Category Archives: RDI Objectives

Learning to Find Your Own Cup

RDI is alot of “thinking about thinking.” And verbalizing it. Just now, Zip asked me for juice. He had taken the juice bottle out of the fridge but cannot pour it himself yet. I noticed that the cup that he’d just used wasn’t there, so I asked him, “Where’s your cup?” (Quick aside – I should have turned it into a better moment by musing out loud, “Hmmm… wonder what we could put the juice in…” but I just thought of that as I was writing this.)

Zip has almost no ability to find things like a cup in the next room. So I began saying what I was doing, “I need to find your cup. Maybe it’s in this room. Your cup wasn’t in the kitchen so I need to go look for it.”

After a moment or two, he followed me into the den where his cup was very visible on the table. So, together, we found the cup and brought it back to the kitchen to fill with juice. Mission accomplished, and just as much for me as for him. I need to do more of this verbalizing my thought processes with him. It gets difficult in the rush of the day. Repeat after me: “Slooooow down. Verbalize.”

Eating with Engagement

One of our current RDI objectives is to work on more engagement with Zip. Now that we’re back home after losing power for four days again because of the heavy wet snowstorm, we’re trying to get back to our brand of normality. The house is mostly clean, the laundry is mostly done and I planned our homeschool assignments for the week.

I’ve really been neglecting our formal RDI objectives and now we’re getting back on track. Our More Engagement objective is to engage very deliberately with Zip 6-10 times per day. I have to structure the situation so that Zip cannot just get up and walk away. I do this mostly by setting up a seating arrangement at a table or on the floor with cushions or a bean bag and a convenient wall. Continue reading

Our Week in RDI — Late September 2012 Edition

We’ve been focusing on engagement with Zip. As the Guide, we are not instructing or showing exactly how to do something. RDI explains the Guide state of mind as “a combination of feeling fully mentally engaged, yet also relaxed and open to making new discoveries and not having to perform in a specific manner.” An Engagement should always have some element of uncertainty or challenge. Even the Guide does not know exactly how the engagement will play out.

Basically we’re trying to engage with him several times a day in an authentic way. He’s been making it difficult as he tries so hard to control every interaction. He wants to be with us, demands attention from us, but on his terms. We are trying to turn everyday interactions into opportunities for turn-taking. We can take turns singing songs, doing fingerplays, eating together, brushing our teeth together, etc.

This week, Zip was rather resistant to turn-taking. He can be very possessive with objects so that is where I had the most trouble.  We took turns putting plastic magnetic letters into a clean mayonnaise jar. He was really not impressed with this idea until I showed him how it dumps out. He loves anything that is like confetti. Zip rushed through the turn-taking part and I had to be careful that he didn’t just take the letter out of my hand on my turn. Clearly, an area that we’ll continue to focus on.

We continued to work on everyday activities like loading laundry. Zip is great with assembly-line but doesn’t seem to notice when I switch to turn-taking. I think I need to slow down and pause to highlight more.

I’m due for an in-person appointment with our consultant. She’s great and we get alot done. I’m sure she’ll have some ideas on working on this objective.

Engaged Learning

As I mentioned earlier, some RDI objectives have been updated recently, so our consultant thought it might be good to revisit them. She was right. I just read a short essay on Engaged Learning, and it really helped remind me about where we’re going. Very inspirational. Briefly, Engaged Learning is the idea that learning must be active, where the learner is fully participating in gaining knowledge, transforming it, integrating it into earlier knowledge and evaluating their own progress.

For me, it means that Zip learns to learn and likes to learn. That’s it. This is how I’d like him to live his life.

I must remember this as I get caught up in school goals and worksheets and manipulatives. They are not the point. Engaged Learning is the point.

More on Productive Uncertainty and Studying

In typical development, usually around the age of 12 months of age, the child discovers a new way to deal with uncertainty. When confronted with a new object, person, or task, he realizes he is feeling uncertainty but is not afraid. He starts to trust a more experienced guide to help him understand the world. He recognizes that he can study unfamiliar objects, persons, or tasks to determine whether to engage with them. He checks in with the guide to decide how to react to the new thing. This is easily seen in an infant when he looks at his mother when a new toy is placed on the floor. Mom smiles at him and the reassured baby reaches out to touch the toy. If mom had frowned or acted scared, the baby would realize that he should be wary or afraid.

Our kids on the autism spectrum miss this milestone. Despite the many differences along the autism spectrum, this lack of perspective-borrowing is universal. Teaching our kids this crucial skill is a fundamental component of RDI. It is not easy because by missing this skill, the child learns to react with fear and rigid control of situations, thus severely limiting their ability to learn and interact with others and situations. Continue reading

Better Roles for Zip

Zip and I keep working on patterns in putting things in or out of things. He’s definitely got the idea but doesn’t reference me much yet. A few days ago, we began to put clothes in the washing machine. Instead of putting the basket right next to the washer, I left it a foot or two away. Now, Zip and I were in true assembly-line. I gave him the role of handing me the clothes and he really took it on. Sounds silly, but in this position, it made it clearer to him and he carefully handed me each item. Since we could face each other now, he paid much more attention to me and made sure I got each item. Other times, he hasn’t seemed to notice whether I dropped it or got it.

