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Tuesday, August 26, 2008

RDI and Homeschool...?

Is Tom doing well - or not so well? The answer is yes.

In the past year, he's come a huge way in terms of academics, engagement, self-esteem, and willingness to suggest and try new things. He's much more independent in certain ways, too: he's now getting dressed and brushing his teeth on his own - and one day, when he was hungry, I heard him tell Sara "let's get our own breakfasts." Indeed, they did: he got himself cereal with milk and a glass of juice!

Tom has also been successful in typical situations that would once have required 1:1 shadowing. He bowls on a team; plays clarinet in an ensemble; takes typical tennis lessons. He swims like a fish, and can take part in quite a few carefully selected homeschool programs. In the grocery store he automatically helps out with finding items, placing items from the cart onto the counter, bagging, and even carrying bags to the car and from the car to the house!

He's great in most public places. He handles restaurants beautifully, reads and orders from a menu, waits nicely in lines (much better than most kids). He's way beyond most 12-year-olds in his ability to engage with and learn from museums, aquariums, zoos, and gardens. He enjoys classical music, and can discern the different instruments by ear.

On the other hand...

Tom has yet to make a friend. He's absolutely terrified (I THINK that's the problem!) of interaction with peers, and often interacts with adults only when he's completely in control of the interaction or when there's an obvious yes/no response.

His thinking skills are adequate for many tasks, but he's still unable to even use most abstract terms. The other day he called me a liar - and I was upset until I realized that the terms "truth" and "lie" are still somewhat hazy for him. As a result, more complex ideas like "freedom," "justice," etc. are way beyond him.

He can describe something in concrete adjectival terms - it's green, it's fat, and it's soft. But, for example, if I ask "why do you like that book," he'll simply tell me the plot. I repeat the question and he might say "I like the pictures," or "I like the part when the boy does X." But he's really not able to look at the entire book and derive a "big picture" answer to the question (I love adventure stories and this is great adventure story, for example).

He has a terrific imagination, and can come up with a thousand ways to talk about his imaginary friend Lizard and Lizard's world. But generally speaking his stories are one-dimensional and lack coherence: he'll say "Lizard has a friend who's a lion. The lion comes to Lizard's restaurant and Lizard cooks him meat. The lion has some friends, and they like to do XYZ." Great ideas, but really just a setting and a starting place - and without lots of help, he can't actually develop a story about these characters and settings.

He's amenable to doing many different things, and is willing to go along with a wide range of activities. But when he's asked what HE wants to do, or left to his own devices, he falls back on TV and books over and over again. Even when we're right in the middle of doing something that he loves, he wants to know "what are we going to do next?" And while I used to think this was just an expression of a need for structure, I now know that it's code for "can I watch TV soon?"

He's able to complete certain tasks on his own with minimal prompting, but only when they're always the same (get dressed, for example). When there are variables (even variables that he fully understands and has mastered), he finishes one step and then waits or wanders off - assuming that someone will come along and tell him what to do next (or not, which is even better).

The fact that we can now see strengths and weaknesses, and point directly at both, is huge - a great leap from "he's got issues." But the question of how in the world to address those weaknesses has been really gnawing at me. How do you push a child to want to take responsibility for his own actions; help a child to think well; motivate a child to want to interact with peers and others beyond a nod?

A number of people I respect have suggested RDI might be a good direction at this point, and I've started learning more about it and talking with a semi-local consultant. My frustration is that it's like going back to school (with all my copious free time!!) - and it also requires Peter to do the same. On the other hand, the idea of having someone to help us set goals, devise techniques for meeting the goals, integrate the goals into homeschool, and so forth is very appealing indeed.

More on this as we learn more... meanwhile, if you're a homeschooling RDIer - what's your thought? Is it worth the time, money, and effort to work with a consultant? Can we get what we need in a less strenuous way? Is this something we should pursue, or should we just work with local therapists and social skills coaches?
Power By Ringsurf


poohder said...

There has No more powerful combination for remediation of my dd's autism than working with an RDI consultant and homeschooling. The RDI consultant taught us HOW to remediate and the homeschooling gave us the time to do it. We have been "doing" RDI for 4 1/2 years (although we have graduated from "formal" consultancy in December) and are into our 3rd year of homeschooling. My dd has become flexible, connected with people and interested in the views they can provide about our world, abstract thinking and so much more. I say GO for RDI, it was a huge paradigm shift in our family, but one that has benefited us ALL enormously. Rhonda (who was your post on HS-RDI)

Lisa Jo Rudy said...

Thanks, Poohder (love the name!).

Did you go through the entire training process in order to set and work on goals? How big a time commitment was that?

My fear is that we'd sign on for RDI training, but then not have the time (between teaching, working, and life) to really give it the focus it deserves... And I'm not 100% sure we really need the full-scale training. After all, we've been doing floortime for years, and I've been through the Floortime conferences, videos, books...


The Glasers said...

Homeschooling has worked for us for a long time. What RDI has done for us is to help fill in some developmental gaps that made it difficult for Pamela to connect with us. We have always had a warm and loving bond but what I did not know how to teach her was to fill a more equal and competent role in social interactions. Now, we are figuring this out.

I think the hardest thing about RDI is being more mindful. RDI is not marking out X hours a day on the calender and doing it. RDI is about spotlighting whatever objective you are doing in daily life with every interaction. And, then trying to capture something on film to share with the consultant. Not only does Pamela make changes in her interaction and communication style, but so do Steve and I!