In this week’s episode, Dr. Steven Gutstein answers a question about parents, the anxiety surrounding autism and the MindfulGuide relationship.
Kat Lee: Hello, and welcome back to ASD, A New Perspective, the podcast show where we help you understand what is going on in the mind of your child, and we do encourage you that growth for your child is possible.
I’m Kat Lee, and we continue our conversation with Dr. Gutstein concerning the heart of RDI, the guiding relationship, mindful guiding and mind guiding. As we continue our discussion, Dr. Gutstein answers my question concerning parents and anxiety and the mindful guide relationship. What is mindful guiding? Dr. Gutstein continues.
Well, what I love about it is what I always love about RDI, and it’s the same here. It’s as much about the guide readiness, as it is about the student because no matter how many times we’re told, we tend to lean on is the student ready, and it’s so much about the guide. And you were just speaking about anxiety about disengagement. As long as that’s still there, the guide isn’t ready.
Dr. Gutstein: That’s right, and it may be there for a very good reason. In other words, and I say, “It’s both of them,” it may be because that student will disengage, right? So it may be that it’s not even the relationship yet isn’t ready. It’s not yet telling you who it is, but it may be that there’s this missing piece.
Kat Lee: Right.
Dr. Gutstein: Their mutual investment in this relationship and energizing it and keeping it going. My two and a half year old grandson realizes that I’m still the source along with himself, of his growth, and he’s so invested in this growth, as he should be, that he wants to stick around with me. He’s also, again, beginning to see that he can do bit of that on his own, which is nice. But it’s not, in any way, interfering with the idea that this is primary.
He’s not really thrilled if I say I’m going to walk away and go upstairs for a while and said, “No, Pop. I stay, stay down here.” He doesn’t always want me now to be in the midst of everything, but he wants me to be there to help if he needs it, to provide the emotional, we call autonomy support while he is experimenting, and at times, to set limits as well when he gets tired, when he starts to get disorganized.
For instance, his play with trains can rapidly become wanting to crash and break them and destroy them, and I know that after a nap, he gets to go in the stroller whether he likes it or not, walk around the block till he falls asleep and get a nap because he’s getting very disorganized at that point.
Now, he’s not asking me to do that, but that’s one of the other reasons I stick around because he has that, like any two and a half year old or any child who’s just developing his mental capacity, they’re going to wear out.
You’re going to start to see a deterioration in this, and you’re going to have to set some limits as well in this process. Not something you can do all day long. It was like when we have a guiding relationship in the sense of challenging and [inaudible 00:03:03], all day long, and I’m saying, “Well, we couldn’t do that with anybody.”
Kat Lee: No.
Dr. Gutstein: It’s impossible. He wears out, and any child, no matter what age, who is just starting to develop this neural capacity, They’re not going to be as strong yet. They’re going to wear out. They’re going to get tired. You’re going to start to see a deterioration, a desire for more repetition.
By the way, nothing to do with autism, desire for less organized types of things, more controlling things. I see the same thing in my grandson, when it has nothing to do with autism. When I say autism in the sense that it has nothing to do with autism, but it has to do with the fact that he’s now, doesn’t have the mental resources to maintain that growth-oriented direction that, I talk about stability maintaining.
Well, you wind up below a threshold of mental resources. Whether that’s through fatigue, illness, other vulnerabilities, you can see that sometimes rapid movement from growth related, growth seeking to stability maintaining in a typically developing child as well throughout the course of the day, especially in a very young child like that, right?
So that’s another function of a guide. So again, we’re not talking about perfect all day long functioning, are we? But we are talking about sufficient experiences with a guide, as you say, is not having to feel anxious that the relationship is not primary for both of them, right? You know, and they know that that doesn’t have to be worry …
You don’t have to worry about that. When the child wakes up from that nap, it’s not that they’re suddenly not going to not want to hang out with you again or drift away. They’re still invested as much as you are. There’s a mutual investment in that process. That’s, I think, and that becomes something you don’t have to question.
That’s when you have a guiding relationship in place, and at that point when you want to shift, and you want to say, “Okay, how do we use this, now, right, for specific elements of growth for that child?” And that’s when we start to move into dynamic intelligence, right?
Kat Lee: I think what you said toward the beginning, too, was really critical, and I want to go back to that for a moment. It’s not just the guiding relationship, it’s the mindful guiding relationship, and that as consultants, we’re in that parallel process of remembering that, that that’s what’s important.
Dr. Gutstein: That’s right. It’s mindful, and again, that parent could be mindful of what I just said, which is, “I feel relaxed about our relationship. I’m not perfectly relaxed about raising this child. There’s tensions. There’s always stresses, but the one thing I don’t have to worry about is, is this relationship going to be there tomorrow, an hour from now, five minutes from now. Is this mutual investment in us something that is ephemeral, something that I have to continue to work towards,” then you’re still in the GR development phase, right?
