In this episode of Autism: A New Perspective, Dr. Rachelle Sheely and Dr. Sarah Wayland discuss a question many parents have: What do you do when your teen ages out of RDI®?
Is RDI® for Life?
RDI® can help all families, and your child can benefit from starting RDI® at any age, but the program is designed to promote growth, learning, development, and the ability to have relationships and perform necessary life skills, and, eventually, independence in adulthood. Your child can benefit from RDI® into their teen years and into young adulthood, if they are not yet ready for adulthood.
Is Your Child Ready for Adulthood?
Your teen does not have to ‘age out’ of the RDI® program. If your child is not ready for adulthood, you can continue the program. How do you know if they are ready for adulthood? Ask yourself:
- How are they with problem-solving and self-awareness?
- How are they with ongoing growth and development and uncertainty management?
- How about flexibility, teamwork, relationship building, analysis and appraisal, perspective, creativity, and innovation?
These are the things that you need to have in your toolbox in order to have relationships, and we want our children to have those fulfilling, reciprocal relationships in life.
RDI® is Not Age-Limited
Even if your child is a teen or a young adult, RDI® can work for your family, but it’s important, when you’re just starting anything, to know where you are. Our assessment will help you to figure out your child’s unique strengths and challenges, and how RDI® can help you to guide them to independence.
RDI® can help your child, you, and your entire family to lead more growth-seeking lives.
Kat Lee: Welcome back to Autism: A New Perspective, the podcast show where we help you understand what is going on in the mind of your child and we always encourage you that growth for your child is possible. I’m Kat Lee, and in this special podcast we have not only Dr. Rachelle Sheely, but also Dr. Sarah Wayland, herself an RDI® consultant and parent, and we all visit about RDI and entering adulthood for our children. Let’s listen in.
Kat Lee: I’m so happy to have, of course, Dr. Sheely with us for our regular podcast but also Dr. Sarah Wayland. Sarah thank you for joining us for this special podcast. We are so happy to have you, really.
Dr. Sarah Wayland: Well, I’m psyched to be here, so thank you.
Kat Lee: Well, and I know the topic is really dear to your heart, as it is to mine, as it is to Dr. Sheely’s, which is RDI and adults. And we’re gonna talk about two areas. One is, if you have a child who is moving into adulthood and you’re in an RDI program what that can mean to you, which both Sarah and I have gone through. And then if you are an adult or you have an adult in your life who wants to be or is considering RDI, can that even happen? Is there an age out of that? And so, why don’t we start with those parents who have children moving into their teen years and on into adulthood in RDI? And Dr. Sheely, for me what just is always in my head is that you’re never too late for RDI and RDI is good for everyone, so in that I think RDI is good for life in its way.
Dr. Rachelle Sheely: I think it is, and I’m always excited with parents when they see their children ready to move into that area of independence and when I see parents and their children getting ready to do that, there are some things that I like to have in my checklist, which is like, how close are we to being independent? And here we go. And I know that you all know this list of things that I keep going back to. One is that, how are they with problem-solving, flexibility, team work, relationship building, analysis and appraisal, perspective, taking self-awareness, ongoing growth and development, uncertainty management, creativity and innovation? And I bring that up because I feel that that list, while I have the list here, we’re thinking about employment, those are the things that you need to have in your tool box in order to have relationships. And I feel like as we begin to approach high school and college, if we can take a look at that list and ask, “Is there an area of relative weakness? Is there a vulnerability here?” then we can use it kind of as a guide post for what we need to work on before we’re ready to send our… And my children is in their 40s so I can say child. So before we send our children out.
Kat Lee: I remember Dr. Gutstein saying, several years ago, and even more recently than that, that in RDI we focus on self and others but self to self is just as important, if not more important, because we have to have that relationship with ourself in order to then have with others. And I think one of the things about moving into adulthood is your independence and your feeling of competence affects your self to self.
Dr. Sarah Wayland: I think that’s really important because I think sometimes kids are getting messages in school that they are not competent or able to handle increasing complexity or increasingly dynamic situations, but it just becomes really obvious as they get older how important that ability to navigate a dynamic landscape really is. And I really think that’s one place where RDI can be so helpful to these older kids and I was teaching these skills in the context of doing chores around the house telling my kids, “If you wanna live independently like you’re gonna need to know how to do the laundry and you’re gonna need to know how to cook dinner.” So I was telling them that I was teaching them those skills so that they could be independent, but of course, I was weaving in all those RDI things to those teaching opportunities, and you know, that got them fully engaged ’cause they know I think that they can master those skills and figure it out and they know I’m doing it in service of their goals which are to live independently.
