Friday, May 25, 2007

Sneaky Pamela!

I have been flying solo as an RDI lone ranger since March 7. What follows here is a quick recap of what we have been doing, followed by an explanation and clip of Pamela's blossoming emotion sharing. Think of this post as an eleven-week progress report. (Mind you, Pamela is an old lady in the autism world, being twelve years past the magical age of six in which neural plasticity is supposed to vanish.)

I am very impressed with how beautifully Pamela has taken to the RDI lifestyle. I started with one daily activity session and by changing my habits. The first thing that kicked in was paying more attention to our faces. She started having fun with my exaggerated facial expressions. She has grown to enjoy baking with me, too: birthday cake, pancakes, brownies, and bread in bread machine. She is even starting to make requests about what we might bake. In April 2007, we launched the Barbie Kitty Condo Project (a locked box) game, in which she explored novel objects, anticipated future events, referenced my nonverbal communication and declarative statements, lingered to chat, referenced me in uncertain situations, followed my eye gaze, and used her imagination in theorizing about novel objects.

While she is not where she needs to be with episodic memory, she is growing in leaps and bounds in experience sharing! We started to see it emerge at the end of April. In May, I also began experimenting with how to handle Pamela's scripting in a way that keeps the relationship intact. We also work on RDI in the community, having found the self-check out line at Wal-Mart and even the post office great places to practice our RDI habits. We are seeing more incidents of her expressing her emotions while communicating to make a point.

We filmed this first clip of hot potato on March 15, 2007. I am working very hard to encourage her to smile with super exaggerated facial expressions, lots of unexpected sounds, productive uncertainty (when her brother tosses a grape) and heightened stimulation. Her smiles are not a broad and warm as what you will see in a more recent clip.

We filmed the recent clip on May 24, 2007. I do not have to work as hard and many of her smiles come naturally from the enjoyment of the game. We are very excited by this development because games used to bore her. Thanks to RDI, she is learning to enjoy playing games as a way to spend time together and just bask in the moment.

To teach Pamela "Go Fish", we started by playing with open hands (our cards laid out on the table face up). We used a combination of verbal and non-communication during the play of the game ("Do you have a ____________?" is a question she mastered a few years back thanks to the Association Method). Pamela needed to play this way for two weeks before being comfortable playing with a closed hand. When we made that transition, I bought a cardholder to help her manage the cards without assistance.


Anonymous said...

Pamela has a beautiful smile! Congratulations on your progress!

Anonymous said...

Pamela is showing SO much more spontaneous emotion!! YEA! Tammy you are such a natural at RDI!
I was trying hard to tell, so forgive me if you are already doing this, but I wouldn't ask her
if she has any cards until she glances at you while waiting for your question. Do you know what I mean? AWESOME progress! Rhonda

Amsie said...

U r such an inspiration. My 22 months ld daughter was recently diagnised with autism - and well, I am still in complete shock and fighting hard to overcome this overwhleming feeling... Ur video and reading a few of your entries was just very inspirational. Thank you.

walking said...

Thanks, Taffy!

Thanks, too, Rhonda! I do try to require referencing before I ask. That is why filming activities and reviewing clips is so helpful. I learn how we both can improve. Thanks for the gentle reminder.

Rita, it is okay to be in shock and overwhelmed. That often happens in the beginning. Take a very deep breath! When you catch it, the best thing you can do is read as much as you can and start trying what seems to have the most potential for your daughter. Take time to smell the roses and appreciate your daughter for the gem that she is!