The following was written by RDI® consultant Bimal Rai and was originally published in 2012.

It is a typical day at home and you have decided that you are going to get your child to help you with the laundry. The washing machine has finished its cycle and you have planned for your child to help you take the clothes out of the washing machine. Your child holds a basket and while you drop the clothes in one at a time, you are counting as you go along. Occasionally you may decide to hold a piece of clothing up and look at it while you share and exchange excited looks and glances with your child. You may decide to change roles where you adopt a simple sender receiver framing where you are now giving her/him the clothing to place into the basket.

Regulatory Patterns and RDI®

What you have effectively done is carried out an interaction with your child through the establishment of a regulatory pattern.  A regulatory pattern is a predictable sequence within an interaction. While it is central to what we do with our families on the RDI® program who have a child on the autism spectrum, the effectiveness of creating patterns and their purpose seem to benefit those with other difficulties too, i.e. ADHD, attachment issues, emotional regulation problems, etc. Children with such challenges often have a certain amount of difficulty making sense of patterns in the environment. We make sense of our world by organizing physical, visual, auditory, emotional and even cognitive patterns.  Children who have a hard time understanding patterns will experience significant difficulties in coming up with coping or approach strategies for all types of situations (i.e. information, people, problems, etc.).

Regulatory patterns form the basis of what we try to establish with the work that we do with our families. But it is not about routinely instructing or telling the child what to do where this baseline pattern is concerned. There are many elements that need to be factored in while a family attempts to establish a pattern.

Establishing a Regulatory Pattern with Your Child Can Help By:


Slowing down the pace of the interaction, allowing the child to perceive the pattern.

Another aspect which is just as important is that it allows the Parent Guide to spotlight certain elements in the interaction that is crucial to the child. For example, in the aforementioned laundry activity it means being deliberate about the clothing that you take out and not rushing through to get the activity done.

Establishing subtle challenges or variations along the way.

By slowly imbedding challenges within the pattern it allows the pattern to become dynamic rather than a static experience.  For example, changing the number of clothing items given, dropping a particular item on the floor, offering choices to the child as to what to place in the basket.

Limiting set, if necessary, and keeping your zone of connection close through your close physical proximity.

This would entail the Parent Guide ensuring that the child does not disengage or run away, or that the child is not trying to accelerate the pace by grabbing.

Spotlighting or creating an impression around a piece of information that you want the child to see.

For example, through the use of your communication, you may present a clothing item and amplify your broadband communication to indicate that the item has not been washed adequately.

Scaffolding or supporting the child specific to his role in the interaction

For example, when you intentionally drop an item on the floor, physically support your child to repair the situation so that he is guided to pick up the dropped clothing.

Using as much broadband experience sharing and non-verbal communication as you possibly can.

The more experiences your child is exposed to the more he/she will benefit.

It is important to note that patterns must be framed, paced, scaffolded, presented and customized to the child’s needs to best serve their purpose. Within RDI® we use this a lot as it allows us to back track and “re-work” the developmental gaps for those who are on the spectrum. Do keep in mind that every child is different and unique and that the establishment of patterns will also vary over time. This is in a way dependent on the lifestyle of the family and in accordance with the developmental level/needs of the child.

“Bimal Rai, has been a practicing RDI® Program Certified Consultant and Educational Psychologist, who is based in Singapore. He has been a certified consultant since 2007, and enjoys the little gains that families can bring to their children through the program.”

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