In the latest episode of RDI’s podcast series, ASD: A New Perspective, Dr. Steven Gutstein continues his discussion on his newest research into the field of autism and the RDI Model of remediation. Listen in as he explains how the RDI Model is NOT a therapy model that focuses on teaching skills to children (and adults!) with autism–but instead is something better–and explains the research behind it.
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 encourage you that growth for your child is possible. I’m Kat Lee and indeed it is a new perspective. I visited with Dr. Gutstein and he reminded me that in RDI, we are not teaching skills.
Dr. Gutstein: This is a distinction we could make here between a compensation model, where you say this is all they can do, the stuff on the right, so we’ll just develop everything on right-hand side; so, you know, social skills, and academic skills. Everything based on what we already know that people with autism are gonna do, regardless of what we do…Regardless of their brain. This is the way their brain’s going to develop, so this is what we’re going to do. So, we overcompensate. If we work on a remediation model, we’re saying, “No. These are the areas that need to be developed.” And they’re not born … By the way, people with autism are not born out of default network. Because nobody has this at birth. These are integrated structures that evolve through experienced based … through having the right experiences. Thousands and thousands of experiences.
Dr. Gutstein: The brain starts to configure in different ways. They become more dynamic, more integrated, but it takes years. This is a years long process. The prefrontal cortex functions to move between those different networks to integrate them at times, to segregate them at times. We’re just doing lower level, higher level things. And again, that takes years and years and years to do. So, the key point here is that there’s no reason to think you couldn’t do a remediation. Just because people aren’t doing it.
Dr. Gutstein: But, there’s been no attempt to do remediation. And even when people acknowledge these deficit areas they try to teach them their street skills. Like, you would teach somebody on using the right hand side. So, you function on semantic memory, deducted reasoning, concept learning, all these things, information, procedural accumulation. That’s what they’re teaching these things. But you can’t teach these at skills, because they’re not skills. They’re complex neuro network integration. That takes years to do. And that’s the key, it’s that you’re not teaching skills, you’re remediating, or you’re providing the means for these people for their brains to develop in a more neuro typical manner. To have access to this entire experience management network, which otherwise, they’re going to be cut off from.
Dr. Gutstein: And I think that gives you a whole different issue. That we’re not teaching skills. Right? It’s not about skills. It’s about the ability of the brain to function in a way that’s going to allow you to be successful in life. And then if we don’t remediate early, as early as we can obviously, we assumed the brain has elasticity, then we see what we see. By the time that we become teenagers and adults, we see this incredible over compensation where “high functioning” people may do well academically, because strangely enough, academics in our day and age only can be done with stuff on the right hand side. I don’t know if it’s task control. Task management network.
Dr. Gutstein: But fail to develop at all, on that left hand side, the default network standing against network experience control area of the prefrontal cortex, each of those areas specifically don’t develop. Then they don’t develop any integration with one another. And so, neurologically then that person’s going to be cut off from all these different areas of function. Time travel, global processing, just functioning, empathy, motion processing, mental state awareness, contextual shifting, intrinsic motivation, which has to do with your experiencing. All of these things fail to develop.
Dr. Gutstein: And the research bears that out. Those are critical impairments that we see in high functioning people with Autism. They’re universal. And what’s interesting is they’re universal on both levels. The research demonstrates that they’re universal on both the neurological level and on a mental function level. And of course, the other interesting thing for me, is that of those that have been studied through … How do we develop these things? The mind body relationship has been the primary means for development.
Dr. Gutstein: Now, some of these things, no one studied out how to mention learning these things. So, we don’t have one to one correspondence. But we talk about mental time travel, we talk about mental state awareness, self reflection. We talk about empathy, emotion processing, even contextual shifting. We have very good research that shows how that is a product of the mind body relationship. Okay. So, the areas we don’t have it have just never been studied. But, there’s a clear issue here, which is that this is a serious neurological problem. And to me, this explains what it’s about. That if you look at this neurologically, right? What we see is that to be able to function in the real world you have to have both. You have to the integration. What I call the experience control area. Not what I call it. Researchers are calling it.
Dr. Gutstein: And the task control area. They have to be able to work together. We have to be able to separate them at times when you’re being more creative. When we’re being just sort of thinking about yourself or the case of just how you’re feeling. You know? At times, you do separate them and you’re not always involved on tasks. You’re playful sometimes, you’re what we call in flow sometimes. But other times, when you’re working on planning and preparing and learning from your experience and adapting, if you don’t have the ability to integrate those two areas, you know, using procedures at times and rules at times and using information that you’ve accumulated, but also using the products of your experience in a managed way, then you’re going to fail.
Dr. Gutstein: And what interesting about the research is it demonstrates that there are two things that are really interesting. One is that they show that the neuroscientists have shown that as tasks become more complex and more dynamic…that the brain attempts to activate both of those areas. That’s where you’ll see the integration. But often, in simple tasks, they’re, what we call, anti-correlated. In other words, when task control areas are activated, usually the experience control areas deactivate. So, for simple kinds of simple tasks. Tying your shoes, whatever, whatever. Filling out forms, right? Because it gets in the way, right?
Dr. Gutstein: Similarly, if you just sort of imagining things in your head, daydreaming, if you’re just wondering about things in your mind, sort of inside your head doing stuff without a goal or being playful the task areas shut off. Deactivates. The experience management area network becomes activated, dominates. Only when both are needed do you see them. The brain dead lines up trying attempting to integrate them. So, that’s what we see not happening in people with Autism. And that’s a pretty universal thing to undervalue that ability. And that’s what dynamic intelligence is. That’s a neuro equivalent of intelligence. Is the ability of a dynamic basis to be able to, first of all, have each of these areas developing, right? Because each of these are networks. They’re not little structures in the brain. The default network is made up of a bunch of different parts of the brain as is the [inaudible 00:08:19] network, the dorsal attention network. One I didn’t put it on the right hand side of a lot great specialized processing areas.
Dr. Gutstein: You know, if you want to put in so much in the graphic. And to be able to have that access, to be able to develop that integration, and also be able to move from more integrated to more segregated states … In other words, different brain states. There’s a number of brain states and people who don’t have a unique intelligence have a larger number of brain states that they can move between and shift between, and can do that dynamically based on the needs at that moment. Right? They can shift between those different brain states.
Dr. Gutstein: That’s what modern neuroscience is telling us. And then it makes autism very clear. High function autism, because if you have high functioning autism means that you’re not developing experience management network. Right? And we see that neurally, very clearly from the Autism neuro research and we see it from the psychological research. Is these are the products. If you look at the experience management you can see not all of them, it’s not complete, but look at the different products of that experience management network, right?
Dr. Gutstein: And I can only imagine trying to make it in the world without these things. You know? It’s unbelievable. But, what’s underneath that is not that these are not skills, these are products of that neuro development. Yes, they’re skills, too. But, you can’t do them without having those years of gradually developing the brain in this manner. So, anybody who thinks you got to teach these bunch of skills is out of their mind. You can’t teach. You can fake it. You can teach pseudo empathy. You can teach pseudo emotion processing. You can use that right hand side and that’s what people are trying to do to sort of overcompensate and to teach something that on this very surface looks like it.
Dr. Gutstein: But, the neuro function isn’t there. So, it can’t happen. You can have the bright right. It can’t happen without the neurology of it. You can have it without the brain being able to do it. So, it breaks down any kind of real world environment. So, to me, that’s the basis of what we’re trying to do.