We are proud to announce Carmen Augustin as our featured consultant. Her genuine compassion, creative insight and outstanding knowledge of the RDI program, make her an invaluable member of our family.
How long have you been a consultant?
If I tell you that I submitted all my supervision materials via the United States Postal Service on VHS tapes and with hand written notes, does that give you an idea?
I completed my training in June, 2003
What has your experience been like as a consultant?
Being a consultant has been a powerful experience. Everyday I get to work with families that are insightful and giving and experts in the field of autism. Everyday I learn and everyday that learning gets shared and passed on.
There is a ‘we’ that gets formed very quickly with RDI® parents that makes you realize you have a tool in RDI® that is being used in a family system that makes anything possible. I have stood by and watched the smallest changes create the biggest hopes for the future. Tasting a new food, listening to new music, riding a bike, wearing new clothes, brushing hair, going to camp, first words, going to college, first girlfriends, first broken hearts, drivers licenses, first jobs. Watching first firsts and then realizing you are watching 100’s of firsts. That is a gift every day.
What made you decide to become a consultant?
Prior to becoming a RDI® Consultant, I had been working for almost 20 years with children and teens with autism doing play based therapy in client’s homes and in the clinic. I knew that everything that is important in engagement happens from the neck up, but I didn’t have a road map.
What I did have was persistence, creativity and the ability to set anything to a song and make a game of almost anything. The years of being a girl scout leader helped enormously! Having said all that, I was beginning to realize that I was missing something. My clients were certainly making progress, becoming more flexible, less anxious, but they weren’t building the confidence and competence to engage in relationships outside of their therapies or familiar adults.
The moment is this; A young man who I had worked with for many years, a good self advocate, friendly, learned to manage his autism, weaned himself off of a para-professional in school. He came into a session and was crying. I asked why, he said. “I don’t have a best friend.” He had friendly relationships, but he hadn’t crossed over, our work had never fully prepared him for the work of relationships, the thinking that was required to make and keep a friend. That was my final “Oh oh” moment. There were others before, but this sparked a need to explore and consider deepening my professional practice. The stars aligned and a colleague suggested I read Solving the Relationship Puzzle by Dr. Gutstein and then suggested I attend RDI® Professional Training . I remember leaving the first training and thanking Dr. Gutstein for giving me a new pair of glasses. I’ve been wearing them ever since.
Do you see autism therapies changing in the following years? If so, how?
It is my hope that all therapies will include parents as a central component of their child’s therapy.
I am beginning to see greater understanding by professionals of the need to address core areas of need for individuals with Autism. I hope this will lead to more RDI® awareness, more consultants and more integration of RDI® in schools and programs that support individuals with autism.
Tell us about one of your fondest memories.
Just recently in a family session, a child was given the clue of Buddy to find a hidden object. (The Buddy in this case referred to the Buddy Walkers in the corner of the room.) He thought a moment and then sat next to me.
Do you have any advice for people interested in working as a consultant?
If you are interested in empowering parents to make a difference in the lives of their children, teens and adults with Autism and in turn, making a difference in yourself, then do it. It is hard rewarding work. I am a more effective therapist, a better mom, a better oma (grandma) and a better friend because of my RDI® journey.
What is the one thing that should be taught in school that isn’t already?
As a Social Worker I am surprised to learn how little is being taught about ASD at the graduate level. It is my hope that each profession will look at how they can better prepare their students for working with families and individuals impacted by ASD and other Developmental Disorders.
What is your favorite animal and why is it cats?
It isn’t cats, I like cats, but my favorite animal is otters…they work playfully. I like to think I do too
Carmen Augustin, M.S.W., L.C.S.W.and RDI® Program Certified Consultant, has over 30 years experience working with children, teens, and adults with ASD and their families. She is a partner in Sweeney, Augustin, and Associates, a private practice located in Skokie, Illinois providing comprehensive services to children with special needs and their families.
You can read more about services on the website. Sweeneyaugustin.com
You can contact her directly at firstname.lastname@example.org or 847-583-9492 ext. 1.