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.

Been so Busy with Summer!

We haven’t been RDI-ing as much as we should since we’ve been in lazy summer mode.  We’ve pretty much mastered our most recent Child objective where Zip and I have been working on pattern regulation so that’s very very exciting. I’ve been giving him more of a role in the patterns and he’s been mostly handling it quite well. We can see him thinking and considering what we’re doing. Wonderful!

Since I’ve last blogged, we’ve had some real changes.

Zip is pointing much more and checking in with us for our reaction. Back when he was a wee 15 months old, I googled “child not pointing” and got the shock of my life when autism came up as the number one answer.  While that was the start of this long and complicated journey for us, I still remember that unexpected and scary moment.

Oh, how little we knew. It seems like I can just barely remember how we were then, like I’m peering backwards into a telescope. We look so young and unaware. Of course we were crazy sleep-deprived but we did not know how much more our lives were going to change, to veer off the path of normal childhood. I knew absolutely nothing about autism and next to nothing on brain and child development. I trusted my instincts when it came to my child and we were in an evaluation within a month or two, and then began private speech therapy. We waited six months for a developmental evaluation that led to Early Intervention.  We tried several types of standard therapies and an ABA preschool. Eventually we found RDI and finally feel like we are making progress, that we know where we are heading. Continue reading

Yo Gabba Gabba Moment

Hope you don’t have too many of those! Anyway, Zip and I were playing with some Yo Gabba Gabba stuffed toys. I was doing most of the work, being silly, and making funny noises with them. Zip had added “Sh” with his finger to his lips while giggling. Then he took the character’s hand and put it to it’s mouth while saying it. My heart be still – is that a little pretend play I’m seeing? <big grin>
It was a nice moment. Key to Me had worked with puppets with Zip and mentioned to me that he had participated some, but this was the first time I had seen it in action. So cute!

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

Some Zip on the Computer Notes

It’s sometimes funny to see how Zip controls the inputs he receives. He has a hand-me-down computer in my home office. It’s full of preschool and kindergarten games, and locked down with a whitelist for the internet. (I forgot to lock it once and he had a blast at YouTube. is a good alternative.) He plays the same things over and over again but seems to be learning from it, so we’re okay with it.

A few weeks back, I checked out what he was doing and he had the Windows Start menu and other directories open, covering most of the Starfall word game he was playing. (We love  StarFall – the extra paying section is worth it.) It looked so strange. I closed the boxes, thinking that he had just hit a bunch of keys by accident. Then, he did it again.

I was puzzled. He can’t tell me why he would cover parts of his game. He doesn’t do it everytime, just once in a while, mostly in a word-building game. My theory is that he is controlling and decreasing his inputs. Maybe it’s sensory? Continue reading

More Patterns – Quick Update

We’ve learned the hard way that if you do the same thing in the same way, Zip will think that’s the only way and protest any changes. He gets stuck on certain things, like the same two pairs of fleece pajamas, even though before that he would only wear green cotton airplane pajamas. This may seem like pattern recognition but it’s just the autistic tendancy towards rigid thinking. Since we prefer him to have a more flexible approach to life, we try to change things up.

When I sat down with him today to do the “me-you-put” activity with the squares in the jar, I chose a different container. Very different. I had an empty bead box with small compartments and we put as many squares as would fit into each space. He adapted great, sat for the whole thing. At the end we had a cute colorful filled box. It gave us a nice ending point, too. I only wish he would pay more attention when I take a turn, but I’m sure that will come.

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.