RDI®: An Introduction to the Dynamic World

Autism: A New Perspective
Autism: A New Perspective
RDI®: An Introduction to the Dynamic World

Introducing Our Children to Our Dynamic World

In this episode of Autism: A New Perspective, Dr. Gutstein talks about the RDI® program as an introduction to the dynamic world for our children. Typically developing children will naturally develop the MindGuiding Relationship with their parents and understand and interact with the dynamic world we live in. Children who go on to be diagnosed with autism, however, need help developing Dynamic Intelligence and connecting to that world. That’s where RDI® comes in. With the help of an RDI® Certified Consultant, parents can learn to re-build the Guiding Relationship and to guide their children though our world.

As parents, we can use RDI® concepts to introduce our children to more variables and increasingly dynamic situations, when they are ready. Children with autism are more than capable of achieving growth, development, and quality of life, just like neurotypical children, but they must be given the chance – and they must be able to move at their own pace.

Dynamic Intelligence is the Outcome of RDI®

Autism can simply be described as the failure to be introduced to the dynamic world. This is not the fault of the child, the parents, or anyone else! When a child is born with certain neural vulnerabilities, they are unable to develop the Guiding Relationship with their parents, and they lose out on the opportunity to understand the dynamic world, and to develop Dynamic Intelligence. RDI® bridges this gap by providing parents with the knowledge and tools they need to introduce their child to the dynamic world, so they can continue to grow, learn, and develop throughout their life.


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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 encourage you that growth for your child is possible. I’m Kat Lee. And in this week’s special podcast, join Dr. Gutstein as he talks to us about RDI and introduction to the Dynamic World.

Dr. Steven Gutstein: Somewhere in infancy because of their own vulnerability. Children go on to have autism aren’t able to be successfully introduced to a dynamic environment by their parents. No fault of their parents. And because of that, they’re not able to enter into an experience guiding relationship with parents to learn about the Dynamic World. What we’re trying to do in RDI is to reintroduce children with autism, successfully reintroduce them to a Dynamic World. Because their initial introduction was unsuccessful. No fault of anyone. And the consequences of that are catastrophic if we’re not able to do that. And we’re trying to provide a successful reintroduction to the Dynamic World. And that’s the first step of RDI, is to prepare the family. Parents who’ve been through trauma, who are afraid of doing that, who sort of have been trained to create a static World for their child or whatever, and the child who has become avoidant of anything that smells of dynamic or perceives of dynamic functioning because they’re not able to perceive it as dynamic they perceive it as chaotic.

Dr. Steven Gutstein: But we successfully try to reintroduce them to that world. Once you do that, things are pretty dramatically different for families. If you’re a parent, you can’t help but be dynamic. And so that’s the other thing that I wanna emphasize is that, to do your job as a parent. Your face is moving 30 times a minute or whatever and your hands, your body, your voice, and your job is to introduce them to the Dynamic World. To the world of variation and novelty and such, you can’t really learn much without novelty, without continually looking at novelty. And so parents by nature are going to, if you’re engaging with your child, it’s a dynamic engagement. You can’t help but being dynamic unless you really become very strange or deviant in your actions. So naturally you’re gonna be dynamic, which means that if a child is having difficulty, an infant is having difficulty seeing invariance seeing the continuity amongst variation, they’re going to start to perceive you in a sort of approach avoidance way. They love you. They’re attached to you. But your parenting… Your natural parenting is going to seem chaotic to them, not dynamic because they can’t perceive the continuity. So they’re gonna be avoidant.

Dr. Steven Gutstein: And what we’re trying to do then is to reintroduce them in a very careful way to slowly increase variability. To slowly increase their sense of agency, confidence in dynamic environments. Once that’s achieved, then we’re gonna work on increasing the complexity, giving them the tools, motivations, the tools, the knowledge to be able to be competent and more and more complex, more dynamic situations in life. And that’s a years long process. But the initial step, which I think nicely differentiates RDI, if you want to explain it in one minute, is this idea of reintroducing. Successfully reintroducing children with autism to a Dynamic World. And I want you to just think about infants. Now, I make this point about infants typically developing infants. You all… I’m sure you’ve all spent time with an infant. If you haven’t, you better. Because here’s the deal. Infants are only in a Dynamic World. They don’t understand the static World at all.

