Sunday, February 28, 2010

RDI: a Do Over

A quote I read in Chapter 8 of The RDI Book has me really thinking. It involves the breakdown of the natural Guided Participation Relationship between child and parent that happens in ASD (RDI is about re-establishing that GPR and giving the child a "Do 0ver" in the areas of development that the child missed the first time, mostly involving dynamic thinking and problem solving).

"Both child and caregivers seek sameness and accumulation rather than discovery, integration, and expansion. Don't rock the boat because the pervasive motto by which families survive. Parents lose their intuitive ability and wind up becoming more ineffective." (p. 141)

Before you assume (as I did when we first started RDI in 2007) that Dr. Gutstein is blaming parents for their child's ASD, allow me to share this quote from earlier in the same chapter.

"The developmental failure leading to ASD is not due to any environmental event. Nor is it the result of any action or deficit in the parents. The competence of parents, no matter how great, cannot compensate for the vulnerabilities with which these children are born." (p. 131)

But I continue to be like the parents that Dr. Gutstein goes on to describe on p. 141:

"These parents will tell you that they recognize that they didn't cause their child's ASD. However, when interviewed during their initial sessions, all will admit that they often feel like failures."

I know I didn't cause Austin or Reece to have autism, though sometimes it's hard not to feel that way, especially with Austin. But that's not going to help them. I've got to let it go somehow. It's been almost 4.5 years since Reece was diagnosed, and nearly 4 years since Austin's.

But I do feel like a failure, and that's harder for me to overcome. When the kids were diagnosed, I immediately went into research mode and discovered the different treatment options out there. The behavioral models did not appeal to me, because I didn't see how they would help with the real problems that my kids were having. They could learn behaviors and rules with no problem. But the rules didn't help. It was abundantly clear when Austin took a social skills class when he was first diagnosed - and it actually set him BACK in terms of meaningful interaction because they had taught him "rules" and when he tried to interact with kids following the "rules" and they didn't answer back in the correct way, he would just keep repeating himself waiting for them to follow the "rule". Then several different people, IRL and online, pointed me toward RDI.

We started with a consultant, and I documented that experience here on my blog. That experience didn't work out. The consultant and our family just didn't mesh well. That happens, I guess. Unfortunately, our financial resources were drained in the process. And as a result, I lost confidence in RDI completely. It didn't help that RDI has been extremely hard for me to grasp. It's very contradictory to my personality. It was easy to avoid it because it made me feel so incompetent. It was easier not to "rock the boat".

But I have got to find a way to overcome that and to change as much of myself as is necessary to help my children. The bottom line is that I do believe that the RDI theory and methods of GPR are the best chance my children have at a quality of life. Austin is almost 14 years old... it's not too late, but time is not on our side!!

So now I, too, need a Do Over. I have wonderful friends (in my computer LOL) who have been willing to help me learn and understand RDI better. It's part of the reason I'm now reading The RDI Book, a publication that came out after we stopped working with a consultant. And since I process better when I write things out, you'll be seeing a return to autism discussion here on my blog. I will obviously continue to update on the homeschooling, especially as I attempt to use a more Guided Participation format with our lessons. (Assuming I can figure out exactly what that looks like in practice! Hee hee)

I would greatly appreciate your prayers and good thoughts as we resume this very important and challenging work with our children.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Intersubjectivity

Stepped in what?

Intersubjectivity is a word I am learning about in our autism remediation therapy, RDI(r). Well, there is a good chance I "learned about it" when I was in college minoring in child psychology, but since my school years were spent in a pump and dump effort to pass tests and get good grades, I don't actually remember much about it! How sad.

Basically speaking, intersubjectivity refers to how individuals share an experience together. They each have their own perspective, each individual recognizes that the other might have a different perspective, and they work together to have develop a shared perspective of the experience. It sounds complicated, doesn't it? But then you have to realize that intersubjectivity is something that develops in infants and toddlers. There are 5 levels, and the first 4 are developed in NT children by the age of 3!!

