Last month, I started meeting with a group of families in my town who are interested in learning about RDI. We meet every other week and discuss chapters in The RDI Book, and this week we will cover dynamic communication in Chapter 3. As we talk about the early phases of implementing RDI, remembering our journey and thinking about what someone new to RDI might need to know has lead to this series. I promise you this is my final post on what I understand about RDI at the beginning of the fourth year of our journey.
Video You may wonder why I record so many of our activities. These videos document what Pamela can do, clearly and unequivocably. They represent mounting evidence of her growth in dynamic thinking and our growth in guiding her. They also help me see nuances that I missed during the interaction and let me go with the flow because I know I can watch it later. Watching the videos and editing them helps you learn from your victories and from your mistakes.
I skipped uploading one segment where I failed miserably! I had secretly written Pamela's name on an egg in white crayon. I expected her to be surprised and delighted. I was so focused on product (her reaction) that I fell into the trap of direct questions and prompts to elicit the desired effect. Pamela saw her name and wasn't a bit interested in it. It took me about three minutes to get over my disappointment, which I masked in a flood of talking. While watching the video, I scolded, "Badly done, Tammy!"
Recording is a time-consuming hassle, especially when you had the most wonderful interaction, and later notice the video cut off your heads! Moviemaker doesn't like the VOB files from my camcorder, so I must convert them before editing. The sound went out on my computer so, until I get it fixed, hopefully under warranty, editing has a new wrinkle. The thought of uploading it to someone who is an expert in GPR and dynamic thinking isn't easy. Then, I spend a little more time typing my objective, what worked, what didn't work, what questions I have, etc. I have a hard time taking constructive criticism, and my consultant Amy frames it gently to lessen the sting. As inconvenient as it sounds, taking the time to record, observe, process, and reflect is worth the effort.
If a picture is worth a thousand words, then a video is worth a mega byte of words.
Framing in Different Stages
Almost anything you do in your daily life, whether routine chores or holiday activities are RDIable (is that a word). The key is how you frame the activity. For example, in Stage 1, we addressed nonverbal communication. I placed all necessary tools and things on the table. Pamela's role was to hand me objects, and mine was to take the next step. I looked at the object (a tablespoon), while she pointed to objects and checked my reaction until she found the right one. In Stage 3, I worked on monitoring me for new actions while she did her role. In Stage 5, which is when children are ready for building friends, I will invite someone over who has about the same level of social competence and let them color Easter eggs together while I watch and scaffold when necessary.
Same-But-Different Thinking of activities in a "same-but-different" point of view helps our children embrace novelty better. Early on, interaction patterns help with this. I take a pile of rolled-up socks and set up an assembly line to put them in the basket: sock-me-Pamela-basket. Once I get a great rhythm, I add a teeny variation (dropping it into her hand, doing an airplane into her hand, etc.). It's not all that different from the silly games parents play feeding infants. The interaction pattern is the same, but the delivery is slightly different. After I move the basket upstairs, I have the same interaction pattern, but a different destination: sock-me-Pamela-drawer. Half of the way through, I do same-but-different pattern by swapping roles: sock-Pamela-me-drawer. If it's a really good day, I try a new interaction: the job of getting the socks in the drawer is the same, but the interaction pattern is different.
For coloring eggs, I used a more sophisticated version of same-but-different. Pamela always got the warm water, but sometimes I poured and sometimes she poured. Sometimes I poured the vinegar into the spoon and she dumped it into the dye, and, at other times, we reversed roles. One color (red) required no vinegar. The biggest same-but-different moment came when Pamela wanted a purple egg in the video clip below. She tried to combine the red and blue dyes, but I stopped her because we would have no more red and blue. I had on-hand food coloring for such a situation. This time she needed boiling water, not warm water. She needed a teaspoon of vinegar, not a tablespoon. This time, she counted drops, instead of using a tablet. Now, she is much less resistance to change and novelty because we set up same-but-different moments in our activities.
Eye Gaze You may notice how well Pamela follows my eye gaze. When I look in a specific direction, she looks there, points, and checks my face to see if she's on track. She learned to do this three years ago. I set up two cups in at opposite ends of a long table. I looked at Pamela, smiled, and looked at the cup. Unfortunately, she thought I was following a pattern: left, left, right, right, etc. She spent about two weeks getting it right half of the time because she was trying to crack a pattern that did not exist. One day, inspiration hit me. I grabbed an empty toilet paper roll to spotlight what I was doing. This time, it clicked! She realized that the direction of my face was the key, not keeping track of a pattern. From that point on, we hunted for treasure, looked for ingredients for baking, found items on my mental shopping list at the store, etc. through eye gaze. Three years later, Pamela does it without thinking.
Monitoring The final process I would like to spotlight is how I made sure Pamela had opportunities to monitor. In this clip, she kept track of the microwave and turned to check the time before thirty seconds were up. She counted the right number of drops of purple food coloring (twenty-five). Not only can she monitor me, she can also monitor other things. I am making sure that she can track two objects in her working memory, which is part of the dynamic interactions in the brain, currently researched to better understand the coordination of attention and action.
Is there more I could say on this subject? Oh, yeah! However, by now, you are probably glad for my restraint . . .