Dr. Steven Gutstein: They don’t have any static intelligence. Try to explain… Try to find… To explain a rule to a 10-month-old. Try to give them a procedure. Try to give them a… Explain a consequence to them. Try to give them a conditional proposition. [chuckle] Try to… Anything in the static World. But what do they do? They’re in a Dynamic World from the beginning. They’re looking for… Their brains look for invariance within variation. They’re trying to learn. They’re getting attracted to novelty, incongruity. Why? Because that’s how they try to figure out the world. They’re trying to figure out what’s new. They’re trying to make sense of things. But they’re completely dynamic. Think about peek-a-boo. And I use that as an example ’cause it’s such a primitive example. Before infants are even able to have any kind of motor agency, you’re playing with their parents and they do it universally. There’s a version of peek-a-boo in every culture, which is really interesting. Why? 

Dr. Steven Gutstein: Because it’s introducing the Dynamic World to infants. It’s showing that you’re going to you’re going to help them make sense of it. Peek-a-boo has a very simple activity frame. Frame is, is what we do. What we use in a Dynamic World and dynamic thinking that’s similar to what we think about as rules and procedures and the static. What frames do is they provide, if you read Tom Fogel which you all should do, you should learn about frames. They provide… They tell you where the continuity is, where the invariance is going to be in a dynamic world. ‘Cause there’s always some invariance as opposed to a chaotic world. Now, peek-a-boo is introducing that dynamic world for children and using a very simple frame where they’re… The invariant, it might… You can’t explain the frame to an infant, so you enact it. And they learn it because all it is is hiding and revealing. And it isn’t the hands. ‘Cause you can hide and reveal with paper or… It’s not…

Dr. Steven Gutstein: Not nothing to do with your hands. So infants have to learn that frame. They have to learn what is the invariant. But it’s simple, so you show them, just hiding, and because… And the only way they’re gonna learn it is if you introduce some variation, ’cause if you don’t introduce variation, they’ll think it’s a rule. They’ll think it has to be hands. It can be, but it’s not hands, is it? And it’s about obstructing the face and then revealing it, over and over and over. So what do infants learn, they learn in this particular activity frame, they are pretty rapidly. Even at four or five months, they get it and once they get it, it moves into the background of their attention. They don’t… They internalize it. They don’t have to spend resources, mental resources on it. So when they see you starting it, they have certain cues, they expect to see that frame. Then they can focus on the variations. So what they get interested in then is, “Oh, it doesn’t have to be your hands. It can be paper. It doesn’t have to be boo, it could be baa. It doesn’t have to be loud, it can be soft.”

Dr. Steven Gutstein: You could hide, doesn’t have to be hide and you can come back. Like you can put it over them and hide them later on and you can reveal. And so, the structure of infant games, peek-a-boo being the first once infants have more agency, you wanna pull back and forth and side to side is are all introducing them… They’re not invariants. People have described them as more ritualistic. And in a sense they are, because they’re simple frames. It’s a simple dynamic world. But the point of them isn’t to teach you repetition [chuckle], it’s to teach you about a dynamic world, which always is going to have… If something’s dynamic as opposed to chaotic, it’s always gonna have areas of invariance, although they become more sophisticated, more subtle, more conceptual, more thematic, and there’s always gonna have a limit to variability which can grow. And what happens is infants become addicted to that variability. As they grow into the end of the first year, you see them learning more and more and more of different weird ways you can make faces and voices. But the continuity is it’s still you. [chuckle] They start moving.

Dr. Steven Gutstein: They start developing more of a meta frame of, “Oh, you’re still there. You’re still the same. But now you’re acting like a dog or you’re making voices like something weird.” And they love that because then it expands even more. They’re learning more about the degrees of freedom they have in the world, to operate in the world, that they’re not restricted to one way of functioning. They’re learning how they can use their own agency. How they can vary and then of course, within certain limits and you do give them limits. Even in their movement and their exploration. And what happens is that infants also get addicted to exploring in the world. So it’s not just interacting, they’re learning in a dynamic world because they’re fascinated to explore and see what’s going on. While they’re exploring, they’re also working on their motor agency and turning and lifting and holding and doing all these wonderful motor things. But they’re also looking at new things or trying to get into new things and trying to master new things, which is also a dynamic process. And they do that without you, like typically developing infants.

