Monday, October 13, 2008

Strategies for DIY

RDI has made a huge difference in my child's life, and for our entire family. We are fortunate to be able to afford the services of a quality RDI Consultant. Unfortunately, not all families are in this situation, especially in the current economy.

As an RDI Consultant, I recommend seeking the services of a qualified consultant, if you are able. For those families who are not in a position to do this, there are some strategies you can use. I will be going over them in general terms here, and will expand on these over the course of the next few weeks.

If you are new to RDI, I recommend choosing one strategy at a time. Don't try to do all of these things at once - it can be very overwhelming. Many of these strategies will feel strange at first. RDI is a developmental approach, and if you are used to behavioral interventions, some of these strategies will require you to change habits that you may have had for a very long time. This is not an easy process, so be patient with yourself. Also, don't feel discouraged if it takes time to see results. RDI is a long-term program that takes time and consistency. I like to compare it to starting a weight-loss program: the first day of your diet, it is unlikely that you will see any change. If you stick with it over time, however, the results will become apparent. This is how many of these strategies will work as well.

Again, this is just a basic overview of strategies you can start using on your own. I will be expanding on each of these over the coming weeks.

1. Spend unpressured time with your child every day. This would be time when you are simply "hanging out" together, with no demands. You are not trying to "get" your child to do anything, including interact. Instead, you are setting up opportunities for your child to interact with you, by being inviting, but not demanding. Don't try to compete with any of your child's special interests during this time: for example, if your child is obsessed with Thomas the Tank Engine, don't watch a Thomas video together. Your child will be distracted by the video. Try to keep objects, especially distracting objects, out of sight during this time. Many families spend this time doing simple things like taking a walk together, or sitting side by side on a porch swing. It's fine even if you are simply sitting side by side on the couch together for ten minutes. It is also okay to go into a room with your child and close the door. Your child does not have to "do" anything with you, but s/he does have to remain in the room with you during this time. If your child is very resistant, start slowly (start with five minutes and gradually add a few more minutes each day). Don't be discouraged if your child does not want to interact at first, remember, this is a process that will take time.

2. Increase declarative, experience-sharing communication. Reduce imperative communication. Declarative, experience sharing communication is any communication that is meant to share your ideas, feelings, or experiences. Imperative communication is any communication that requires a specific "right" answer, or that is making a demand. Typically, the ratio of declarative to imperative communication is 80/20, but this ratio tends to be reversed with families raising a child on the spectrum. Start by observing your communication sytle with your child. How often are you using imperative communication? You are probably using it more than you are aware. Becoming conscious of your communication style may not seem like a big step, but it is quite challenging for many parents. This is a very important step, however, and if you are consistent, you will be amazed at the results.

3. Decrease verbal communication. Often, parents raising a child on the autism spectrum tend to talk "at" their child, especially when there is a speech delay involved. This is generally counter-productive, as many individuals on the autism spectrum have difficulty processing verbal communication. Imagine that you are trying to interact with someone who speaks a foreign language. You understand some, but not much, of this language, and you are not at all fluent. You would have a much easier time understanding someone who spoke this language slowly, using fewer words, than you would if they spoke quickly and were more verbose. Eventually, you would likely give up trying to understand them, feeling as though it were hopeless. If you keep your verbal communication short and to the point, your child will have an easier time understanding you, and will be more likely to interact.

4. Get comfortable with "pauses". This strategy goes hand in hand with decreasing verbal communication. Once you have said what you need to say, stop speaking and wait at least 45 seconds. Individuals with ASD often need this extra time to process verbal communication. 45 seconds can seem like a very long pause, and it will feel uncomfortable at first, but if you are patient and consistent you will be surprised at how often your child will respond. However, don't be discouraged if your child does not respond right away, or every time. Have faith and continue practicing, and eventually you will see results.

5. Increase nonverbal communication. In typical development, babies master nonverbal communication prior to speaking. Nonverbal cues are a critical piece of typical communication, but individuals on the autism spectrum often have difficulty in this area. Consider how gestures, facial expression, tone of voice, and body language can affect the meaning of the spoken word, especially when there is irony, sarcasm, or humor involved, to name a few. By decreasing verbal communication, and increasing and exaggerating your nonverbal cues, you will give your child practice in reading, and eventually using nonverbal cues.

6. Start taping your interactions with your child. Even if you are not currently working with a consultant, reviewing video footage of your interactions will help you to work more effectively with your child. This will get you into the habit of taping. It will give your child a chance to get used to seeing the camera. Watching video footage of your interactions is a valuable tool for spotting things that you missed during the actual interaction. This is valuable information that can help you to see what is working and what is not. It is important to pay attention to what you are doing first, before worrying about what your child is or is not doing. Any changes in your child will be in response to what you are doing, so this is what you want to focus on.

These are some strategies that parents can start to work on right away. Remember to take it slowly. Choose one strategy to start with, and go from there. Be patient with yourself, and be patient with your child. Consistently practicing these strategies will get you off to a great start.


The Glasers said...

I was an RDI lone ranger for fifteen months, and these are great tips!

Do not be afraid to try it on your own if you cannot afford a consultant. When we first started with my 17-year-old, we worked on objectives that children master as infants. We slowly saw progress in ourselves and in Pamela. When our consultant did the first RDA, she told us Pamela was functioning at a toddler level (between eighteen and twenty-four months)!

You can transition to an RDI lifestyle and see progress in everyone: it is difficult but possible! More importantly, you can enjoy living as a family. We have done so many cool projects since starting RDI! :-)

argsmommy said...

Thank you for announcing your blog on the Autism Remediation group. I look forward to learning more from you. We are approaching our first RDI anniversary, but I still feel new and therefore love to read all I can on RDI.


Jules said...

Thank you so much. This is exactly where I am at and exactly what I need to get started. I appreciate all of your effort in putting this blog together!!!!!