Thursday, July 02, 2009

Major Shift in Communication and Vast Increase in Spoken Language

Last May, we met our consultant for the first time and we went through our first RDA. I blogged the entire thing: RDA 1 and 2, RDA 3, Why RDI?, Why/What/How, RDA 4, RDA 5, and RDA 6. While the process is much more streamlined, I still agree with the sentiments shared last year.

Our consultant assessed that Pamela now meets the criteria for Stage 3.

While we may dip into earlier stages if we run across any road blocks, Pamela functions like a two-year-old, hence Stage 3. Besides working through Stage 2 objectives, our overarching goal last year was to help Pamela find her way out of static, scripted ways of interacting and guide her into experience sharing. What do I mean? In last year's RDA, Pamela filled dead air space with scripts about calendars and highways, and we indulged! All last year, we tried to help her go beyond that to comment on what we are doing, remembering what it reminds us of, thinking about how it relates to the future.

When Pamela watched a movie last year, she would memorize the dialog and repeated it later in cycles of scripting. Occasionally, she could twist it into something to share, plugging in her own words when her syntax failed. Now, when Pamela watches a movie, she makes unique comments that do not morph into endless scripts. Right now, she is watching The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Pamela is saying things like "Oh, no!" when the Pevensies first enter the wardrobe and only find wood. She says, "He flushed," after Edmond left the bathroom. Then, when she sees Lucy wake up, she says, "Candle . . . going back to the wardrobe" and "Hot chocolate" and "What's that?" when she saw the Turkish delight. When the children go to Mr. Tumnus' home, Pamela says, "Poor Tumnus." When the wolf growls at Edmund, Pamela says, "Wolf howling."

Scripting is not a problem in itself. The issue boils down to intent. If Pamela uses a script to communicate declaratively, then she is moving forward. For example, she says, "It's not the end of the world" when David is upset because the computer crashed. So every time Pamela uses a script, we need to analyze it for intent and function and give her other ways to say the same thing. If Pamela says, "It's not the end of the world," we can rephrase, "Everything will be okay. That's not bad. We can fix it. We'll live."

Scripting was also a sign of Pamela's feeling of incompetence. We see now that she wants to communicate with us because she enjoys sharing with us. She did not understand how to speak in a way that was mutually enjoyable, so she fell back on what she enjoyed: scripting. She sought to control our conversation through her scripts because she did not know how to respond to declarative language.

In our current RDI, our consultant noticed that Pamela's thoughtfulness and reciprocity in expressing herself has shifted in major way. Not only does she use verbal language to share experiences and seek information, she also uses multiple channels (i.e., nonverbal communication). Since she feels more confident in her spoken language, the quality and quantitiy have increased vastly! When Pamela is unsure of herself, she uses self-talk to create meaning (the book Awakening Children's Minds gives insight on the value of private speech).

Our consultant was genuinely excited about Pamela's progress. She explained that autistic people undergoing RDI at Pamela's age do not cover as much ground as she has in the past year. Monday morning our consultant put on her FB "looking forward to a great assessment today" and later she wrote "has a great job". She teared up when she tried to help Steve understand how monumental Pamela's progress is. I get it, but he does not know enough about development to understand how hard it is to see the kind of change we are seeing. She said she felt privileged to be working with Pamela.

In my next couple of posts, I plan to review four other areas of dynamic thinking (emotional engagement, co-regulation/ collaboration, social observation, and personal memory) plus the overarching goal of next year if I don't jump over to living books, narrating, or mother culture . . .


Sonya Shafer said...

Hallelujah! Praising the Lord for the progress you're seeing and praying that He will continue giving you both the strength to persevere. You are doing a good work, dear -- both of you!

Cindi said...

This is just amazing! I am thrilled for Pamela and the family. It really is a break through.

I am still eye-balling the program you are using, and plan to bring it up with doctors in September when Jackson starts going for all his therapies.

walking said...

Sonya, I am thanking God your the page on your site that led me to RDI. Thanks for you prayers!!!!

Cindi, it is breath-taking . . . things that I thought could never change, are changing because we taught her these abilities through guided participation (RDI):

* Pamela CAN rapidly shift attention between two objects, two faces, or faces and objects.

* Pamela CAN follow eye gaze and figure out what other people are seeing.

* Pamela CAN read and use facial expressions, gestures, prosody, etc.

* Pamela CAN share joint attention and no when someone else is drifting.

* Pamela CAN have a simple conversation that neither person controls and that flows in unusual directions.

* Pamela CAN understand slapstick humor and laughs at the cues leading up to a repeated gag and the variations that makes a repeated gag funny.

Stephanie said...

What wonderful, wonderful news!

argsmommy said...

When I talk about the effectiveness of RDI with other people, I almost always use your sweet Pamela as an example. You are both such an encouragement.

walking said...

Cindi, most doctors are not up on the latest and greatest in the field of autism. I learned that one time when I explained Margaret Bauman's research to a flabbergasted neurologist back in 1994 . . . she didn't know what sensory integration was either. The pediatrician told me that autism has nothing to do with food allergies nor does chronic incurable eczema. Pamela's eczema went into remission when we put her on a GF/CF diet and treated her yeast . . .