Dr. Steven Gutstein: I just read a study, it’s really interesting. That study, 13-month-olds in typical household, typical, nice messy households, with all kinds of stuff on the floor. And they found that infants in the course of a day have about average of 600 different interactions with objects in the course of a typical day. 600. And, [chuckle] some of them… A lot of them are brief, but it’s similar objects, it’s not like 600 different objects, it’s just different interactions with objects and it might be a box, it might be a cabinet, it might be the dog food, [chuckle] it might be the laundry basket, which is fine unless you don’t like it, but it’s fine. You don’t have to put away everything. And they gain from those interactions. And what happens then is they take… It’s interesting ’cause they take what you’re doing, what you’ve done, introduce a dynamic world, and they do it and they play with it on their own. They explore it. They extend it on their own. They explore their world without you there, I mean you’re there physically, but you’re not doing anything with them. If the only development occurred when you were face to face engaged, things would be very slow. You never get there. But by the end of the first year, they’re extending, they’re taking what has gone on with you and they’re exploring it on their own.

Dr. Steven Gutstein: And so you can see that if you don’t have… If you haven’t entered that dynamic world, if you haven’t been introduced to that dynamic world it’s almost impossible to imagine how much you’re losing out on even first couple years. It’s unbelievable. And you really see that by the end of the first year beginning of the second year, which is why in the research, what’s interesting is that that’s when researchers can much more reliably predict who’s gonna wind up with an autism diagnosis. At six months they’re not very good at it, but by 12, 15 months, they’re really good at it. Okay, and so there’s this explosion of trying to explore, to find meaning, to make sense of the world, but parents are guiding, partly infants are starting to take that on their own. And so there’s a tremendous loss if you don’t have that. So what we’re trying to do is that we’re reintroducing you to a simple dynamic world, everybody with autism. And by the way, here’s another thing I wanna say. If you read any of the journal articles, you go to presentations, people said about the confusion these days, about what is autism, the heterogeneity, the mystery. It’s still kinda like the mystery of it. Well, from our model, there’s no mystery. We’ve taken away the mystery. Maybe you don’t like that, but we have. Not that it’s not hard to do, [chuckle] but we’ve taken the mystery of it because the idea is okay, because of the infants pre-born vulnerabilities, they weren’t able to…

Dr. Steven Gutstein: Recognize or perceive the invariances and even the simple dynamic situations that parents were providing for them. And if you don’t see the invariances, dynamic becomes chaotic, and we all avoid chaos. It’s just natural, everybody avoids chaos. So for infants who are gonna go on to have autism at certain point, probably in the first year, what we’re trying to introduce them to and we’re doing that intuitively parents don’t even realize they’re doing it, but by nature of their being who they are, human beings, we are dynamic in our interactions. They perceive… The person they love, they’re attached to or whatever is also presenting chaos to them. So what you see is a disengagement from passivity to more active disengagement in the second year, which explains all the different things we see in the infant research.

Dr. Steven Gutstein: So they fail to be successfully introduced to a dynamic world, the experience guiding relationship, which is based on that, is based on that. It’s based on the wanting to be introduced to a dynamic world, wanting to… That bring desire for growth seeking, which is wanting someone to help them make sense of find meaning in that dynamic world, become competent in it. Doesn’t emerge and so they never learn. First of all, they don’t develop those motivations. They have them innately. Everyone does, but they don’t get activated and they don’t develop the tools, the habits and the tools and the mindset to want to grow in that dynamic world. As it becomes more complex and more complex. And the interventions that offer our static are giving them more skills in static world. Now, so our model says very simple that autism, we define autism as the failure to be successfully introduced to the dynamic world in infancy, all right.

Dr. Steven Gutstein: And the repercussions of that are what we call autism. That’s it. And so as far as I know, we’re the only ones with a very simple explanation [chuckle] for… It’s very simple. What is autism? Autism is because of no one’s fault or because of what happened, what you were born with, you were unable to be introduced successfully to a dynamic world and so you opted out of… You tried to avoid opt out of the dynamic world, which puts you in a really awful place. You miss out on all those… To experiencing… And remember, we learned to manage the dynamic world through experience, through shared experiences with our guides and eventually our own experiences where we extend those shared experiences into our own explorations and experimentations and ideas and/or find other guides. We miss out on those thousands and thousands of opportunities that typically developing children have to become competent in a more, more complex dynamic world. That’s it. It’s a loss of opportunity, which means that the goal is should be then… And see if it fits into treatment.

Dr. Steven Gutstein: Because the other models don’t fit into what you should do. There’s a disconnect. Well, it says what you need to do is find a way to successfully reintroduce those people into a dynamic world so they can start to feel confident… And then gradually help them develop the abilities and desire to operate in more and more complex, more and more dynamic versions of the world, which then simulates the real world that they’re going to be inhabiting. That’s it.

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.


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