Autism and the RDI® Consultant

The title art for the RDIconnect podcast "Autism: A New Perspective." The subtitle reads "The podcast show to understand what's going on in the mind of your child and encourage you that growth IS possible! Hosted by RDI Certified Consultant Kat Lee."
Autism: A New Perspective
Autism and the RDI® Consultant

In this episode of Autism: A New Perspective, Kat Lee and Dr. Sheely discuss the history of RDI® Consultants and how they help parents, families and children.

RDI® Is Designed To Work With the Family and the Child

The RDI® program is designed to work with the family, the parents, the child – the whole family unit. We knew that the parents should be in charge of their child’s growth and development, but that they would need some guidance. We also knew that it couldn’t work unless the consultants had a really deep understanding of the parents, their need for personal support and their need to help them overcome any obstacles.

The RDI® Consultant/Family Relationship Is One of the Reasons RDI® Is Different

Looking for a different approach to autism remediation? RDI® isn’t like typical behavioral therapies. We think that family and relationships matter, and that re-building the Guiding Relationship between parent and child is the first step to a lifetime of growth.

Ready to get started?

Find your RDI® Certified Consultant today.

Watch the video below to learn more about the history of RDI® Consultants.

Autism: A New Perspective is Available on iTunes!

Full Transcript

Kat Lee: 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 always encourage you that growth for your child is possible. I’m Kat Lee, and in this special podcast, I sat down with Dr. Rochelle Sheely, and we talked about the history of the RDI consultants, how they help parents, families, and children. Let’s listen in.

Kat Lee: Well, Dr. Sheely, I have been a consultant for over 20 years now, and our topic today, talking about being an RDI Consultant and how we work with families one of the things that attracted me so much to RDI, and it still does today, is the work we do with the families. You know, when I was a therapist, I worked with children, and I loved helping the children and helping them progress, but this whole program that you designed to work with the family, the parents, the child, the family unit, I always felt like I was in some sense giving the family back to themselves. And if folks haven’t seen it, it might be hard for them to know how wide and deep the work is you’ve done to create this parent training. I always go back to, I don’t know how you and Dr. Gutstein built something so big and powerful. When you started that, I know that was back in the day, as they say, but how did you start thinking about that and professionals working in this way? 

Dr. Rachelle Sheely: Well once we knew where we wanted to go, then everything fell into place. I think in the beginning, autism was so rare, one in 10,000, that we didn’t know very much about it. The only thing we knew was that there were apparently these seemingly very bright people who didn’t have jobs, who had gone to college. So that was the research we were reading. Who had gone to college, had maybe masters or doctorates, didn’t have friendships, didn’t have jobs, no autonomy, they were still living at home. And once we started looking at that and asking the question, and I think that’s part of it, asking the right question, asking the question, why is this happening to this group of people and not other people? And once we started asking that question, we started looking at the research, we realized that you and I and people who aren’t dealing with autism, our minds grow and with the growth of our minds, relationships, jobs, autonomy, all of those things fall into place through this guiding relationship. So we wanted to know, what is it that we have to do, that we have to reestablish in the family to grow this guiding relationship? I mean, we always go back to it, the guiding relationship, but it is fundamental to how we develop as human beings. It’s fundamental to how our minds grow. People say, can you grow a mind? 

Dr. Rachelle Sheely: It’s like, that’s the only way you can grow a mind. And so once we knew that, we realized that there were some commonalities between relationships, jobs and autonomy. And so sometimes we think, well, this is what you need for a job. This is what you need for a relationship. This is what you need to be able to live on your own. But they all boil down to the same core things that a person needs to have. And so knowing that, then it wasn’t that hard to say, what makes relationships work? What are employers looking for? And then hop, skip and jump to living on your own, being autonomous, that kind of thing.

Kat Lee: And you knew that you needed to start with parents, but you also knew that working with a family as consultants required that we have a really deep understanding of the parents, their need for personal support, their need to help them overcome any obstacles. You designed the whole program and your consulting program, honestly, with that in mind. I always want to say, how did you know that? 

Dr. Rachelle Sheely: We didn’t know it to begin with. But if you start asking the right questions and you proceed by asking those questions in a more deeply satisfying way, you start getting answers pretty quickly. And the answers are out there, but sometimes the questions aren’t. And so because we felt we were asking the right questions, then we felt we knew how to help parents reestablish this relationship with their child. They wanted it. The child wanted it. But the child just wasn’t a good apprentice through no fault of his own, not because he didn’t want it, but because he didn’t know how to access it. And so first beginning by developing motivation, looking how motivation develops with children who are not dealing with autism. We come into just noticeable differences. What does that look like? And where do you start? I think a lot of times in the field of autism, there was confusion about where do you start? And there was a tendency to start with what the person could not do. What we wanted to start with was what could they do? What kind of strengths were they bringing to the table? What were the foundations that they needed to be able to do these things they weren’t doing? And then let the parents build that in with them through our consultation.