Dr. Rachelle Sheely: You know, I’m interested in hearing from both of you about something that I’ve been running into lately, and that is that as this relationship with self matures there is a desire for individuation, and that individuation from parents and I think it could be very tricky for any parent to navigate that, but I feel that there has often been some overcompensation going on for persons who are on the spectrum and I’m wondering how the two of you navigated that because I think a lot of parents aren’t ready for that and then all of a sudden, “I wanna be on my own, I wanna travel around the world by myself, and what we face anyway, we’re seeing now with the kids that we work with.
Dr. Sarah Wayland: Oh, yeah.
Kat Lee: Yeah. I think one of the things that really helps me in RDI with that is that when I very first learned about it so many years ago, you and Dr. Gutstein talked a lot about how this is not just a brief program, it’s a process. And as you move forward, you may be reviewing that process because your child is moving forward and your child is moving into different developmental stages. And you may be reviewing, so to speak, old goals because they’re at a different place now. And if you will stay in that mindset, that’s not bad, that’s actually good because they’re moving forward, but you may need to go back and review them now where they are now in their life. That’s very helpful when it comes to the kind of decision-making for parents that you’re talking about, Dr. Sheely, because then it doesn’t feel so foreign. We can access with great feeling of… I’m not gonna lie, I don’t always feel competent at all, [laughter], but I do have that background that I wanna give parents as well, that they can use that for the decision-making even into these more different challenging obstacles that you may come up, again, if you look at them that way, they’re not an obstacle, they’re just an outgrowth of growth. Either way, you’ve got that. You’ve got that. So it’s why I believe so much in RDI is because it, as one of my parents says, She can’t unlearn what she knows. [laughter]
Dr. Rachelle Sheely: Yeah.
Kat Lee: And that empowers her permanently.
Dr. Sarah Wayland: I think that’s such a good point Kat, and one of the things you’re both addressing here, Rachelle, I’m seeing the same thing, for sure in my clients. And I think what’s happened to parents is that their kids are in situations that are not a just right challenge for them. Over and over they’re put in these situations where it’s not a just right challenge and the parents are told that their kid needs to do A, B or C, and if they can’t do A, B or C, they’re gonna fail. The parents think, “Oh my goodness, if they fail, that’s gonna cause problems for them down the road.” So then they try to help their child. And I do think there’s overcompensation going on for sure. And I’m guilty as charged. I mean, I totally did that because I was scared. And it’s very difficult to figure out how to make some just right challenges in school where you have zero control as a parent, right? And so if the teacher gets that idea, and frankly teachers are trying their best, but they’ve got 30 kids in their classroom. They’re trying to make it just right challenge for, it’s not easy for them. And so I think our kids kind of give up and if we are compensating for them, we’re sending the message to them that we think they’re incompetent and that they cannot do it.
Dr. Sarah Wayland: And so I think it’s so important to, even if it’s hard to let your child… This is where we spotlight the problem and not the solution, help them brainstorm through it, but don’t solve the problem for them. They have to solve the problem. And I think that a lot of times there’s so much focus on product and not process that it can be a real problem. And I think the mind shift for RDI is to empower our kids to make their own decisions, figure out what’s working, what’s not working, and figure out how to get through it by themselves. But we have to show them that we actually believe they can do that.
Kat Lee: For me, the way you’re talking about that, Sarah, it just shows how you have all that underlying process way of thinking, but I love to say ’cause I don’t like to be a hypocrite, I love a nice product.
Dr. Sarah Wayland: Of course. [laughter] We all do.
Kat Lee: That feels really good. And so, for me, the whole process idea, even though I’ve seen it, I’ve lived it, I know it’s right, it is so hard sometimes not to be more product based. Then you lay on top of that, that your adult or to be adult child is supposed to be doing these things. But one of the things that I love about the vision you have Dr. Sheely, that you have been caring to fruition is that RDI is worldwide. And so when we talk about moving into adulthood, we’re talking about children all over the world moving into adulthood and adulthood and independence means different things in different countries, not just in our own backyard. So sometimes I think it’s the voices in our immediate sphere that are really talking to us, that the world is not expecting that our children have to drive right now or something of that nature, but that expectation has been put on us where we are. So I just think we wanna watch out for that. What do you think Dr. Sheely?
Dr. Rachelle Sheely: Yeah, I think we do. But as you were talking, Kat, and I was thinking about how this individuation, I mean, I’m thinking about individuation now because I love what both of you said, [laughter] so I’m still thinking about it, but it’s parents who individuate too. Parents have spent almost a good part of their child’s life developing that guiding relationship and that guiding relationship looks different for an 18-year-old when you compare it to a 4-year-old or a 22-year-old or a 30-year-old. So I think that as parents, we continue to evolve our relationship with our children as they grow older. Now, my children are older than yours and I’ve had to do that and it’s really hard because we’ve lived lives where we’ve seen mistakes we wish we hadn’t made, and if we could keep them from making those mistakes, we wanna do that.