Kat Lee: Right.
Dr. Gutstein: Once that both parties are, as you can clear, that both parties feel that mutual investment, I think then you move on. And the other point is when you start to move into mind guiding, which is what we refer to as using the relationship to develop the mental self-functioning of that child, you are going to have to, as a guide, learn some new things.
There’s a mind guiding training that you have to do. You start to re-emphasize certain things, right? So it’s not that your learning is over as a parent. It’s that your anxiety about that child is invested with you is over, and that’s a really big change, you know?
That’s that sigh of relief that, “I don’t have to chase this child anymore.” I may have to sometimes limit them and grab them when they’re doing things they shouldn’t be doing, but I don’t have to chase them to have a connection. They want it as much as me.
They want, and I’m not saying a connection, connection is a bad word, a guiding connection, a connection for learning, for growth because it’s not just that they’re attached. We’re not talking about attachment here. Well, that’s a prerequisite, obviously, earlier down the line. I don’t know about the child who wants to hug you and be held and stay close to you, right? Again, that’s fine, but that’s not sufficient.
We want a child who wants to be involved with you in co-experiences for their own development and their own growth, who is excited by being with you because they don’t know quite where they’re going to go next, what they’re going to be trying, what you’re going to be doing together, is a familiarity mixed with an uncertainty, a very pleasant uncertainty of, “And what are we going to do with this framework next? What are we going to do in this activity next?”
And they’re willing to experiment and try things and introduce things as well as you are. There’s that mutuality. So I hope that’s sufficient. I hope that people who are here today or people listening to this can use that as a criteria because it really allows you to, as a consultant, and as a guide to consider how to invest your own energy-
Kat Lee: Yeah, that’s right.
Dr. Gutstein: … and to be able to somewhat resist that tendency and very rapidly focus on the child’s developmental objectives as opposed to obstacles that might be getting in the way of the child’s functioning as an apprentice or foundations that need to be in place for that child, like motivational foundations, intrinsic motivation, by the way not skill foundation.
A motivational foundation for that child to desire that apprenticeship. Certainly, that is part of what you’re doing, right? But you’re not yet functioning. You’re not yet focusing on developing higher level conceptual knowledge. You’re not focusing on developing narrative, developing decision making, developing many, many different areas that we do start to focus on when we move into a dynamic intelligence framework.
Kat Lee: I do think that when you have one thing excitedly looming out there, DI program, you can try to rush that guiding relationship, and it just can’t be done. It takes time. It takes time for that mindful relationship.
Dr. Gutstein: Yeah. Right, and when you’re working with … That’s right. It does take time to develop that, and you can’t rush it, and you need to be focused on what you’re building. If you keep switching from skill to motivation to this to that, you’re not going to build anything.
Kat Lee: That’s right.
Dr. Gutstein: But, you know, I think there’s a clear experience from parents and professionals to consultants, that when it’s in place, we can feel it. And again, it’s not perfect. It’s not that that child is always … It’s not about compliance, now 100% compliance. That’s not the issue.
Kat Lee: Not at all.
Dr. Gutstein: The issue is investment in maintaining this relationship, engaging because of growth, because we want to see what’s going to happen next because we know that this is the place where things happen that are to my benefit if I’m the child. So we want to keep it going. We don’t want to lose it. We want to maintain. We’re as invested in it as our guides are, right? So that, I think, is a critical piece.
Kat Lee: Well, and there’s such a power when parents realize that they have the influence on their child’s development, that that’s what’s going to happen, but the other power comes, as you see with your two year old, when the children start realizing they have an influence. But that’s what you want.
Dr. Gutstein: That’s right, and it’s not always pleasant. Also, the other pleasure comes in when you see them trying to autonomously communicate, when they’re trying to self narrate events that are happening, when you see them in the car seat behind you, and they’re starting to figure out what you’ve been doing and use their own language to do that …
When you see them trying to do tasks, even if they’re tasks that are too hard for them and you have to back them up a little bit, when you see them moving towards that confidence and wanting to become more competent on their own as much as when they are with you, and they are available for your guidance. It’s more directly.
Those all become the things that are motivating for you. But again, that’s not achievable when the primary anxiety is them disconnecting and walking away, them losing, them not valuing this relationship. That becomes the predominant thing, and it’s not going to change.
As long as that’s the feeling in this relationship, as long as that’s the predominant feeling, then you can’t really work on growth. You can’t get anything else done. That has to be addressed primarily. It’s not that we live with that, and I think that’s one of the major distinctions between RDI and other modalities is that some of the other modalities assume that that’s just going to be there, so they have to use a lot of external reinforcers or a lot of other odd things to do.
But we assume that that is going to be the number one thing that we’re going to move past. We are going to have that motivation in place. We are going to develop that intrinsic powerful desire for growth through the relationship, and that is going to be our prerequisite for moving on.
Kat Lee: And thanks for joining us for ASD: 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.