Autism: A New Perspective
Autism: A New Perspective

Happy New Year and thanks for joining us! In this episode of Autism, A New Perspective, Dr. Gutstein and co-host Kat Lee talk about the KEY to RDI: your child and growth.

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Full Transcript

Kat Lee: 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 speaking of growth, today I visit with Dr. Gutstein about The Key to RDI: Your Child and Growth.

You know, too, I was thinking about this idea that it’s all about, I’ll just say me being the parent, you know doing something not with each other versus that personal agency for the child to develop that personal agency, which is huge.

Dr. Gutstein: Yeah, an interpersonal agency that you can communicate. Again, it’s not about control. I think that one of the things we have to make sure parents appreciate is how hard this is initially, because the child is not pulling their own weight yet. They’re not yet driven for growth, like typically developing children. I think the more we can help them to understand that, and understand that, we’re going to get there, that’s the first goal is to set up experiences where they will be joining us in that drive for growth.

Once they join us there in that primary motivation, things get so much easier, and that’s, I think, what we have to explain to people is that’s the first piece. Everything we’re doing is setting up experiences, building memories, building trust around that motivation, and really activating it. We’re not thinking that it’s not there and, again, there’s another part of this, the myth of autism is, you know, that they’re not like us and they don’t have the same motivations as us intrinsically.

And, I mean they don’t unless we activate them, nobody does. Our first goal is to recognize, “Wait a minute, that growth seeking is available, it’s potentially available to this child, they just have not been able to activate it because of the way of their vulnerabilities and not having the experiences that activate it.”

I think that developmental psychologists are very good, or scientists are very good at saying, “At birth children are not necessarily growth seeking,” they’re homeostasis seeking, and so are parents in trying to establish regularity, and comfort, and safety, right, and soothing, and that growth seeking gradually becomes activated. By the end of the year it’s fully in place, and it’s going wild.

It was in there, it was one of those things that as a human being we have built in, but it has to get activated, it’s not something you have at birth. Everything, that’s innate is not activated at birth, good and bad, which is why you don’t have diabetes at birth, even though it’s genetic. You know, type I diabetes. Type I diabetes is not something that the environment causes, Type II is. Type I, we used to call it juvenile diabetes, is something that you’re born with, it’s a genetic thing, but it gets triggered by something. That’s the negative side. Positive side is growth seeking. If you think about it challenge seeking, which is the extension, is not something that you see at birth, but it gets triggered. It’s available, so if the right experiences, the right combination of experiences active it.

I think that’s one of our cardinal premises in autism is that it’s not getting activated. The child’s vulnerabilities are preventing those experiences from happening for them to have those experiences. Their brain is not activating it. Our job, the first thing we’re working on when we’re teaching parents, is to focus on that and that alone. Everything else around what we’re teaching today is all about that.

I think we have to keep that in mind, don’t we? That’s what I’m saying is that anything that’s in those objectives now that seems to be superfluous to that we should put it someplace later, based on our experiences, because I don’t want to distract them from that. If only parents can keep focusing, “Okay, the only thing I’m thinking about now is activating that intrinsic motivation in their brain It’s there. It’s available if I create an accumulation of experiences as a tipping point, as a threshold where we know it will be activated. Once it’s activated life for that child, and myself, everything gets easier, because we’re working from the same goals, the same motivation, everything we’re doing together.” We’re on the same place. That’s important, I think. Don’t you think? From the very beginning, I think, right?

Kat Lee: Right. The very first thing we talk about. I mean, it has to be the thing, and everything else comes, but if it’s not there all these other things cannot come in.

Dr. Gutstein: Once it’s there we can do all kinds of amazing things. At that point they are an apprentice. That’s what our initial apprenticeship is, is that we’re both, when we’re together, our engagements we’re both implicitly, you don’t have to worry about it, we’re both focused on growth seeking, that child’s growth seeking. Once that’s there implicitly, that’s when parents say, “Oh, yeah, life is so much different now, so much better,” right?

Kat Lee: 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.


  1. Brenda Taylor-White

    This information is very informative and I would like my husband to get it , he’s email address is

  2. Rachelle Sheely

    Hi Brenda.
    I’m glad you found it helpful. As requested, the link is being forwarded to your husband. Let me know if you would like more information? FYI, we don’t share it prominently but there is a nice 3-month limited introductory subscription to information that is typically available to consultants and the families they are working with. Let me know if you want the link for it.
    Dr. Rachelle Sheely

  3. Hadeel Zahran

    We live in UK , how can we have a consultant to guide us ? And how can I get more information about RDIconnect ?

  4. Rachelle Sheely

    Dear Hadeel
    Thank you for your interest in RDI. We know that parents make the difference in a child’s ability to move forward. If you have access to Amazon, I suggest you purchase either the RDI book (hard cover) or the Kindle version. If you would kindly let me know where you are in the UK and if you are bi-lingual, I will help you find a consultant who is a good match for you. All the best. Dr. Sheely

  5. Faith Hamilton

    This is great stuff! Would like to learn more!

  6. Rachelle Sheely

    Hi Faith
    If you have questions about RDI or are interested in training or working with a consultant,please ask Jason to set up a zoom conference so we can visit.

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