In this podcast from RDIconnect® Dr. Rachelle Sheely explains the developmental process involved in RDI and how it can help children and adults alike.
Kat Lee: Hello, and welcome back to Autism: A New Perspective, the podcast show where we help you understand what is going on in the mind of your child, and we encourage you that growth for your child is possible. I’m Kat Lee, and in this week’s podcast, Dr. Sheely explains to us the developmental process that’s involved with RDI and why it can help children and adults alike. Let’s listen in.
Dr. Sheely: When we meet someone for the first time, we often don’t know exactly where they’re stuck because the presentation is full of complexities, and those complexities come about partly because of the autism, certainly because of the autism, but they also come about because of comorbidity, and co-occurring problems that they’ve had, for example, bullying or just not making sense or the lack of a relationship with self.
Dr. Sheely: We really want to make sure that we understand the person that we’re dealing with, and it’s very different when you’re dealing with an older teenager, even a younger teenager, and an adult, because the parental layering of overcompensation often masks something that’s going on that needs to be addressed by the person himself.
Kat Lee: And I want to be very sensitive that we have young adults who watch our visits together and have the understanding that these developmental foundations, if they’re not present, they are within us just waiting to come forward, but also it’s not that something is wrong with you. These are things that assist you in living your best life.
Dr. Sheely: It’s interesting that you should bring that up because we’ve actually believed that for a long time, that the way our brains work are efficient for some things and inefficient for some things, and just like the inefficiencies of my brain have to be addressed and yours have to be addressed, we all have to address these inefficiencies. We have to understand them. We have to understand where they come from, how they’re holding us back. We like them. If we like them, how do we use the part of them we like and let the other part go?
Kat Lee: That is so beautiful, and when you were talking, I was thinking about how much RDI has helped me grow as a person, and other people I know who’ve become involved in it for all kinds of different reasons. I feel like it helps them personally. It’s a help to identify these areas where we can work for growth. I find it even joyful in the sense of growing as a person.
Dr. Sheely: It is, isn’t it? And I think if we can look at each other like you and I look at each other, and we can understand that we’re all in this together, and Katherine, you and I have worked together for a long time. I don’t want to make you do anything, but I do want to help you grow in the way you want to grow, and I know from working with you that you don’t want to make me do anything, but you want to help me look at my inefficiencies and grow in those areas.
Dr. Sheely: So it doesn’t mean that I’m going to become Katherine, although I’d love to be Katherine. It doesn’t mean I’m going to become Katherine. It means that I’m going to be my best me, and you’re going to be your best you, and if we can remember that when we’re dealing with someone who comes in not as a clean slate but with the diagnostic overlay, we can deal with the person rather than the diagnostic overlay.
Kat Lee: I want to be sure that those who are listening to us understand what we mean by development and a developmental model, because for you and I, who’ve been working, and you and Dr. Gutstein, who put this brilliant help together, not everyone understands what we’re talking about.
Dr. Sheely: We come from different backgrounds and different perspectives, and our outlooks can be very different as well, but for children who have grown up in a guiding relationship, there are things that intuitively fall into place. One is the relationship with self. One is the relationship with others, and those early periods where children are really not very good at it, but they learn to deal with each other. Those kinds of things are in place because of the guiding relationship and because the person who’s in the guiding relationship as an apprentice sees the world first through the eyes of the parent and then through their own eyes, and if that’s not in place, it means that we don’t have that mature perspective on the world because we’re trying to make sense of the world on our own.
Dr. Sheely: When we talk about the guiding relationship, we’re saying that there are certain things that have to be in place, and one of the ways that we get those things in place is by the reestablishment of a guiding relationship, but with someone who’s older, it’s more in terms of a mentor and an apprentice, and there are things that one thing follows another. There’s that zone of proximal development that Vygotsky talks about, so we know we don’t start. We know we want to get here, but we don’t start there. We start over here, and we’re respectful that when we’re doing something like this, we may be working with an adult that has a college degree, not a college degree, a job, wants a girlfriend, but we’re looking at an adult who’s already accomplished some things, and I believe the trick is to go back and find out what’s that missing part that is making the presentation inefficient in some ways and very efficient in other ways, and the way we do that is through our assessment.
Dr. Sheely: It’s actually a perfect way to find out what’s going on. Having said that, we’re not going to ask somebody who’s 14 to play peekaboo.
Kat Lee: I’m thinking about our last conversation, and we talked about when a young adult or an older adult, as you talked about, comes to you and the first things you do is you just talk to them, you listen, you say, why are you here? Why do you need me? And that listening has stuck with me all this time between our visits of how important that is, and one of the things that struck me is if someone’s coming to us, it’s because they want help. It’s not because someone’s judging them, none of that, they’re coming to us for help. And so I love that you have this process in place to find out just where they need you to enter in order to help them. I think that’s the hope of RDI.
Dr. Sheely: If we can remember that we’re always working toward collaboration, and we’re not trying to keep some kind of an artificial hierarchy in place, then we don’t have to worry so much about things like judgment, which is really awful, but we don’t get stuck there. We don’t start there. We find out what is it you want? How can I be helpful? How do you work best with somebody? What does the world look like for you, and how did you get where you are? Where have you been? It’s a respectful way of dealing with an adult who might be saying, I have been so confused about myself, and now I realize what’s going on, and I’d really like to fill in those gaps. I’d really like to get where I want to go, some things I’ve always wanted, some things I’d like for those things to be easier, and now we’re on the same page.
Dr. Sheely: Our assessment isn’t looking at somebody and saying, “You know what you need to do.” No. Our assessment is saying, “We’re going to help you figure out where you got stuck, and what our role might be in helping you move forward.”
Kat Lee: And thanks for joining us for Autism: A New Perspective, the podcast show where we help you understand what is going on in the mind of your child, and we encourage you that growth for your child is possible. I’m Kat Lee, see you next time.