RDI® – More Than Just Autism

by | Mar 10, 2023 | Family Stories, RDI Stories

The following article was re-posted with permission from SAIconnection’s blog and was written by RDI® Certified Consultant Kamini Lakhani.

Many parents ask if RDI is only for autistic individuals.

We’ve often discussed this with Dr Gutstein

RDI works for any situation where the ‘guided relationship’ between parent and child is impacted.
This may be due to autism, other developmental issues, illness or other such situations.

When I first met Gayatri’s parents, (a couple of years ago, I was apprehensive about supporting them. I hadn’t worked in depth with a child/ teenager with Down’s Syndrome.

But when they mentioned Gayatri’s issues, I could connect them with the core deficits.

For example: the shutdowns she was experiencing, the inability to have conversations, the reluctance to talk about her art work and thought process behind it- were some of the issues that the parents brought up.

Being highly accomplished as an artist and a photographer, she was unable to share her thoughts or interact with others.

I could see these issues in the light of the foundations or the core deficits that were prevalent in Gayatri’s development.

Other issues according to Gayatri’s mother- Shalini.

We were having enormous problems with getting Gayatri to follow her morning routine regularly. Every morning was a struggle. As a family we were on the brink of a crisis in handling this issue – her waking up, getting ready and eating her breakfast.

Another issue was independence. We had always believed that as Gayatri grew up, we were supposed to make her independent. In our mind that meant that she would not ask for nor would she take any help from any one. And as a result, Gayatri grew up into a strong willed, self- sufficient young adult who hated anyone around her.

– Shalini Gupta (Gayatri’s mother)

In order to help Gayatri, we started with some foundational work to address these difficulties.
This included simple regulatory activities in order to establish a back – and- forth connection.
Once that was established, we introduced Gayatri to challenges. She had to think for herself to figure things out.
We then moved into activities where Gayatri had to keep pace with her guides. Simple, leisurely walks to connect and keep pace with each other were immensely helpful.

Month after month, Gayatri blossomed.

We just finished her second RDA (Relationship Development Assessment)
Gayatri looked like a confident young lady. Take a look at a video where she helped me build a house for my cat, Crookshanks.

We both- Gayatri and I had so much fun, doing this together. We problem solved, dealt with emergent situations and bonded over this activity!

Here’s what stood out for me.

1. She took responsibility for the activity

Gayatri was ready to help with the activity, the minute I explained what I needed from her. She shared responsibility every step of the way.

2. She thought about what she needed to do

She reflected on what needed to be done. It wasn’t about following instructions, but it was about her being mindful. She took charge and wasn’t a mere follower.

3. She was happy to take suggestions

If I offered an input, she considered it. For example with sticking thermocol sheets that were uneven, she accepted my suggestion of turning them around in order to facilitate easier sticking.

4. She was confident of herself

Look at the way she took the challenge for cutting the sheets.
Also, for taking pictures. She actually said, “I’m a photographer.”

5. She felt competent

Check out her body language! She looked totally competent, isn’t it?

What changes became apparent in Gayatri’s home life?
The beauty of RDI is that changes are reflected in day to day life.

We work on re wiring the brain with different experiences and challenges.

This is what Shalini had to say.

We will report that it took 6 weeks to bring the crisis under control and another 8 weeks for this decade long struggle to be resolved. Even after 2 years I can confidently report that whatever the circumstances may be, Gayatri is totally aligned to the activities that she has to perform every day, keeping in mind the time available.

Through RDI we realised that the reason she struggled in her socialising with others was because she did not want to share her physical or emotional space with anyone. With gradual intervention, we made her into our ‘buddy’, working on activities together, seeking help from each other, working side by side with us. This has been happening for over a year and now we are beginning to see her self confidence in social circles increasing. We see a willingness on her part, to sit and do activities along with others. It’s a huge victory for us.

To sum up, all the behaviours that Gayatri displayed could be corrected by us parents through interaction. Our emotional and physical support could make any change in her possible.

-Shalini Gupta

RDI can be used in every situation where we want to build the Guided relationship and improve the quality of life.

Yes, some children and adults have more cooccurring conditions or co morbidities. But each and every family has shown an improvement in their quality of life.

Sometimes we have to struggle a bit to establish the connect.
But with guidance and coaching from an RDI Consultant, the situation improves. It requires persistence and consistency from parents, too.

For many years, we’ve focused only on behavior and language.
It’s time to go deeper.
It’s time to focus on thinking and problem solving.
And on building the foundations for communication so that our children can flourish.
It’s time to work on the core areas rather than the symptoms.

Look out for part 2 of this article, next week.

The Proof in Gayatri’s life…


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