I received the two books that I ordered today that will be my main source of information and planning to implement the RDI program for Austin and Reece. If you're interested, there is a website packed with information www.rdiconnect.com ! I'm only 2 chapters in to the first book and already I feel like I'm on the right track!
I am sure I'll bore you to death in the next few weeks with more ramblings about this, but I just had to share what I read tonight! This whole program hinges on the fact that children with autism have deficits in the way they relate to other people... and it's helping me to see my kids' interactions with new eyes. I remember the doctor pointing out to me that while Reece does talk and "interact" with adults, it's not really "interacting". She's mostly just talking, or reciting, and it doesn't matter what the adult happens to say. The reason that it was hard to see, and that even other adults have a hard time seeing it, is that adults are "programmed" to go with the flow of a child's line of talk. So it seems so cute that Reece comes up to tell you that there are butterflies outside, or that she is going to be a ballerina when she grows up. But she says that to everyone, it's not really an "interaction". You can ask her a question about it and she'll just move on to the next line. And when it comes to other children her own age, Reece doesn't even try to engage them. She totally ignores them. But with the help of this program, we'll help her figure out that kids her age can be lots of fun, even though they are more unpredictable than adults! :)
Now, Austin is trickier! I have been SO thrilled to see him playing football with boys in the neighborhood, and with boys at his sister's ballgames back in October. I was a little discouraged that if they decided they didn't want to play football anymore, then he wouldn't decide to do what they wanted to do. But I figured it was progress. Then I read this tonight: "In instrumental encounters, we engage other people because there is something we wish to obtain from them -- information, an object, or participation in an activity. Other people are agents, perceived as necessary only to deliver the product to us." WOW! And then the next characteristic of instrumental encounters vs. experience sharing (the goal of typical interaction): "Any partner who knows the right rules and possesses the necessary knowledge or skill will serve in an Instrumenal encounter. In this respect, partners are fairly interchangable. Futhermore, we may quickly - and in a decidedly detached manner - exchange a paterner with who we have shared experiences for a new inexperienced partner, if that new partner is more willing to provide us with what we seek out of the interaction."
This is truly eye-opening for me! Here I was seeing this new fascination with football and Austin's desire to play football with everyone he sees as being a major step into the social arena for him. In fact, at the park a few weeks ago, he stopped playing with his buddy C and started playing football with a total stranger. I was thinking "Oh how cool, he's making a friend!" but he's really not! He's just trying to find someone to play football with, and C didn't want to play football anymore. I've seen it in the neighborhood too... the boys will all be playing football, and they will get tired of it (Austin NEVER gets tired of it!) and they'll leave to play something else. Austin will just turn around and play football with the 5 year old across the street instead! It's not who he's playing with... it's the fact that someone is filling the need of his football playing.
Please don't take this to mean that I am upset by Austin's interactions (or Reece's)... on the contrary, I'm totally excited that I am understanding that what I thought it appropriate interaction is not in fact "experience sharing"! I would not have been serving Austin's best interests if I thought that he was figuring this out on his own and I didn't need to worry about it anymore! I have caught a cue! I can help him figure this out! And the strict script I was trying to get him to work on with other kids is not the way to do it! Because when the script runs out, or the other child doesn't answer the right way, Austin's left clueless! We are going to help that! This is very exciting!
Well, I'd better get to sleep, if I can! :)