This week in RDI’s podcast series ASD, A New Perspective, Dr. Rachelle Sheely gives the second part of her talk about how we MUST have great expectations for our children with autism–because without expectations of growth, nothing will ever change.

Full Transcript

Dr. Rachelle Sheely: When we’re talking about building competent children, and these are children who are going to take on their own learning, and who are going to be successful adults, when we talk about that, we talk about these small steps, but one of the small steps we talk about is something we refer to as a just noticeable difference. That just noticeable difference is recognizable. I’ve gone from throwing you a blue ball to throwing you a red ball, or a big ball, or a little ball, or bouncing it, or turning around and throwing it behind my back, but it’s a just noticeable difference. You notice it, but it’s not a big deal, and so if you’re on the spectrum, the thought that goes through your mind is, this is different, but I can do it. Competence is built off of a series of these just noticeable differences that are then punctuated with the challenge, and the challenge is something that is not just noticeable difference, but something that challenges you to use your mind, because you don’t know what to do.

It’s built on this backlog of competence, so you are willing to take a minute, and think about it, and you actually see children doing this. They’re surprised, and there’s this kind of pregnant pause. They wait, and you can see the mind working. The thoughts are traveling, and then they do it, and that’s where the neurological growth occurs, and that’s what leads to independence as adults.

Kat: I was thinking about the relationship dance between parents and their children, and how much that has actually been looked at and studied, and how basically in RDI, we’re just bringing parents who have gone through this trauma into this understanding of what they would typically have done with a typically developing children, because typically developing children, we offer just noticeable differences almost as a flow of our relationship with them, and as I watch my daughter with her now baby, who’s six months old, I see her just, put in just noticeable differences, with not seeming to be mindful of it.

Dr. Rachelle Sheely: Yeah. It’s interesting, isn’t it, how with RDI, I think a difference being from other therapies, is that RDI says, “Yes, you can do this. You can do this,” and we’re gonna show you a different road map for getting there, but you can do it. Rather than saying, “Turn your child over to me, because I know how to do it,” and to be honest, Catherine, you and I have worked with so many children at this point that it does become second nature to figure out where they are, and what to do next, but what’s the point of that? The point of it is, can the parents feel what we feel, and so giving parents that opportunity to have that sense of their competence, too.

Kat: That is …

Dr. Rachelle Sheely: Really, really builds on the relationship.

Kat: That is beautifully said, and it seems to me to be the most beautiful expectation our parents should be able to have, that this is something they can have, and I a lot of times tell parents … Parents are just like, I don’t care what happens to myself. I want for my children, and I tell them, it’s okay to want this for you, too. It’s okay.

Dr. Rachelle Sheely: Yeah. It is okay. I was also thinking about how when we have … When we’re talking right now today, people who are watching this podcast might be thinking, oh, but my child is older. My child just got the diagnosis and he’s 22 years old, and I am really loving my work right now with young adults who have been so confused about why the world doesn’t make sense to them, and to be able to establish a guiding relationship for them that gives them that same sense of competence, and moving forward towards something.

Kat: I think those are things that people can have a hope for, when you have the guiding relationship, and you come to have … You don’t have a crystal ball, and you don’t know the personality. I love talking about, for another time maybe, the individual personalities of our children coming out.

Dr. Rachelle Sheely: Yes. That’s right. We don’t have a cookie cutter program because children are not cut with cookies. They don’t look like a reindeer or Santa Clause. They have their own views, and their own opinions, and their own likes, and their own dislikes, their own talents.

Kat: I’ve had parents, again, say to me, “I love that you’re talking about my child in his or her personality.” I’m like, well, being human, they have one. They have their personality, and some of the things we’re seeing are about who they are as a self, they would have ever been. Autism is something that occurred, and it … All we want is for them to be the best them they can be with themselves, and with others. I think it’s a wonderful plan, and talk about great expectations.

Dr. Rachelle Sheely: Great expectations. I think that’s what we’ll call it.

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