In spring of 2010, I was asked to become a private teacher for the child of a family I had been working with as an RDI Consultant. They had been implementing RDI in their home since 2008 with their son, ‘Q’. Q had made amazing progress. They asked me to begin home schooling him using RDI and academics. Their hope was that the pace of progress would speed up if Q was receiving RDI at home and at school.
While his parents had loved and been with Q for his entire life, autism had interrupted the natural guided participation relationship. Understanding that, they made the effort to regain their role as Q’s guides. He now trusted them to not overwhelm him and things were back on track. Starting from scratch, using RDI methods, I began to work on forming a relationship with Q. He needed to know he could trust me too. What I also gave him was time. Q was not forced to do anything. We took our time.
The program that we have designed for Q is based, first and foremost, on his individualized needs. We have used visual supports, physical structure, and routine to help reduce anxiety from the unexpected. That being said, we are always mindful of things becoming too static and introduce just enough variation to challenge him and encourage development of flexible thinking.
In November of 2011, after hearing about a program on “60 Minutes”, it was decided to introduce the use of an App on the iPad to provide additional means of communication since Q is nonverbal. After months of use, we now know Q can read, spell, add, subtract, multiply, divide, identify fractions, tell time, and count money. Although he is using this App to communicate, it is just a tool to help him with expressive language. This came about because he can now trust his guides enough to show them what he is THINKING.
The most wonderful thing happened this spring. While it is thrilling to see how much Q knows, it pales in comparison to what Q now shares…how he FEELS! He used his iPad to explain the connection between the loss of my father and the loss of his cousin to clarify why he was upset and what he wanted to talk about. He then revealed to us that he was mad, scared, and worried. He let us know specifically that he is afraid of dying and that someone else he loves will die. He has been feeling what everyone feels when they experience loss. He has now chosen to share his feelings. Despite his autism, he CAN.
This has all come to be because of RDI. The work both at home and school has brought about what seems like a miracle. This key has been used to unlock what has been bottled up in this amazing individual. It is time to share his story with others, and begin to help them as well!
Chresta Ambers has over thirteen years experience teaching in the field of special education and has been a Certified RDI® Consultant for five years. Working with families to help them achieve their hopes of connecting with their child and guiding them in the dynamic world is a dream come true. She believes that working on the same goals with children at home and school is the key to helping them reach their full potential. Visit her website www.panhandleautism.com.