In this sit down session with Dr. Rachelle Sheely, co-founder of the autism treatment Relationship Development Intervention, she walks us through the details of how working with a consultant works. Learn how the initial assessment with your child is done, how you create goals for your child and how we believe, our consultants should be working themselves out of a job!
As parents, we have this idea of what’s it going to be like when we are parents and we looked forward to it. And then this autism raises it’s ugly head and it robs. It robs everybody, makes everybody feel incompetent so you know I clearly hear what you’re saying. Let me just describe what I would do.
First of all, I think that as many different kinds of children that there are that have autism, there are that many different kinds of parents. And to rush in and prematurely say to do this or do that is unfair. It’s unfair to the parents because you don’t know if it’s going to work. So the way that I approach, I always approach it the same way so the approach is the same, but we do tend to be different. I approach it with an assessment that looks at the parent child relationship, and looking at this parent child relationship, what I’m trying to understand is what are the strengths of the child, what are the strengths of the parent, and how do we begin to help this parent get this child more in sync with them? And the only way you can really do that is to start testing hypothesis.
So, after I’ve gotten like a little sneak preview of what the parent child look like together. This isn’t me being in the room with the child, I just start out by saying to the parent go in the room, set limits like you would at home, ask them to bring toys from home, and I let them play together and then I tape it so I can watch it. And they do that and then I go in maybe two or three times with something, maybe like a set of drums and say try to drum something, make up something together, keep it very simple. And because the parent has a chance to get comfortable in our setting and the child has a chance to get comfortable too, we get a really nice sketch of what’s going on.
So the second part of that is I start developing a hypothesis, and a hypothesis might be something like “I wonder what would happen if I were to go in the room and decrease my use of language,” or to decrease the demands put on the child. I wonder what would happen if I go in the room and stop asking the child questions. Now, this all evolves out of what I have been looking at when the parent and child were together. And then from that, I have a starting point, and that starting point is where I believe the child is going to be the most responsive to the parent, and where I can begin to help that parent do something we refer to as “noticeable differences.” And what we begin to build in this child is a sense of personal competence. And it’s not competence that I can do my Legos, but it’s a competence that is sort of a self-assurance that you and I feel kind of that way, that we award ourselves when we’ve done something well, and that feeling of “Wow, I figured that out.” But the way we start with the child on the spectrum is to help the parents do these just noticeable differences, which helps the child see, “Well that was a little bit different, but I know what to do. I’m a smart person. Look what I figured out.” And then those differences, they become bigger and bigger until we introduce what we refer to as a challenge. And a challenge is built on these just noticeable differences. But the thing about the challenge is it presents something that hasn’t been presented before. And it’s at that point the child becomes a little bit confused and figures out what to do, that we see the real mental growth occur. So in a nutshell that’s what we train the parents to do.
The other thing we train the parents to do is self evaluate. So a good part of our work is online, so the parents send video tapes, but it’s not just to say “How did I do?” They send this video footage and a self evaluation saying the objectives we’ve been working on, “I think I’m ok with this. I think I’ve covered it ,and so I think I’m ready to move on.” Or, “This is a disaster! I’m quitting, Quick quick, we need to get together!” Of course we have regularly scheduled times together ,but we have a whole range of things in between. The importance of this self evaluation is that in RDI, our consultants are trained to work themselves out of a job not into a job.