What if we could give every child with autism the opportunity for a "do-over" - to go back and master the developmental steps they missed the first time?


Friday, April 30, 2010

What are RDI activities?

Many times, in presentations or information sessions, parents ask "what are RDI activities"?
The beauty of RDI is that it follows the natural developmental process.
The natural, way that parents guide their child to become a competent adult, to have a quality of life.
Individuals with Autism spectrum disorder missed those developmental steps due to their neurological vulnerabilities, but if we emulate these steps in a mindful, systematic, slow-paced way, we can guide them.

What are the RDI activities?
Taking walks
Cooking and eating
Playing ball
Shelving things
Washing cars
Exercising together
Building things.
Caring for pets
and many more.

The same way that parents guide their children through everyday life activities and not being aware of it, pushing their child one step a head, stretching their child's cognitive development.

As Barbara Rogoff said: "Children's cognitive development is an apprenticeship. It occurs through Guided Participation in social activity with companions who support and stretch children's understanding of and skills in using the tools of culture." ( Apprenticeship in thinking, 1991)

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Challenge and opportunity

I 'd like to share the following quote by Dr. Gutstein, In these few sentences he capture what we all see working with children on the autism spectrum, being there for them and their families..

"I believe there is a plan for turning every child into a competent adult; a plan that has unfolded in the same manner in every culture for thousands of years. I did not invent this plan, nor did educators or developmental psychologists. I am only privileged to have the opportunity to observe and catch glimpses of its beauty.

I believe that children with Autism Spectrum Disorder present a challenge and opportunity for all of us. The challenge is to not take the plan for granted; to make the effort to understand and appreciate the thousands of elegant small steps it takes to become a fully competent human being. The opportunity is the permission we are given when we become the guide for someone with ASD, to admire the daily miracles of development”

(Dr. Steven Gutstein)

Admire your small miracles, appreciate every little step!

Please take some time to share your thoughts and comments.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Clearing the mist- Autism myths.

Is autism an IQ problem?

-but there are so many ASD kids with very high IQ

Is it a language problem?

- “but my child speaks, nonstop sometimes”

Is it a behavioural problem?

- Not all kids have behavioural problems and what behaviour do you refer to?

So let’s clear the mist around autism, let’s put the myths in perspective.

1. Autism is not an IQ. Problem- IQ measures only static skills and is not related to autism. Research shows that any point above 70 in IQ scoring for individuals with ASD does not predict better quality of life. We all know that children with ASD follow the usuall range of IQ, some children with very high IQ, some in the middle and some children with very low IQ.

2. Autism is not mental retardation!!

3. Autism is not a language problem- we see kids that have no language at all, but, many others do speak. Research shows that 80% of individuals with ASD will develop speech with or without treatment.

4.There is no association between early language acquisition and 'success' in life. Language or the lack of it, is not a predictor for quality of life.

5. And last but not least... there is no critical period- it is always the right time to make a difference in the life of your child/teenager/young adult/adult. Our brain is an ever changing, plastic and dynamic organ.

Now that the mist is cleared,

Next week what autism is really all about.

an amazing boy with Autism speaks about his amazing RDI journey

Got to watch this!
A 14 yr. old boy, with autism, describes how RDI changed his life.
His milestones,
His progress
Where did he start and how he is today

An amazing boy with an amazing story!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

When 1+1 is not 2

How many days you start your day with a plan? How many ‘surprises’ you have on your way?

When we assess children's ability, we usually examine what they “know”. Their reading level, how many math computations they can do in a certain time, how many words they have in their vocabulary.

These are all tasks that have one right answer. IQ tests and other standardized tests examine how we do when all we need is a one right answer, even if it is a very complicated one, like the procedure needed in order to build a space shuttle. They require static intelligence.
Where to every stimulus there is one response.

Of course, we need static intelligence. We won’t be able to function without it. We need to memorize facts, to be able to do math computations, spelling, etc.

We cannot over think everything we need to say and when, that is why:

When I sneeze you will always say ‘bless you’

In the morning you will say good morning

And 1+ 1 will always be 2

Or not?

Many times we see individuals with a very high IQ score, which just don’t manage to hold a job, to have a relationship, to ‘get a life’.

That’s because real life problems do not come with a manual of possible right answers. Many times there are many possible answers; many times there is no right answer at all.

Real life problems require dynamic, flexible thinking. Ability to see the shades of grey. The ability to rapidly adapt, change strategies and alter plans based on changing circumstances.

You need to look at things from multiple perspectives( to understand that others have different perspectives, to be able to look through different prisms on a problem

You need to use good enough thinking (I cannot spend the rest of my life thinking about something, right?!)

You need to use relative thinking ( today is cold but yesterday was colder)

Many children on the autism spectrum have static skills; some of them have very high IQ. However, it is the dynamic skills, the ability to monitor adapt and regulate yourself to changes around you that we want to encourage and develop.

The goal of RDI is to build and develop dynamic abilities. Only with dynamic abilities will we be able to assist our kids into becoming competent adults.

So how many surprises did you have today?

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Invitation for a dance - using declarative language with your ASD child

“What’s this?” ," what does the dog do?",  "How are you?"

Too often we tend to use instrumental communication when speaking to a young child or to a child we believe does not have enough language, especially with an ASD child.

Instrumental language comes from the word instrument. I am using my partner for communication as an instrument to ask permission from, to ask directions, to get specific information.

Using instrumental/static communication limit the child language to a  much scripted, static communication.

When I am asking you what’s the time? I have specific intention and once I got what I want I have no need to continue and communicate.

However our goal is different, we want to develop real communication with our children, communication that will be used to share feelings, stories, emotions and thoughts. We want to invite our child to have this beautiful communication dance with us. For that to happen we have to increase the use of declarative language.

Declarative language is dynamic and unpredictable!

The framework is familiar ( we use words, sentences, structure) but the conversation that emerges in unpredictable. After all who can really predict what your partner to the conversation will say or how she will react to your words.

To put it in simple words when we use declarative language, we use statements, comments, open- ended questions. We invite our partner to add to the communication between us what they have or can give.

For example instead of asking “what is it?” and have our child answer a dog. – End of conversation.

We can say “oh look, a dog” and now we open a whole world of possible answers and possible directions for the communication between us.

Maybe a memory of a dog you saw yesterday

Maybe discussing the color of the dog

The neighbour’s dog... so many open possibilities and endless opportunities to continue with the communication.

Declarative language is one of the foundations of RDI; you cannot build a relationship without having declarative, dynamic communication.

I encourage you, wherever you are, in the next few days, when communicating with your child, stop and reflect; what kind of language are you using with your child? Do you keep it static and simple? Full of imperative and close ended questions?

Try to add more statements, to ask and state opinions, to ask questions that don’t have one right answer.

Invite your child for a dance.