But somewhere, somehow, it doesn't happen in autistic children. And not just the low-functioning ones. My own Reece, who will be 8 soon, is completely lacking in this area. She has incredible language - her vocabulary shocks many people. She has a tendency to pick up and use "fancy" words. She is fairly on target academically, except in math. And she is very social. She loves to talk to people, play with girls her age, and be involved in whatever is going on around her.

But then it breaks down. She misunderstands. She overreacts. She melts down. It isn't pretty. And as she has become older, it has begun to ostracize her from the other children. We purposely have her participate in few group social activities, based on the recommendations in RDI and based on her developmental level. Reece is unwilling to be placed with much younger children (where she would fit better developmentally). So the activities we have her in are fewer than we might otherwise do with a NT child. Social activities are hard for her because of the pace and the sensory overload, and this huge issue of intersubjectivity. And kids are not very forgiving. I can't say I blame them for staying away from her because she is so unpredictably volatile (not in a harming to others way, but who wants to have someone potentially freak out at you). But as a mother, it is heartbreaking that your beautiful and sweet child has nobody at church that wants to sit by her, or who wants to talk to her. And then it's nearly as heartbreaking to realize that she's too stressed out to realize it or care.

To help her get back on track and develop interubjectivity, I'm being more mindful of sharing my own intersubjectivity with her. This means that I do a lot of "thinking" outloud. I'm not really good at this yet, but it's a work in progress. In the RDI(r) program, parents complete "parent objectives" first before they ever start working on child objectives. This is because there is so much for parents to learn how to change in themselves. But as the parent changes, it starts to help the child, which is so cool!

Last night, we had to take Riley to dance class and wait for her. Reece came because baseball season has begun for Austin and Coach Daddy. But it was a good night to be there, because Riley takes this class with the older sister of a girl from Reece's class. And this also just happens to be the girl that Reece forgave a few weeks ago. They are now "BFFs" (Best Friends Forever), as Reece says. The girls, and the other girl's younger brother, played in the gym at the dance studio. They played musical chairs, red light-green light, hide and seek. The games changed quickly and it all flowed so nicely.

Then it was time to go home, and the other family had to leave in a hurry because they hadn't eaten supper yet. Transitions are hard for Reece, and she was teetering on the edge of a meltdown. She didn't want to stop playing, and she was begging for "one more round". But it was impossible as the other family really needed to leave. I had my head on, which is unusual in situations like that where I tend to get embarrassed and just want her to stop the behavior. I said, "Bs family hasn't eaten supper yet. They are hungry and need to leave." That didn't help... she was still begging because SHE wanted to keep playing. I looked around and mentioned, "B is getting her shoes on, and her mom is helping her with her coat. It looks like her mom is really ready to go home now." Reece insisted again that she wanted to play, PLEASE, one more time. We started walking toward the door. I noticed that B was staring at Reece by this point. I added, "I know it's hard when you want to keep playing. But this time, it looks like everyone is ready to go. And you had so much fun. It would be a shame to say goodbye on a bad note."

I'm not exactly sure what changed, but something clicked, and Reece calmly took her jacket from me and put it on, and then went to walk out to the parking lot with B. They cheerfully said their goodbyes, hugged each other, and it all ended nicely. Good memories to encode for the next time! :)

Who knows if I handled that in an exactly RDI(r) manner, but I do know that I allowed more space and processing time for Reece to think, and hopefully learn more about the cues she can take from what's going on around her. Now, I could have just forced her jacket on her, grabbed her by the hand all full of embarrassment for my big kid acting that way, and left in a hurry... causing her to be even more upset. But she wouldn't have learned a thing, except that mom gets mad when she gets upset.

