Right now, I am working on three RDI objectives: two for Pamela and one for me. Yes, my consultant keeps an objective open for me. I am your garden-variety, neurotypical parent with no major shadow traits of autism, but I still have objectives. Like many parents of autistic children, Steve and I have successfully reared a neurotypical child (our 16-yo son, David). The issue is that, with Pamela, we are having to go back, find holes in her development, and "redo" certain milestones to see if she can learn them now. The good news is that she can (which I blogged earlier in the month). To guide her through that process, I need to be very mindful of how I interact to make sure we are giving her every opportunity in this second chance. The parent objectives are geared toward making sure I am successful at guiding her.
My most recent parent objective was learning about broadband communication. In the autism world, we have become obsessed over speaking, so obsessed that we are overlooking the building blocks that support the words that we speak. Everyone knows that how you say is just as important as what you say. Your facial expression, your voice inflection, pacing, and volume, your gestures, your gaze, your space and touch, etc. can all influence what you really mean when you say what you say. If you do not believe me, go and watch a political debate. I used to believe all children in the autism spectrum could not learn to do this, but now I know some can and Pamela is one of them!
My consultant sat down with Steve and I and taught us the first few objectives. Now, we are watching e-learning modules, multimedia presentations that focus on a particular topic. When finished, we type up our answers to questions and upload them to a computer system that keeps track of all of our objectives and Pamela's objectives. Occasionally, we submit videos that demonstrate our ability to perform certain actions.
In this case, I filmed three clips of Pamela and I tying knots while waiting for the pizza to finish. I love this first one because Pamela reads my broadband communication to figure out what I am thinking! She is slowly growing more adept at reading my mind! YIPPEE!!!
In the second clip, I am trying to play around with how many different ways we can interact while tying knots on the blanket for baby Ines.
In the third clip, we start off with lots of language because we are talking about what color thread we should use for the monogram. After we start tying knots, I work on the next level of knot tying. On the first day, all she had to do was the last step: pulling the fringe after I set up the knot. In this second day of tying knots, I have her hold the set-up knot with her left hand and pull with her right hand. In the future, when we make her next blanket with overhand knots, I plan to transfer more and more steps, working from the last to first, until she can do the whole thing independently.
While I am NOT (adamantly and forcefully repeat NOT) a fan of ABA (applied behavior analysis), I am using an ABA technique called backward chaining to teach Pamela to tie knots. We also back-chain memorizing the lines of a poem, learning the last line first and the first line last. When you watch the video, notice that making a knot (a static skill) is the framework in which we work to spotlight the more important objective: learning to read one another's broadband communication. I do not let learning to tie knots override the joy of our quiet interaction while listening to lovely Lily twitter in the background. That is the quality of life I treasure in our daily interactions. I value the sweet, precious moments when we work together much more than how quickly and efficiently Pamela masters tying knots! In fact, focusing on these intangibles that are not easily measured, boxed, sorted, and analyzed keeps my statistics-oriented brain (yes, I have the degree to prove it) from getting tied up in knots!