When parenting a typically developing child, we take the background elements of our relationship for granted. We assume that we can provide challenging opportunities by using the child’s moment-to-moment reactions to make adjustments ensuring that the child feels comfortable in engaging with the challenge.

Related: Growth-promoting Mental Challenge

Similarly we assume that the child will be highly motivated to seek us out and engage with us.

  • We do not have to worry that in the midst of what seems to be a mutual enjoyable activity, that the child will suddenly disengage and walk away.
  • We do not have to worry that the child will actively reject our attempts to introduce new ideas and perspectives into our engagements

However, when parenting an ASD child, we cannot take these elements of our relationship for granted.

An analogy to parenting an ASD child would be the experience of a ship’s captain whose sailors, rather than mutinying or abandoning ship, have become indifferent and allow the ship to flounder or sail in circles.

Often, parents begin to doubt their capacity to function as guides for their children. Faced with the child’s disengagement, parents may eventually abandon guiding efforts and limit their interactions to activities that do not lead to avoidance and withdrawal.

After receiving an ASD diagnosis these feelings may not improve and may even worsen. Too often parents experience themselves entering a bewildering morass of information, experts, parent advice and competing claims. Often the result is that parents lose even more of their sense of competence.


In the following audio segment, Lisa Palasti, a parent of a teenager with ASD & a veteran consultant, describes how parents, through the RDI Program learn that they can make all the difference .

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