Relationship Development Intervention (RDI)- what is it?
What are your memories of childhood? Some of them involve memories of friendships and good times. We don’t necessarily remember what we did but we remember shared experiences!
Our children are struggling with being very static (Rule based/instrumental) in their thinking and all the existing interventions also teach rule based skills through behavioural modification. Unfortunately, this just increases their static thinking. At first, as they accumulate skills we as parents are thrilled, but as our children grow we fail to see skill transfer to being able to share perspectives with others or “theory of mind”.
That’s the reason, it is common to hear parents echo, “my son gets good grades, but cannot make a friend”. To remedy this, we need to build social and emotional developmental foundation if we want our children to have real, meaningful friendships and relationships.
To equip our children with these crucial milestones, we need to once again look at typical development. When we are interacting with a baby we are interacting at a slower pace, we are very expressive, and limit our language and *turn up* our non-verbal communication. We are not looking for the baby to *do* anything other than their role of giving us simple feedback, and we wait for that feedback before we move on.
With our children with Autism, we want to give them that chance that they missed the first time. We are not going to treat them like babies, but what we do is concentrate on the thinking involved in the interaction, along with collaboration and reflection. This process obviously slows the task down considerably. This can be challenging as we may have learned to compensate for our children by prompting them and doing their thinking for them.
The first thing, as a parent is to learn times in the day where you can do something, anything like wash or baking or washing the car at a slower pace to allow for thinking and not be overly concerned with how long it will actually take to DO the activity. We frame the interaction according to the specific RDI developmental milestone that is being worked on, and focus on that instead of the task. This does two things for our kids. First, it shows them that we are more interested in THEM then the task, and second it models for them what experience sharing looks like. They may be extremely task focused – black and white, and want to do an activity for the end result of being done. This is how RDI starts to help our kids learn how relationships are the center of every interaction and not the actual task. This is broken down in very deliberate steps as we move along stages within the RDI learning system.
For example, if there is ball playing, we are spotlighting non-verbal communication and the experience. Many times, the item, like the ball is something that our kids can stim on or find reinforcing and then the person in the ball play is secondary. For this reason, for many children, RDI focuses on doing household things like wash or cleaning with the child to spotlight the relationship. We want to spotlight the relationship and not just entertain.
Typical children love to help around the house not because chores are fun but because they love working with mom and dad. They have that intrinsic motivation and social foundation to want to be with a person no matter what they are doing. They know how to separate the item from the person.
With RDI, one of the first steps is to restore having the parent more emotionally reinforcing then anything that they are doing together. We want the child to understand how to be rooted in relationships and walk away thinking to themselves that “I love spending time with my ________ (mom/dad/friend etc.)” and that the ball play was secondary to the relationship and memories formed. Experiencing the experience instead of concentrating on a task.
Parent lead through being the guide, the exact way we help development unfold with our neurotypical children.
RDI looks at the thinking in any interaction!!!
How RDI specifically help your child –
~ Understand to trust you as his/her guide in all your activities, ensuring that the experience will not overwhelm him. This revolutionary process has the emphasis on emotional bonding and is rooting in Relationship comprehension. This remediates social obstacles at the very core, addressing the true root of confusion for your child when it comes to control.
~ Rebuild their Dynamic Intelligence (joint attention, perspective taking, fuzzy logic). This assists your child to understand that each person sees something with their own eyes, thoughts and ideas and that at the core of relationships is this blending of mindfulness.
~ Be flexible and regulate in the back and forth of shared emotions.
~ Develop meaningful eye contact /gaze, motivated by true experience sharing as your child will learn how to borrow your perspective.
~ Be less anxious and more competent in their surroundings as the mutual feedback between you and your child increases.
~ Increase motivation to engage with you and less inclined to fall back on self-stimulatory behaviour as a means to escape or regulate their emotions. Your child will find your interactions MORE rewarding then their *stim*.
~ Foster all channels of communication, non-verbal (Prosody, intonation, gestures) not just talking. Developmentally, typical children are excellent communicators even before they can talk, which is the last channel to develop.
Your child will learn that true communication is not just words!