Pamela and I decorated eggs last Monday. The occasionally blurry clip illustrates how much more integrated her brain is. While coloring eggs with crayons, we took turns singing bits and pieces back and forth. She enjoyed my play on the word blue. When we shifted to using the egg handle, a new skill, she became very quiet, paid attention, and lifted the egg out on her own. Once she went back to coloring, Pamela relaxed and played. Not only did she multi-task here, but her executive function skills kicked in: she knew when to banter and when to sharpen her focus without prompts and correction.
For new readers, Pamela could not do any of this three years ago. Last year, I blogged video clips of Pamela before and after and, if you want to see the difference, click here.
Three years ago, I remember looking at videos of families doing RDI and smugly thinking, "That looks so easy! Pamela can do that!" Not being able to do the simplest things like smile at me as we each opened a bag of Jell-o rocked my world. She could not even watch what I did and copy it without heavy verbal prompting, which is what you don't do in RDI. Even though she was smart and capable, she could not interact in ways that some of the lower functioning teens on the videos could. I finally realized that Pamela really operated like an infant in social and emotional milestones.
What a shock!
Right now, I'm shepherding some parents through reading The RDI Book (a must-read) and giving them strategies for beginning RDI. I have heartily recommended my consultant (Amy Cameron), who is the best. However, some people want to have a clearer understanding of what it entails before taking that step. I would be a hypocrite if I didn't support them for we tried implementing RDI for 15 months before we hired Amy.
What is RDI? I think RDI is a two-pronged approach at giving people in the autism spectrum the chance to develop relationships (not just follow a script or set of rules), to find meaningful work and their purpose in life, and to live as independently as they can. Many people with autism are highly intelligent and can do some amazing things. Their struggles with understanding people and dynamic situations prevent many from leading full lives.
Why RDI? The point of RDI is to go back to those developmental milestones from infancy on and do them over with an exaggerated GPR. We remediate autism, which is not the same thing as curing: we hope to develop whatever potential for dynamic thinking our children have. RDI is not a race to achieve XYZ before the child reaches a given age. It is a marathon, not a sprint. It is a lifestyle, not a therapy.
What are the two prongs?
(1) Parents learn the intricate details of a Guided Participation Relationship (GPR is a term coined by Barbara Rogoff in her book Apprenticeship in Thinking).
(2) Parents teach children to think dynamically through a GPR, which enables them to progress in social, emotional, and communication milestones.
Are you saying I don't know how to parent? NO!!!!!!! Most of us have both typical children and autistic children. Even parents with an only child instinctively apply GPR with children outside of their family. The reason why parents need to study GPR is that the autistic child did not respond to how we typically parent due to the brain and/or immune and/or gut issues their bodies were undergoing. We slowly changed their parenting style as the autistic child became less and less able to follow.
Is my child too old? Children and adults in the autism spectrum are benefitting from RDI. Pamela had just turned 18 years old when we started. Some consultants specialize in teens and adults.
Why is The RDI Book big on theory and short on application? The book has the latest and greatest information on RDI: how the young brain develops, what the autistic brain does differently, why they recommend interacting in ways completely opposite to most advice on teaching and parenting ASD children, what research documents GPR and dynamic intelligence, what guide and apprentice mean, etc. Certified consultants help you with the application of RDI.
Is a consultant necessary? A consultant will help you apply RDI in your unique family with its own unique circumstances. The consultant evaluates where parents are in GPR and where the child is in dynamic thinking. You get access to e-learning modules, webinars, archived webinars, and extensive and well-organized parent and child objectives through the twelve stages they have outlined. My consultant is three-and-a-half hours from me, and RDI's computerized objective system keeps us on track as a long-distance family.
How do I pick one? Finding the right consultant for you is vital. Your family and the consultants need to mesh well: the consultant is guiding you and you guide your child. Follow your gut: it is far better to pick the consultant right for you and drive four extra hours. You might want to pick on specialized in speech, sensory integration, teens, etc., depending on your situation. Get with other families on autism email lists to find out who they recommend and why. Call several candidates until you find one who communicates well with you. Ask for their pricing schedule and focus on the ones who don't nickel and dime you to death (ahem, my consultant has a flat fee and that works for us).
Will I need a consultant to babysit me forever? The job of a consultant is to work herself (or himself) out of a job. Once parents make it through all their objectives and everyone agrees they are ready to fly solo, parents can assign their own child objectives for a small monthly fee to get access to the computer system. Some families decide to let it go entirely when they see their child making steady progress.
What if I'm a skeptic like you were? What you don't believe me? I'm shocked. Just joking! :-) Find a group of like-minded parents in your town or online who are interested in reading The RDI Book together and discuss what each chapter means and how it looks with an autistic child in real life. Join an email list focused on RDI (I'm on HS-RDI and Autism-Remediation-for-Our-Children). Glean as much as you can from the RDI connect site and consultant websites. Subscribe to parent blogs and consultant blogs too (four goodies for newbies are Horizons DRC (three certified consultants), Kathy Darrow (in training), Laura DeAngelo (certified), and Laurel Joss (certified)).
Stay tuned for a post on Guided Participaton Relationship or how parents guide their children . . .