The following article was written by RDI® Consultant Zoe Thompson. You can read the original here

Here I am working with Harry, age 13, who has a great sense of humour and is really fun to work with.  I am supporting Harry to share his emotional reaction and seek my emotional reaction to things that happen naturally during our interaction.  To do this, I am slowing my pace, making judicious use of pausing and using non-verbal communication to increase Harry’s opportunities to seek and share emotional reactions.

Why is this important?  Another person’s emotional reaction tells us how they feel and what they are thinking about something.  We can then use this information to help us to adapt what we are doing to: keep the interaction on track; get it back on track; improve what we are doing together; clarify misunderstandings; celebrate our successes; have fun.  Another’s emotional reactions would also trigger us to be wary or confident in any given scenario as well as motivating us just to share a common experience for the purpose of mutual enjoyment. Those are just some examples.

My analysis is in black and Sharon’s comments are in blue.  Sharon is the external RDI Consultant who works with us at Bright Futures School.

Clip 1 – I set out our objective of making the card

Off camera – Harry shares something with me about a meme and we laugh about it.

Clip 2 – I finish setting out the framework and then model using just a little glue. You social reference Harry here too as you show him, seeking his response – ‘is it good enough?’ He responds with a thumbs up.

Clip 3 – I non-verbally show Harry where on the page I am going to put the head. I finish my turn and he takes his.  I am including Harry in my thinking & decision making even though he is doing nothing more than watching.

He uses gesture to let me know he needs more glue. I use gesture to confirm. Very nicely done, you are having a great non-verbal conversation.   I make a joke of the glue tube noises in order to ‘spice it up’ a bit and get some emotion-sharing going sharing and seeking emotional reactions – great freeze frame 1:53.  I use NVC to remind Harry that we only need a little glue. This comes across as sharing your thinking rather than instructing Harry to do anything. 

Harry starts to try to tell me something and references for my reaction. I use the reference to remind him of our no talking challenge and reinforce with a larger scaffold of ‘we can talk after’ so that he knows he will get a chance to tell me.

Clip 4 – I verbally spotlight the care he is taking.  I use words because this is an important spotlight (as he can be slapdash with crafts) and there is no way really to tell him that non-verbally.  Harry uses non-verbal communication (NVC) to remind me not to talk ?  ha ha!  I try to give NVC feedback on the care he is taking.  As he picks up the head to place it, I scaffold by showing him with my card, and then on his card, where to place the head. I don’t think he needed this level of scaffolding, the showing of yours yes, but the pointing out no, as I think he already knew what he was going to do???.  I use prosody to feed back on his good placing.

Clip 5 – Harry checks in to see my emotional reaction to his efforts I would recommend waiting for his shift of gaze before you give your feedback on his placing. I do a thumbs up. I model that we will be doing the ears next. He is yawning and I use NVC to share around that. He smiles.  I can’t remember where I read this as it was a long time ago but yawning can actually be a sign of feeling relaxed and competent & he certainly looks this way to me.

Related: Building Communication with A Non-Verbal Child

Clip 6 – Harry glues really carefully. I use prosody (‘ooooh’) to spotlight this. I scaffold for Harry where to place the ear by showing him on my card great so you realised that the scaffolding was too high previously & lower it here, good stuff,which he uses by glancing at it twice.  When he has finished, he references to check in with me that his placing is right. I use prosody and gesture (nod) to affirm this.  Zoe your pausing & pacing are spot on here.  You would never think this is a child that can be slapdash here would you!

Clip 7 – Harry points to the eyes, non-verbally suggesting what’s next.  I pick up the eye patch and look to him for his affirmation. Social referencing Harry for his thoughts. He nods. I use NVC to build anticipation around the farty squeeze noise and we emotion share around some of the squeezing noises.  When placing the patch, I hover it over the head to engage Harry about whereabouts it should go. He references around this.

Clip 8 – Harry drops some glue.  I see this as a challenge for him to resolve and take responsibility for. Great stopping yourself from jumping in there! I use prosody to spotlight the challenge. He is concentrating, so I wait. When he’s finished, he references to check in and I do a thumbs up, then take the opportunity to use NVC to spotlight the spill again. I look confused, which gives Harry the chance to think about how to resolve it. He gets kitchen roll and I spotlight this good idea with prosody and then a thumbs up when he references. Great stuff, he certainly looks pleased with himself!

Clip 9 – I place 4 eyes on the dogs head as a way to give Harry an opportunity to problem solve.  We have a non-verbal ‘conversation’ about whether 4 eyes is right and he takes 2 off. First time I’ve ever seen someone make an X when it’s wrong.

Clip 10 – I use prosody (an intake of breath) to spotlight that Harry may have too much glue on the stick. He references and resolves this by moving the stick over to the saucer. And this is his decision, he isn’t being told what & how – a great example of you move away from ‘getting’ to ‘inviting’.

Clip 11 – I use a verbal ‘pointy’ as its difficult to explain with NVC that the pointy bit goes upwards (the point is hard to see).  Harry places the tongue and celebrates with a ‘we did it!’ – a lovely celebration of our competence.

Where to: Harry did really well with using NVC & this was a great way for the pair of you to converse, so much more interaction taking place.  Think more use of NVC can only be beneficial for him as – with the pausing and pacing – it helps to facilitate the seeking and sharing of emotional reactions.

RDI Certified Consultant Zoe Thompson Zoe Thompson (BA Hons – Social Policy and Administration) is Head of Development at the Bright Futures School for Children with Autism in the UK., with responsibilities for staff training, the personal development curriculum, liaison with parents and outside agencies. She has a background in health education. As a fully qualified RDI® (Relationship Development Intervention) Consultant, Zoe uses her knowledge and experience of RDI® for the benefit of pupils at the school.

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