, too.
A friend of Patty's joined her on this trip to the States, and Pamela has never met him. He said today that they had a little conversation at the book store and he noticed how she imitated his volume. If he spoke loudly, she did; when he whispered, she whispered. Patty noticed how Pamela will whisper to herself quite often, and I had not really paid attention to it. I may need to go reread my posts on the development of private speech.
Here are Pamela and her tia Patty giving kisses to the baby and a wonderful exchange they had in a very loud peach packing plant. I will share footage later when I have time to edit.