Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Flexible vs. Controlling...

I could also title this post, "why you need a consultant."

I am a do-it-yourselfer.  No one else can do it as well as I can.  Well let me tell ya.  That's a flaw.  It wasn't really arrogance or pride so much as needing / wanting to CONTROL.   Funny thing was, when I saw that trait in my son I called it 'flexible.'  But let me explain....

I used to do RDI as a do-it-yourselfer.  There are some things I have done well myself and even better than the professionals.  But when you have a special needs child the COST is astronomical over what you think raising a child can be, and so I didn't want to spend money on a consultant.  We were already doing speech, OT, PT and other things.  We had spent a few pesos on some really stupid stuff and I was gun shy to spend more.  RDI is definitely not covered by insurance or even the medicaid waiver in the state of Michigan.  So I read books, went to seminars and 'did it.'

The reason I am recalling this today is because we are working on the following objective:

This lesson involves the child learning to successfully adapt to more fluid introduction of variations. Guides increase the rate and the degree of variations that they introduce to shared frameworks

In plain English, when you are doing an activity with a child (such as throwing a ball) and you decide to change up the activity without using verbal cues (for example sitting down), does the child know to follow your lead without any extra instruction?

A few years ago, in the do-it-yourselfer phase, I thought, not only did Andrew KNOW this objective but  he offered up ideas on how to change it up himself.  That's good right???


When he does that he is trying to control the activity to do it his way.  This is 'normal' in autism.  A child wants to be able to control it so that they know what will happen next.  But first they have to follow your lead.   When you try and 'do it yourself' without a good guide you have no idea which direction you are headed.  Andrew needs a guide as much as I needed an RDI guide/consultant.  (This is also a good analogy for Christian life but that is another post.)

What does a consultant have to do with all of this?  An expert consultant helps you work through it so that you aren't hatcheting away at your 10 year old's esteem while still teaching them that you, the parent, can be the 'guide.'  Andrew is ten, after all, but he is working at the developmental age of an eighteen month old.   (Yes it is true.  He may be academically and physically superior but in developmental years he is a toddler.)  So think about an eighteen month old.  They need guidance.  They learn by observing.

I peeked out the window yesterday and Andrew was playing Zoom Ball with his college age cousin.  They were whipping it around every which way and I thought, "I should go out there and show them how to use it."  I stopped myself and thought..NO!  This will be a great 'framework' for this objective later between me and Andrew.

Here is when I questioned Andrew's control vs. flexibility.  When we started zooming, I intended on doing a few back and forth while standing, and then sitting down to see what he would do.  But right out of the shoot he started whipping it around and making his own variations.  I dropped my end of the toy and waited.  He handed it back to me (a nice repair) and we repeated that scene for a few rounds before I said, "no I'm done."  At first glance, and in the past, I'd have said, "WOW!  That is great that he is being flexible and thinking up all the variations and ways to do Zoomball."  But now, with a consultant's help, I know that it is his way of controlling.

Think about an eighteen month old toddler.  If they are constantly changing things up, what are you, the parent/guide doing?  Chasing them!  It is exhausting when they are young and even more exhausting when they are pre-teen.  Or perhaps, that IS the age where children start to challenge and control their environment and that is WHY it is so exhausting.  Either way...

Today we had a Skype with our consultant and we worked through this particular objective and framework in a way so that Andrew could be ten years old and eighteen months all at the same time.  I won't bore you with the details, but it involves letting him be an individual while making my own guided variations.  If this all sounds complicated and strange, I promise you it is not.  (Strange..maybe.  Complicated..not.)  Our consultant makes it easy.  We also video tape our activities so that we can review it ourselves and have her do the same.

I don't know if any of this makes sense but I struggle daily with Andrew's 'ages' that are all over the map.  He is so gifted and talented in many areas.  But 'doing people' (aka relationships) is hard for anyone.  Add in deficits from autism and it just is so complicated.  That is what I love about RDI.  It is a do-over for us.  It is slow development but it IS development.   I have seen great things since we have started eighteen months ago.

If you have any questions, please ask!

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