Category Archives: RDI Theory

What is Knowledge? RDI Webinar

Here are my notes from another excellent RDI webinar presented by Dr. Steven Gutstein today. I take these notes to help me process the information, and hope that others will find it useful, too.

Dr. Gutstein has been focusing on some core RDI concepts and he is using common words in a specific RDI way. Today’s topic was knowledge with a capital K. While we might typically think of knowledge as things we know — like our home phone, how to drive a car, the capital of Iowa, etc — Dr. Gutstein means something much more fundamental and important to our kids with autism. Continue reading

What is RDI?

As I don’t meet too many other RDI families in real life, I often find myself explaining what exactly it is and what we do. I wish I had cute little cards with the RDI website address and a few key quotes on them. Seriously. So I love when I find another good description as in this blog, Rainy But Clearing

It’s a program that aims to re-teach normal child development. It aims to build new pathways in the brain. It aims to teach the thinking skills required in our crazy, messy world.

She quotes an older interview with Dr. Gutstein:

“With mental illness, you’re fixing broken minds; with autism, you’re creating a mind.”

“While many characteristics of ASD seem to improve with time and/or instruction, the conventional wisdom has been that experience-sharing deficits are lifelong and resistant to treatment. We reject that notion.”

“Rather than engaging in repetitive, rote-memory exercises typical of behavioral interventions, children in the RDI program rake leaves, prune trees, buy groceries, fix car engines and otherwise share the simple joys of everyday experiences with their parents.”

Love it!

Knowledge vs Information RDI Webinar Notes

Knowledge relates not to information content, but to the efficacy of information in terms of its application to the situation at hand – Bennett & Bennett.

Dr. Steve Gutstein has been giving weekly webinars for parents on the RDI system. They’re very good, rich in RDI theory. If you are on the RDI system and cannot make the webinar times, they’re being archived. It’s great to attend the live presentation, because I can ask questions. Here’s my notes from this week’s webinar, “The Importance of Experience Based Knowledge.” Continue reading

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

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

Talking Less, Sharing More

I just began reading the blog, Jacob’s Journey. It is a chronological success story of a family who used RDI with their autistic son. To read it in order from when they began RDI, start from the bottom of this page, and read up. Then, click on the next month in the archives section in the right sidebar and start again from the bottom.

For where we are with Zip, I found this post about declarative language to be very inspiring. The author explains how using mostly experience-sharing language with her son made a real difference in his communication. Having my son share an observation with us would be such a magic moment. He points out shapes and colors and some items to us, but I think it is more that he wants us to label it. Though, of course, we were excited when he began doing that.

My son does not speak in sentences. He can ask for what he wants, but uses one or two words. He repeats alot of the songs and phrases he hears from videos, computer games, and electronic toys. When he really wants something he will string together 4 or 5 words, all nouns or verbs, no pronouns or prepositions. He seems to do this when it is something emotional, like being scared or when I have to leave him.

My husband and I are committing to using 80% declarative language with our son and to increasing our non-verbal communication with him. It is hard and feels very artificial at first, but I think it will get easier. We’re just very aware and feeling awkward, not sure how to express ourselves.

Already, I’ve noticed that I feel more connected to my son while doing this. Not sure exactly what I mean by that – maybe the quality of our communication has improved somehow.

On another note, we have a wonderful dog who I am very connected with. He is acutely aware of my facial expressions, non-verbal noises, and tone of voice. Often, when I get upset about something, I automatically reassure the dog that it’s okay because I know he’s getting upset, too. It’s almost too ironic for words.

Obstacles to Guiding

Key to RDI is developing a Guided Participation Relationship between the parent and child. The GPR is the primary means by which parents raise their children and equip them to deal with life and impart their culture to them. Through a GPR with your child, you work on the different objectives and developmental stages of RDI.

Barbara Rogoff’s book, Apprenticeship in Thinking, provides a thorough explanation of how GPR occurs across cultures and its components. It was an excellent read that made me think analytically about this essential area that my son had missed.

So that’s where we would like to be, but we’re not. Common to many children on the autism spectrum, my son, while loving and social, feels he must retain control of his environment to prevent unpleasant surprises and manage his inputs. It’s probably a bit more complicated than that but that is part of it.

His need for rigid control of us and his environment is incompatible with a GPR with us. In a webinar I attended, Dr. Gutstein, the founder of RDI, described the process of getting to a GPR as putting the child in the most optimal situation for guiding and figuring out what is getting in the way (my paraphrase). Continue reading