But this way, we both learned something useful.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Weekly Review: 2/15-2/19

Sorry for the late update... we had quite a busy end of the week and jam-packed weekend! My parents came into town and we celebrated my mom's birthday with her! I actually managed to surprise her with her present: new pictures of the kids! We last had pictures of them taken 15 months ago, but they have changed so much. And my mom loves pictures more than anything else, so on Thursday we took the morning and went to Portrait Innovations. Here is one of the best pictures, but we really got great shots of all of the kids!
On Friday, I took the kids to see the movie for The Lightning Thief (the first book in the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series). While it was an enjoyable enough movie, it was so little like the book that we love so much. I certainly understand having to change a book to fit the medium of the big screen (being a Harry Potter fan and a Twilight fan has to teach you that much!). But they changed just about everything, and it wasn't necessary. Quite a bummer, but we had a good time anyway.

There was nothing big that was new with our lessons - just continuing to plug away! It's good for me though, as I am fast approaching my half marathon trip, and I'm busy thinking about and planning for it! :) The kids will end up with several days off while I'm gone, since my mom will be here to watch the kids, and then daddy has them the last day, and then I'll need a recovery day (or rather, a re-entry day, after having been at Disney World!). I'd like to wrap some things up, and maybe do a couple of fun educational things with the kids before I leave!

I'm proud of the consistent work we've done since January! This will give us some time to take off on the fast-approaching warm spring days! :)

Enjoy your homeschooling week, friends!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Weekly Review: 2/8-2/12

This wasn't quite as productive a week as the previous ones! We were all pretty wiped out from the Super Bowl Party on Sunday night, so we took Monday off. Then Austin had a follow-up appointment with his orthopedist. He has hemihypertrophy - a fancy way of saying one side of his body is larger than the other. It is within acceptable limits, but the doctor wants to follow him closely during puberty, since he is going through such significant growth spurts during this time. It was a 2 hour long wait for less than 5 minutes with the doctor. How frustrating.

Here are the highlights from our crazy mixed-up week:

Reece:
  • Began reading The Titanic: Lost and Found (which is always a delight for our Titanic-loving family)
  • Continued with cursive - and doing SO well, in fact, when she had to do a printed copywork she was complaining that she kept accidentally writing in cursive
  • Worked on a Making Tens math lesson which was easy since she's quite familiar with that concept
  • Listened to another story from Outdoor Secrets, and began listening to the D'aulaire Benjamin Franklin book
Riley:
  • Began reading Lad, a Dog
  • Finishing up the last reviews in her math book, eager to begin the new book!
  • Still loving Jr. Analytical Grammar - go figure!!
Austin:
  • Getting ready to wrap up Johnny Tremain
  • Learning about the Latin prefixes for the metric system: milli, centi, deci
  • Worked on adding suffixes to words that end in y

Combined:
  • Began a new hymn - Trust and Obey (what a good one for Mom!!)
  • Finished another chapter of history that was so uninteresting that I cannot remember one thing about it to summarize... a chinese king, that's about all I got

This coming week we are going to go see Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief. We listened to the entire series on CD, and we've been looking forward to the movie for a long time!

Monday, February 08, 2010

Reece and Knuffle Bunny enjoy the Super Bowl

We always have a family Super Bowl party, complete with our favorite chips, candy, and sodas!! This year, Reece didn't want to leave Knuffle Bunny out!

See Knuffle Bunny's "face paint"? It's pieces of construction paper, cut to conform to her face, and taped on, since you can't actually put paint on KB because it wouldn't come out!

Also notice Knuffle Bunny's chair... made out of Tinkertoys and construction paper! It was KB's Christmas present, made by Reece!!

This girl is something else, isn't she??

(Not sure why she wears a key around her neck... she started that about 2 weeks ago when she found the key! We don't even know what it goes to! LOL)

Friday, February 05, 2010

Week in Review: 2/1-2/5

Highlights from our week! This makes the 4th week in a row that we have accomplished everything I had planned! That's pretty exciting!

