Monthly Archives: April 2012

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.

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.

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.

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

Status Update 2012-04-11

So here’s where we are right now… Zip is just beginning his 4th and final loop of Dynamic Listening (more on that later). We’re continuing with RDI though it’s been frustrating. Today, I signed Jamie up for a new Virtual Charter School for next fall. We’ll see if we get a spot and how that goes.

Eventually I’ll do the obligatory “What is RDI” post. Suffice it to say that Relationship Development Intervention is a developmental therapy we’re using to help my son become a more flexible and dynamic thinker and problem-solver, able to handle  myriad challenges throughout his life. For more info, visit the official RDI site.