Kat Lee: So how would you define the role of the RDI consultant? And I wanna say in 2024, but I think our role has largely remained as powerful on the same over the last years. What do you think? 

Dr. Rachelle Sheely: Well, I think we’ve grown the role of the consultant and I think we fine-tuned it. But essentially, we are still talking about the same thing. We’re still talking about teamwork. We’re still talking about, I have a list here that I was just using the other day, so I’m gonna pull my list up if that’s okay. Teamwork, integrity, communication, flexibility, confidence, problem solving, adaptability, initiation. Those are the kinds of things that we need to see developed in the person who has autism. But they’re also the kinds of things that the parent needs to be able to work with their child. And they’re also the things that the consultant needs to work with the parents. And so we’re looking at a parallel process where we’re all on the same page. We’re trying to coordinate what we do. We’re trying to collaborate. And my favorite line, I say it all the time, consultant is sharing from their heart everything they know. They’re pouring it in to this family. And in doing that, my favorite phrase, they work themselves out of a job, not into a job.

Kat Lee: There’s so much to say there. You were going over that list and those, everything on that list is a key word for every person involved, the parents, the consultant, and of course the child. But it applies just across like you have always said. It’s that parallel process with everyone involved. But then when you went to talking about pouring your heart in, that is so true. And I think at least for me and I know others and you too, as you see families, you have to do that to be able to really give that personal support to know what those parents need because that takes a lot of discussion, collaboration, and the big one, trust.

Dr. Rachelle Sheely: The big one is trust, isn’t it? You know, trust, attunement, all those kinds of things that we take for granted when we have children are things that are not in place through nobody’s fault. But the parents have been robbed of that ability to show their children, you can trust me. And so what we have to do, what we figured out we had to do was we had to figure out this beginning point. Not just starting to throw things at people, not to throw activities at people, but what is the beginning point, what is the essential first thing that we have to do, not the second, not the third thing, but the first thing. And the point is we don’t know. And as long as we stay humble and say I don’t know, but I’m gonna find out. And we’re gonna do this together. I promise you we’ll figure it out. We’re not gonna just start throwing things at you to do. We’re gonna start where you are, your strengths, your vulnerabilities, and your obstacles all taking into account.

Kat Lee: I love what you said about being a humble. You know, I was thinking about when we started our journey as a family, gosh, 29 years ago, the services were very limited for children and certainly for families and for parent training very limited. But today there’s a lot out there. I mean the, which I don’t like to call it this, but the business of autism, which again I’m not particularly fond of the phrase, but there’s a lot out there. What is it that draws professionals into being an RDI consultant? Because there is a lot out there available to do, but they come to be consultants here.

Dr. Rachelle Sheely: You know, I’m a big believer in failure. Now let me be a little more specific. If you read the work of people who have been looking at development for years now, one of the things they keep going back to is that it’s important for children to experience failure and on their own grapple with that and succeed. So it’s not like you can’t do something, I’m gonna make you do it or teach you to do it. There’s this opening of a door that when you walk through this you can trust me not to give you something you can’t do, but you can trust me to give you something that’s gonna be kind of hard and I know you can figure it out without me telling you. Now as I say, it’s a parallel process. I feel like that was the thing that Steve and I were grappling with when we first began to see these children and families with autism because we could see that the parents basically knew what to do. It wasn’t that they didn’t know what to do, but they had this apprentice who was not an apprentice to them. So in figuring out how to deal with these small failures, we knew we could train consultants to feel that they could trust us the way the families needed to trust them, the way the children needed to be able to trust their parents.

Dr. Rachelle Sheely: We’re not gonna give you something and throw you out there and say, good luck, go. No, we’re going to show you how to figure out what is the beginning point of this. And when you know that beginning point, then you’re going to know how to help the family and reestablish itself as a family. I’m not saying every, I’m not saying that there aren’t some parents out there who are not great parents. We know the statistics. We know there are problems in the world we live in, but I have to tell you, I rarely run across one. I just, I mean, I’m just amazed every time I meet a family, just the resilience, their flexibility, their adaptability, the overwhelming love they have for this child, and the strength of their commitment to do the work that needs to be done. It’s fabulous, and I believe that the reason people decide to do RDI is because they see that in the families too, and they see that they need some help too, and they come to us and we say, well, that’s what we’ve been doing for 30 years. We’re getting it right more than we’re getting it wrong. So we go down that pathway together. Whatever we’re doing, we wanna be holding each other’s hands. I wanna hold the hands of the people in training. I want the consultants to hold the hands of parents, parents, children, and I want us to be on this journey and walk through it together.

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.


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