Reece:
  • Finished reading Wagon Wheels and did a really nice narration
  • Did a week of reviewing her cursive writing, and was able to translate printed words to cursive and also write cursive words when I spelled them out loud for her!
  • Started learning the Days of the Week poem
  • Continued working on addition and subtraction

Riley:
  • Got a 100% on her first grammar test (from Jr. Analytical Grammar)
  • Got a 97% on her first Latin test (Latina Christiana I, covering the first 5 lessons - we are doing this book over 2 years)
  • Finish reading the adapted version of Robinson Crusoe and typed a narration
  • Began Writing Strands

Austin:
  • Got a 100% on Test 6 in MUS Zeta (guess the note-taking helped out a lot!!)
  • Began a new unit in grammar
  • Continued reading Johnny Tremain

Combined:
  • Learned about the end of the Indian Empire
  • Finished reading a book about Mozart
  • Watched a very complicated DVD about Chemistry (looking for a simpler one for next week LOL)
  • Memorized Ephesians 4:32

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Forgiveness

A mid-week post! I know... it's shocking! But this couldn't wait - and I really wanted to write it all down so I would remember it! :)

It happened today at Reece's ballet class. That in itself is significant because ballet has not gone well the last two years. This is her 4th year of ballet - and last year she missed the first part of the year because she cried every day and I pulled her out. After Christmas she asked to go back and they hadn't ordered costumes yet so she could return. But it was challenging for her - the girls in that class were a year younger, and she had been dancing with them since she was 4, but they were getting socially sophisticated REALLY fast. They were leaving her in the dust. And the class was also faster-paced, and even though she is a great dancer, it was too much.

So this year we sadly moved her back another year, with girls who are 2 years younger. I really thought it was going to be "the answer". But it hasn't been. She is handling all the skills just fine, possibly because she did them last year, but the pace is still too much. It has been an enormous struggle, and she has had meltdowns in just about every single class. And since these girls have not "grown up" with her like the other class did, they have not been very kind.

So today we were on our way to class, and Reece didn't want to go, as usual. And I didn't want to take her, as usual. But the recital is coming, and she needs to learn her dance.

Reece started to complain about her "ex-friend" (There has been some animosity between herself and a girl who teased her a few weeks ago.). We started talking about forgiveness, and the Fruits of the Spirit. They are learning about the Fruits of the Spirit in children's church, and we've been memorizing that verse, plus a verse about compassion and forgiveness (that last one isn't just for Reece's benefit but for ALL of us). I told her that God wants us to forgive those who hurt us, not just one time, but seventy times seven - as many times as we must.

Reece said, "I'm not ready to forgive her." I told her that was fine... sometimes it takes awhile before we're ready to forgive. But that she still needs to be kind (she's been saying mean things back to this little girl, and it's been quite a disaster).

So she went to her class and I was busy reading, and showing my old cloth diapers off to a couple of the moms who use CDs, and before I know it, the class was over. Reece came to me immediately and said, "You will be SO proud of me! I told B that I was sorry, and I asked her to forgive me. She said yes, and then she told me she was sorry, too. And now we are friends!"

To say I was thrilled was an understatement! And Reece was SO proud of herself! I asked her if she felt good now, and she said yes, and I told her that's why I think it's so important to forgive... because it lightens your own heart!

Then her dance teacher came to tell me the details: Reece did, in fact, initiate the apology and she was very specific about the things she had done that weren't kind and that she was sorry for. And then the other girl was very specific about the things SHE had done and that SHE was sorry for. Miss Dorinda said it was so sweet, she cried while she watched it unfold!

I'm so proud of my Reece. And I'm kind of proud of myself, too. I worry so much about leading my children in their walk as Christians, because I am still such a new Christian myself. And I feel like I have so much to learn, so much I simply do NOT understand. But I've purposed to just talk about things "as we go along in our day" (that's from Deuteronomy I believe) and then I am just trusting that God will give me the right words at the right time, and that He won't let me lead them astray. And then if I do say the wrong at some point, that He will correct me, so I can instruct my children in the right way. And that in itself can be a great lesson.

So this is one of those things that I have to write down because I need to be able to read it later to reflect on it and remember that there are lots of good things that come out of even these difficult circumstances!