Just now, we were cleaning up alphabet magnets and I found an opportunity to encourage him to pay attention, to relate more to his partner in the interaction. He was putting handfuls into my cupped hands and I’d dump them into the bag. A letter fell onto my wrists. I patiently spot-lighted it, “Ooops…….. ooops,” and waited for him to see it. It was just a few moments, but felt longer, trust me. He looked at me and down at my hands. Then he picked up the dropped letter and put it with the rest in my hands. So tiny but so important in the quality of our interaction. See, Zip is smart and will try to turn these tasks into robotic assembly work. I’m just trying to keep it real.

Learning to Study

I have to admit that I didn’t learn to study until I went to college, and boy, was that a rude awakening! Thankfully, we’re not talking about hitting the books in our newest RDI objective. Instead, our consultant wants to see and hear about Zip studying what to do. This goes along with him beginning to recognize patterns. I need to start noticing when he thinks about a situation where he is not sure what to do.

Since RDI is so much about teaching our kids flexibility, they must learn about “safe uncertainty.” My son tries to control most situations because he does not feel safe with uncertainty. He also does not like new toys much. It’s kinda frustrating and not very fun. Continue reading

Beginning Pattern Recognition and Dynamic Listening

We had a great week last week. Zip is feeling so much more guid-able. Is that a word? Perhaps I should define it. Just in the last few weeks, Zip has begun listening to me, doing what I say, staying near me when we’re out. It’s a remarkable change. I have to chalk it up to Dynamic Listening.

Briefly, my son goes to Key to Me three times a week and listens to classical music over headphones while doing a bit of OT. But the magic is inside the music. Dr. Alfred Tomatis developed a theory that certain tones influence regions of the brain. Our therapist  customizes tones for him based on his evaluation and progress. We definitely saw changes since we began this program 5 months ago. We just finished and will go see them for an evaluation next month.

As this program is pricey, I was really hoping to see changes that would help me establish the guiding relationship with Zip. He’s been very resistant to any form of guiding, always struggling to maintain control of most interactions. While Dynamic Listening made a big change in lots of little ways, including his newfound ability to explore and get into things, it hadn’t really affected our GPR. Continue reading

Regulation, Baby Steps

I’ve been thinking hard about our new objective, which is basically getting Zip comfortable with a simple pattern, changing it slightly, letting him re-engage, rinse and repeat… The hardest part so far is getting him to recognize a pattern. I’ve been doing it informally around the house. If I sat him down in our RDI room, a distraction-free zone, it might be easier. But, I feel more pressured to “perform” RDI there and get frustrated more easily. So, I’m easing into, just playing around with the idea, seeing how Zip reacts, just figuring it out a bit.

Here’s some areas where I’ve worked on it, today and yesterday:

    • Putting laundry into the dryer
      Somewhat successful – sometimes when I  changed how I handed him the clothes, he just ignored me and reached into the washer and got one out himself.  But I felt a few moments of connection. I felt good because I was very aware of the RDI I was doing and not so focused on the goal.
    • At the dining room table with the Viewmaster
      Not successful – he didn’t pay any attention to what I was doing
    • Putting plastic eggs into a bucket

Very successful. He seemed to like this one, and stayed with me for this several times recently.

I’m also going to check our copy of  Slow and Steady, Get Me Ready. I think it has some ideas that might be fun to try.

Regulation Competence Introduction

Our new assignment is to work on regulation competence. This is my son’s ability to follow a pattern of activity with me. First, I will establish a pattern and give him a chance to understand and participate in it. Then I change it slightly and give him a chance to re-engage with the variation.  We are starting with a simple variant of this activity. This will build his dynamic intelligence.  My first challenge will be getting J to engage with a patterned activity.

As in all RDI parenting, I have to remain aware of the goal of the activity – the engagement, not the activity itself, like putting toys in the toybox. It’s best to end with the task undone and on a positive moment that we can say, “We did it.”

Zip tends to get distracted if we use lots of objects in an activity, so I might start with something with just one object. The example video that my RDI consultant showed me involved a mom and a baby taking off a pair of sunglasses. The mom varied where on her head she put the glasses for the baby to remove. It was great seeing the baby think it through each time as the position of the sunglasses changed. It was definitely dynamic intelligence in action. The mom used no words, just lots of facial expression and approving sounds. Once during the video, the baby disengaged a bit and the mom waited until she looked at her again. Her facial expression drew the baby back to the activity and it was repaired.

Zip might like that type of activity so I will start there. She’s asking for 6 cycles of this activity per day so I’ll have to think of more ideas. As I feel more competent in my role as guide, it gets easier to think of ideas, though at the beginning, I sometimes feel a bit uncreative. A little success in one interaction does wonders for my ability to think of new ways to try the activity.