I have not pursued any new autism therapies for a very long time. For years, I have resisted the newest therapies on the block because they did not seem like a good fit for Pamela or us. I do not want to put us through anything simply because it is a new thing under the sun.
Our consultant made up a very helpful web that illustrated the elements of what we do every day with Pamela: diet (true allergies and sensitivities that affect behavior), academic (three R's and some), and aphasia (specific language issue beyond autism). Our consultant plans to help us figure out two things: Pamela's passive nature which may be related to sensory under-responsitivity and developmental gaps in her dynamic relationship skills. I love this visual image of what we are doing from day to day.
Now, please do not take this the wrong way. I love my daughter! She is a joy and a dear! Our consultant enjoyed their time together: they had so much fun hanging out and doing crafts. Pamela is a wonderful person; we love her for who she is; we respect her for all the things she has done; we are amazed at her phenomenal memory.
But, we worry about her. She is 19 and we recently obtained guardianship because she is not able to live on her own at this point in time. We have no problem with her staying with us as long as she needs. She is a great companion. We hope that an RDI lifestyle can help us fill in some developmental gaps that will open more doors for her in the future. At present, she has memory skills that surpasses most people; she can do math and reading at a fifth-sixth grade level; she can write at about a second-third grade level; she can communicate her needs, but not everyone can understand her. Her relationship skills are at a toddler level. We would be negligent if we did not work together as a family to fill in those gaps! If she can relate to people better, then she will be even more of a joy to others. And, when we are not able to care for her, she will be welcomed by the younger generation of our family rather than put in some neglectful home (our church ministers to one in our town--it breaks my heart to know Pamela could end up in a place like that if we let her down).
So, why RDI? I am relying on my background in the Navy to illustrate this. Neurotypical children have a pattern of development. They may achieve different milestones at different times, but they tend to follow a similar course of development that is documented and can be outlined. RDI focuses on how children relate to people and how their abilities mature over the years. Whatever the cause, children with autism go a very different path of development. We can treat what we suspect may be related to the cause of autism. We can treat health and environmental issues that make life more difficult. Some kind of course correction is required to steer the child back to a development path that helps her learn to live in a dynamic, confusing, and ever changing world.
What I hope to achieve with RDI is to fill in some gaps. I hope that Pamela can learn to be more resilient in the face of change. I hope that she can learn to think about what is happening and react in dynamic ways based on her understanding rather than rote compliance. I hope that, when she wants friendship beyond her family, she will be able to reach out without being blindsided and rejected because she struggles to make herself understood and to understand others. I hope that, when her interests lead to friendships outside the home, she will be street smart enough and savvy to avoid those who might wish to harm her. As always, we focus on improving quality of life. Our joy and zest for life have increased since we started our RDI lifestyle.