The following was shared by RDI mom, Bernadette Z. who works with consultant, Paulette Cormier
I first met our RDI consultant when I was feeling somewhat lost with how to help my 16-year-old son with ASD who, for all intents and purposes, was non-verbal. I met Paulette at a day conference for special needs. When I started to tell her my son’s story, I remember bursting into tears and asking, “Is there any hope for my son? Everyone says a child needs to start a therapy when he is very young.” I remember her saying, “It is never too late.” And so began our journey with RDI. Since then, our son has made incredible progress that has improved the quality of not only our family but, most importantly, it has improved the quality of our son’s life.
The gains in his progress would fill many pages so I will highlight the main ones.
Before we started RDI, we watched the RDI DVD. We were “blown away” by the videos Dr. Gutstein shared of real kids and parents – simple but very real stories of progress. One particular video showed a boy throwing balls. When he “referenced” his father, I was astounded by that “look” because it was something our son didn’t do. He definitely looked at us and into our eyes with love, but this “look” was different. While our son looked at us to get our attention, this boy was searching for guidance from his parent and I remember feeling sad that our son did not do that. We wondered if our son was capable of learning this at such a late age?
Within a few months, he did begin to reference us – not all the time but the ability began to grow. Now we expect it most of the time and it is wonderful to watch in person and on video. In the past six months we have noticed our son really taking long looks at our faces and those of others – he’s so much more aware and able to learn from the world. Mind you, it can sometimes be embarrassing when the person being gazed does not know our family, like someone on an elevator!
My husband and I love this term and using this technique has allowed our son the opportunity to learn how to think for himself. The idea of videotaping our activities is great! So often I see things on the video that I would have otherwise missed. You can see his cute face just trying to sort things out.
When we bring our son to school in the morning, he loves to watch the cars go by, so much so it takes him 5 to 10 minutes to get in the door! His teacher also tells us that he does the same on their daily walks. He notices everything like a person jogging by or branches of a tree moving in the wind. He really observes what other people are doing and tries to imitate them: a man bending down to test the coldness of the water in the lake, kids walking into the lake and letting the waves hit their bodies, a girl bobbing up and down in the water at the community pool while he was on land.
There have been countless situations where our son paused, got his “wheels” in his head going, and then took action. In one instance, a support worker was taking a bagel out of the toaster for our son but the worker paused because he did not know what our son liked on his bagel. Our son was watching this pause, so he got out the butter knife and placed it on the plate and got out the margarine from the fridge and placed it on the counter.
In the past, when we had family over for a big meal like Christmas, he would go to another room for the duration of the visit. Within the past year, he’s begun to stay in the living room area and sit down to eat most of his meal with the family. He listens and enjoys it when a family member shows him how to play with a new toy for example. He really seems to want to be “part of the action”.
We made lasagna for the first time together a few months ago. Our RDI consultant noted how calm and patient our son was as it was a lengthy process because I had never made it before. Our son would patiently wait to do his part of such things like the laying of the noodles for each layer.
Just a few months ago our son really surprised us as we walked from our car to the door in our underground garage. As we were starting to go in the door, he gently grabbed Dad’s left shoulder. My husband and I just stood there in a state of disbelief that our son had touched his Dad’s shoulder for the very first time! He then took the empty chip bag out of Dad’s hand and then he backed up a bit to put the bag in the big garbage can!We were both astounded that our son touched and grabbed Dad’s shoulder (since he never touches his Dad), did it so gently, and had the motor planning to back up to put it in the garbage can.
Perhaps our son’s hormones have settled down a bit and this has helped, but he has really matured since we started our RDI program. He is able to self-regulate so much better now. You can see him “sorting through” his emotions when he gets upset and often is able to “keep it together” when in the past he would have had a huge meltdown. Often he will get frustrated about something, pause, and then instead of getting extremely upset, run into his room, slam the door and slowly calm himself. He still does have “episodes” but the difference is that now he’ll indicate that he needs deep massage – a strategy that helps him from getting increasingly upset.
Since we have started RDI, the staff at our son’s school has commented on how much calmer he is and better able to regulate his emotions. They also see that our son is interacting more with both students and staff.
One of our main reasons for trying RDI was to give our son “more words.” What we’ve learned from RDI is that it’s not the “words” that are most important (though I will not object to more language!), but the ability to communicate! I have had dozens of dreams where my son is sitting and talking with me about all kinds of things. I am always so hopeful when I wake up that one day, my son will be able to tell me his dreams.
My husband and I are both so grateful for the improved dynamic of our family. Things are not only calmer but more enjoyable too! We are convinced that a key component of that improvement is RDI. My husband and I both look to our son’s future with great hope as we continue with him on his RDI journey.
This family works with RDI certified consultant, Paulette Cormier, B.A., B. Ed. Paulette’s journey with autism began when her son was diagnosed with the disorder at the age of three. After researching and trying many different treatments and programs, she was overjoyed to learn about Relationship Development Intervention (RDI®), a program that not only addressed her son’s core issues, but trained her in the critical role of guiding her son’s remediation. She saw amazing results, became a Certified RDI Program Consultant, and started Rainbow Connections Autism Consulting in 2006.