Dr. Steven Gutstein dives into his newest research in this week’s episode of ASD, A New Perspective. In this short, but powerful episode, the founder of the RDI program explains how the development of child with autism and a typically developing child are different, and, most importantly, that there is hope with RDI!
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. We do encourage you that growth for your child is possible. This week, I visited with Dr. Gutstein about RDI and why it is so very hopeful for parents.
Dr. Gutstein: If you’re a parent of a typically developed infant, toddler, young child, what do you just take for granted? What do you never have to think about so you can be a Mind Guide? And I just made this list of things. Be highly motivated that they’re going to initiate their own growth seeking actions. You expect them to respond positively when you try to enhance their actions. You expect them to use you as a reference point. You expect them to be motivated to share their experience. You expect them to be motivated to engage in observation, to respond positively to parents.
Dr. Gutstein: By 12 months, that’s the most interesting thing. They love the different weird sounds you might make or novel things. We expect them to respond enthusiastically to your invitations for joint activity. They want to be participating. You expect them to respond positively when you introduce small variations to familiar frameworks. That’s the height of it. That’s the spice of it. You expect them to very excited about giving them more responsibility. You expect them to respond in a contingent manner to the parents’ missed time, less sensitive actions, as well as their adjustments.
Dr. Gutstein: What I’m saying here is the expectation is that being mostly positive, infants will provide rapid, relatively clear responses when parent actions are ill-timed, under-stimulating, over-stimulating. What I want to make a point here is that if most of the feedback you’re getting is positive, then when you get negative feedback, it has meaning. If all the things you’re getting back are negative, then you can’t make any sense out it. And this is what happens in autism. You expect that you’re gonna get that. You can expect you’re gonna get that type of clear feedback. And that the child is accumulating large, positive memories associated with that engagement. And this is just a start … I have to work on it more but I think it’s a pivotal piece here for parents of children with autism and other parents because they don’t realize that this is what’s missing, that if they’re not able to obtain this from the child, there’s no way that they can be effective.
Dr. Gutstein: Autism is unique in that sense of being the only disorder that I can see where the parent is … You think that about all the developmental literature, other psychopathology. The parent is sufficiently adequate to do the job of growth-promoting, and the child is not contributing. Usually, in the literature, they cover abusive parents, drug addict parents, depressed parents, and there’s almost no literature on … There aren’t a lot of examples that would be there except for autism where you see a child who is not contributing and a parent who is more capable. You don’t see that in Down Syndrome. You don’t see that in anything. That’s what unique.
Kat Lee: It’s so interesting about your list. They sense something is missing, but they can’t put their finger on it. I find it comforting.
Dr. Gutstein: Yeah, the idea that wait a minute. This is just because of their vulnerabilities. You couldn’t provide this for them. If we can create environments and experiences, knowing their vulnerability, where they can activate growth-seeking, then we have to vie all of a sudden.
Kat Lee: I was actually thinking how you are never ready to settle and accept what so many others seem just to say, “Well, that’s just the way they are.”
Dr. Gutstein: Yeah, well. See, that’s what I’m trying to explain. It’s not the way they are. It’s because of what happened, that they missed out on something. Therefore, if they miss out on experience, it’s not the way you are. It’s that you missed a piece. Well, other people are arguing. “Well, it was a critical period, and so it’s too late.” Maybe they’re right, but we know that they’re wrong. We know that there’s no reason to think that.
Dr. Gutstein: It’s all these little arguments like they are that way, but they have no basis on anything. They’re not parsimonious. They’re not the most obvious things. The most obvious thing is first one to say what happens if we create customized experiences for them based on their vulnerabilities, based on teaching parents to be more effective than any typically developing child’s parents have to be and to focus on activating growth-seeking, not on getting the child to do something, help parents get out of that trap? What happens if we do that?
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. We encourage you that growth for your child is possible. I’m Kat Lee. See you next time!