Kat Lee: I think one of the neat things about RDI is, we lay that foundation with the parents first then they lay it with their children and then as they move forward they’re being able to study their own decision-making as parents, the children are learning to study their own decision-making. And it’s that beautiful parallel process that you always talk about, Dr Sheely, but I do remind parents when their children become teenagers and then when they become young adults, so forth, that this is what we wanted, we wanted a mindful decision maker who had opinions.
Dr. Rachelle Sheely: Right.
Kat Lee: And sometimes that I was like, Oh yeah, that is what… But it’s really a struggle, but that is part of parenting, right, Sarah?
Dr. Sarah Wayland: Absolutely. And that, I’m always reminding parents like, this is developmentally what you wanna be seeing, right? So just as an example, one of my kids has started lying to me, [laughter] which I do not love, but I’m kind of psyched that he has figured out, he’s got enough understanding of my perspective that if he tells me what actually happened, I might be annoyed with him. And so he’s trying to figure out how to not have me be annoyed with him. I do not love that he’s not telling me the truth. But at the same time, I appreciate the fact that he’s now at a phase where he is thinking about those kind of, what the consequences might be, right? He’s thinking through that and it’s developmentally absolutely the right thing for him to be doing. And now I have to teach him about the value of not lying to people. But that’s something I can do as a guide.
Dr. Rachelle Sheely: Yeah, Sarah, I think it also speaks to something else that’s equally important and that is that he cares about how you feel about him.
Dr. Sarah Wayland: Absolutely.
Dr. Rachelle Sheely: How you think about him. So he doesn’t wanna jeopardize that.
Dr. Sarah Wayland: Correct.
Dr. Rachelle Sheely: And so, you know, while we do what we’re taught, none of us, let’s just get it out there. None of us is saying lying is a good thing. [laughter] We also understand that developmentally it’s kind of a benchmark. And that it happens in when families are not dealing with autism and it happens when families are dealing with autism. And so we can sit back and say, Wow, we’re getting there, don’t lie to me again.
Kat Lee: Well, before we go, I do wanna speak to those parents or, and/or I should say, young adults or even older adults. I know Dr. Sheely you worked with older adults who have not been involved with RDI in the past because I don’t want to leave any of them out who might be interested that I remember way back when I first was in training with you, and talking about RDI is not age limited. Could you speak a moment to that? Because we definitely may have folks who are listening who are like, Well, I’m hearing all this about if you laid this foundation. What about if we’re just starting?
Dr. Rachelle Sheely: I think, it’s always important when you’re just starting anything that you know where you are. And I feel that our assessment actually does kind of show where people are, even if we’re talking about young adults or adults.
Dr. Sarah Wayland: Yeah. And the other thing is that the skills you’re learning, like how to navigate a dynamic environment, I mean, that’s life, right? And you can teach. I need to know those skills. So, I think we can all benefit from learning to think about the world in that way and how to handle the inevitable barriers that are thrown in our way. And I think that’s beneficial to anybody at any age.
Dr. Rachelle Sheely: I think also, Sarah, to have a sense that who you are is like, great, who you are is good. We like you the way you are. And we’re also saying, what is it you would like to be able to do better? What would you like to be able to do differently? Where do you see yourself in five years? Where do you see yourself in 10 years? And then kind of go back to the drawing board and think about how we’re going to mute, move forward. The one thing that I have never done, I need to tell you is, if I have someone I’m speaking with who is married, I do not ask the person’s spouse to be the guide. There may be someone in their life that they would like to use as a guide or as a mentor. And we’ve all benefited from mentors, but I think we have to be very careful about the marital relationship and pushing it into something that was not intended to do.
Dr. Sarah Wayland: Yeah.
Kat Lee: So I think our message is, it’s never too late. I don’t even like to say it that way. There’s not an age limit on RDI. And as I always like to say, RDI has helped me so much, I think, live a more growth seeking life than I would’ve otherwise done. I also credit my son for that. And so we want that for others no matter what your literal age is, right?
Dr. Sarah Wayland: Yeah.
Dr. Rachelle Sheely: Yeah. Chronology doesn’t matter.
Kat Lee: And thank you for joining us for Autism: A New Perspective, the podcast show where we help you understand what is going on in the mind of your child. And we always encourage you that growth for your child is possible. I’m Kat Lee. See you next time.