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.

Zip’s Wearing Jeans

Mysteriously, Zip’s clothing sensitivity seems to have decreased. Last year it got so bad, I had to go out and buy all new shirts without anything on them. And he would only wear soft sweatpants. A few days ago, while I sorted through his winter clothes, he agreed to try on several pairs of pants. That was very unusual. I bought him some jeans, just-in-case-he-might-wear-them-someday. Today, he put them on with no protest. He’s still wearing them right now. Yeah!

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

No Broken Food

Actual conversation in our house:

Zip: Mommy! Big poundcake!

Me, gesturing to plate of poundcake leftovers: Sorry, this is all that’s left.

Zip, pulling out saltines: Hello crackers!


Zip will not eat broken food – no half squares of graham crackers, no crushed saltines, and no crumbly bits of leftover poundcake. He will, however, eat food off the floor. Go figure.

Our 2012 Curriculum

Back to HomeschoolWe’ve been homeschooling lightly so far since August. And I’ve learned a few things since then. Back in August, I was having a blast picking out homeschool curriculum for Zip. I love looking at curriculum. Don’t tell anyone, but I have a secret addiction for organizers, office supplies, and strollers, so I’m sure I’m at risk for curriculum problem behavior.

What held me back was my constant worries about teaching Zip. Would he learn? Could I teach him? We’re still establishing our RDI Guiding Relationship and it’s a struggle, though much improved. 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!

Playing More, Watching Less

markerI decided to take a step back and work on some self-care and hygiene issues with Zip. To motivate him, we decided, after much thought, to withhold videos and computer time, to keep them as a reward for learning certain essential skills. It’s been a little tough, but Zip understands the idea. I reinforce it by letting him have a video after trying very hard at these skills.
It’s been almost a week. Continue reading

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.

Beginning Handwriting and Free Letter L Worksheet

So we’re beginning our first homeschool year. I ordered a few pieces of curriculum and I’ll reveal them as they arrive in our mailbox. For handwriting, Handwriting Without Tears was recommended to us by several people. I’m planning on taking an easy, gentle approach into handwriting.

Zip does not willingly take up a crayon or any art material. Whether fairly or not, I do blame his ABA preschool for this since if he did not want to do it, they would just pick up his hand and make him do it, “hand-over-hand.” This is the wrong approach to art. Young children should be encouraged to explore materials and proceed at their own pace. I have a huge stack of “perfect” art projects from preschool that make me cringe to look at them. I’ve been working to undo this reluctance by making art supplies available and occasionally inviting him to participate without setting any expectations. Continue reading