Saturday, March 10, 2007

That RDI Thing

I have been hearing about RDI (Relationship Development Intervention) here and there, and what I read at Sonya's page during my masterly inactivity binge three weeks ago intrigued me. The chart about the developmental affects of autism caught my abstract sequential mind, and several things Sonya described made an impression upon me. In particular,
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!


Anonymous said...

I'm so glad for your success. I have been interested about the RDI program as well, but, as a homeschooling Mama of 3, the cost put me off as well. I look forward to your updates.

walking said...

I certainly empathize with you on that one!

I bought the books used at for $46.45 (including shipping for both). List price (without shipping) for both is $59.90, but you can find better deals by going to one of my favorite sites for used books, Best Book Buys. Unfortunately, the DVD is so new that we will have to pay the $150. I am not convinced enough to buy it . . . yet. Time will tell. I cannot even conceive of the whole consultant scenario at present!

Anonymous said...

Oh, Tammy, I'm so excited that you're seeing some of the same immediate responses that we saw in Hannah! Keep us posted.


Anonymous said...

i LOVE RDI! we've been doing it with our son for the past year and a half and the changes are amazing.

thanks for coming over to say hi! i'm putting your link on my page. shall i say you are a parenting blog? or maybe an RDI blog? hmmmm?

and listen, the costs are not prohibitive. at least, not in our book, considering what you get and how it impacts your child's developmental growth.

walking said...

Sonya, I will keep you posted and I thank you. The chart on your page is what got me thinking . . .

Kyra, I am a Charlotte Mason style homeschooler with an autistic teen. I am considering RDI for social skills, now that I have the speech skills moving along smoothly thanks to the association method.

At present, I plan to give RDI a shot for the next six months and see what develops. I have been doing it less than a week, and I am guardedly impressed. The fact that my dh (who did not know of my efforts and was my "blind" observer) picked up on changes after only three days is amazing. In short, you could file me under RDI blog for now! It will not be all RDI all the time. But, when I am passionate about a subject, I will blog it!

Niffercoo said...

Tammy I am so excited to see that you've had some good initial success with RDI! We have noticed many of the same things with Reece and Austin right away, so much so that I was desperate to find the funds to pay for it! LOL But we've done really well just by reading the books and trying to change our lifestyle! I continue to be amazed by how RDI and CM seem to flow together and mesh very nicely! I have some good files saved about RDI and especially language, if you'd like me to pass them on!


walking said...

Jennifer, I would love any files you have saved on RDI! Any and all nuggets of wisdom are appreciated!


Niffercoo said...

I'll send them to you this afternoon when we get back from ballet pictures! Now, to convince a 5 year old with sensory issues that gel and a bun in her hair will make her look 'lovely'! Whose bright idea was it to sign her up for ballet? Oh yeah, mine! ;)