In the RDI® Model, we speak a lot about Dynamic Intelligence as the key to helping our children with autism succeed in life, but what does that mean? In this new podcast series, “WHY Does My Child Need Dynamic Intelligence?”, Dr. Steven Gutstein begins by talking about the early stages of DI and what that means for your child with autism.
The term we use dynamic intelligence is based on what we learned about autism, what the researchers learned about autism. Which when you look at the abilities, you look at the deficits that keep people from autism from having a functioning life. Begin to work, live independently, have relationships. Their inabilities, their difficulties occur when they have to deal with dynamic environments, where there’s complexity, unpredictably, where there’s urgency, intensity, where they have to solve problems they don’t have experience with, they have new situations they have to deal with where they have to work with new people who they don’t know well and collaborate. There’s so many, where they have to make decisions where it’s unclear what the right choice is. Those are the things we deal with in our daily lives, we take those mental tools that we develop to do that , to work in what we call complex dynamic environment, to function in those environments, we take it for granted that we have those abilities. And what the research has shown definitively is that is, those very abilities are the things that prevent the people with ASD from being able to go on and function in a successful manner.
And those are not abilities that they are going to be taught in school, even in college. So you could graduate from college and still fail and we know that that’s true. There is a larger percentage of people with ASD now who are going on to higher education but there isn’t a larger percentage of ASD people who are able to get employment or live independently. So they get through school, even higher education and they still can’t function and in fact every year that their out of school , the odds of them being able to function, get a job, get worse for them. Don’t get better.
So what the research has really definitely shown is that there is a group of mental tools and they have to do with learning to make decisions, they have to do with learning to capture your own experience, learn from your own experience, save it and be able to use it in the future. They have to do with being able to create, to simulate things, what we call simulation, where you’re able to mentally play out different scenarios to prepare yourself and also to review. These abilities have to do with intuition, being able to be aware of your intuitive feelings and knowing to use them, which we rely on all during the day. They have to do with being able to monitor, being able to go through and be involved in something and at the same time have in the background, being able to check on whether you’re on task, to check on whether the person is understanding you, and you go back and forth between being involved out there and monitoring things.
They have to do with those types of things and we’ve isolated exactly what those tools are and we’ve been spending the last years developing methods of how to address those. How to help children from a very young age , it’s easier if we start from a very young age, to build the foundations, step by step and to provide parents with the tools to build those foundations and gradually develop the child’s dynamic intelligence in those area’s and we’ve had tremendous success so far and it’s just really has made a huge difference in people’s lives and we’ve actually started working with children as young as two in the dynamic intelligence, after we have worked on some of the more basic things first.
And we’ve worked with adults at different ages as well, teenagers, adults, we’ve really worked with a whole range of age groups and it just makes a huge difference in their lives and their able to function independently, they’re able to solve problems, they’re able to see themselves as competent. Their confidence dramatically increases, their interpersonal ability increases, I can’t tell you everything. They start trusting their own experiences, they start realizing that they can learn from encounters. That if things don’t work out they can learn from that and better the next time. They learn that they can prepare themselves mentally, they can plan differently . They learn that they can adapt and when things aren’t working out they don’t panic, they just see it as normal and they say well they know how to take a step back and figure out how to revise what their doing and how to adapt. They see that as just part of what’s supposed to be happening in the world.
They develop a enormous amount of personal knowledge , they become aware of their own needs, they become advocates for themselves because they start to know what they need in order to be successful and they start to take what parents do with them in the guiding sessions and use it and apply it out in the world and actually learn out in the world, so guiding just becomes one setting for their learning because they become empowered learners themselves, they learn about themselves and how to function in the world even when they’re away from the guiding sessions.
So I would tell any parent that if you really want to, the treatments that have been developed up to this point, don’t address what we know from years of research are the problems that prevent people with ASD from having success. They may sound good but when you read the research they don’t correlate with those things. And what we have done is we have very specifically created a match between the things that people with ASD are going to need to be successful and things we start to work on at a very young age to make sure that they are able to do those things and are able to have success, and don’t have to go through life handicapped. So that’s what I would say to someone starting is that this is the way treatment should be conducted. It should be based on what those people need to be successful.
Kat- You know I think one of the things that is so amazing is that this all starts so young in development of these little humans and I think parents might not, as you know I have a daughter that developed typically and a son that did not and so with her it was just kind of happening but you know I wasn’t thinking about what was happening and I think that’s part of the reason why it’s hard to realize all that you just talked about started in almost her beginning.
I look at my two year old grandson and he is already doing self communicating , self regulating, he’s planning, he’s considering goals, he’s starting to make decisions. He’s already starting to do these things at rudimentary level. He’s using his imagination effectively and so you know the research shows you have to start as early as possible in these things, these are not later things you do and when you miss out on them earlier , you too then, you have to do them later and it’s just more and more things and then you have to undo a lot of things as well.
And the other thing that research shows is how important parents are as guides, not necessarily directing or instructing all the time but guiding, making sure the child has a environment where they can grow, making sure they have the right materials and making sure that your involvement is at the right level but facilitate what their doing. Also building the motivation for them, one of the things that gets lost in the autism literature is the importance of intrinsic motivation. And there’s been such an emphasis on external motivation, reinforcers, etc. But what happens is you start to see that children who may have a bunch of little discreet skills but they don’t have any of the motivations to sustain lifelong learning, growth, development mastery.
And you know expanding their world and one of the things we have had to emphasis is the first thing we do is we build those intrinsic motivations. We build that desire that’s there , we make sure it gets activated, we make sure that all our children are engaging with us because their very motivated to do so. We don’t have to use rewards or reinforcers. We know how to develop those intrinsic desires for relatedness, for personal agency, be able to have more and more influence in your world. For seeking growth, for challenge and mastery, for autonomy. Those are the critical things that have to be developed along with abilities. And also habits too. The habit of stopping to reflect and learn from your experience. Habits of thinking before your acting, You know there’s a number of habits that have to be more dramatic (??)) along with motivation and along with mental abilities that we call mental tools and it starts early, you’re absolutely right.