The Cook’s Assistant

This guest blog post was written by RDI® veteran parent Di Maitland. You can read the original here

Nick is going through a stubborn teenager phrase. He only wants to do what he wants to do. When invited to join me in some form of interaction, he makes the sign for ‘finished’ quicker than you can say, “let’s…..”

Thankfully, I am a veteran RDI® parent and know how to get around his resistance without making him feel pressurised to perform.

The easiest way to explain how I parent Nick is to look at how I approached our latest cooking experience.


1. I plan what needs to be done for the activity.

  •  Collect the ingredients and utensils
  • Preparation of ingredients
  • Cooking

2. I decide on our roles.

  • I talk about the items I need for the recipe. Nick collects the items.
  • I prepare the ingredients. Nick places the ingredients into the saucepan.

3. I plan opportunities for Nick that encourage him to think for himself.

  • I choose a saucepan that is in a very low cupboard and under another saucepan.
  • I leave the mince in the fridge and he has to figure out how to find it.
  • I open the stock cube wrapping just a tiny bit and Nick has to remove the cube.
  • I don’t open the tins of tomatoes. Nick needs to figure out the next step.

Related: When the Guiding Relationship Doesn’t Develop 

4. My methods for engagement

  • I do the majority of the cooking and invite Nick to assist me.
  • I don’t rush through the activity and am mindful about how I approach Nick.
  • If Nick refuses to join me, I wait patiently without saying a word. #workseverytime
  • I do not tell Nick what do to.
  • I use declarative comments to encourage independent thinking.
  • I am mindful and give Nick plenty of time to think and respond.
  • I talk aloud, thus letting Nick know about the process and what is happening next.
  • I keep Nick’s role manageable yet with a little challenge. Edge+1
  • I pause what I am doing and wait to see if Nick jumps into help me.
  • At times I am non verbal and I wait for Nick to reference me for information.
  • I spotlight moments of success.

5. My thoughts

  • I don’t expect Nick to stay with me for the duration of the cooking.
  • A minute here, five minutes there… they all add up.
  • I am very aware that the activity is about our interaction with each other.
  • I endeavour to not let the activity become all about the task at hand.
  • I don’t beat myself up if the activity doesn’t pan out how I want it to.
  • It is always helpful to plan what I would like to achieve.
  • My mindset is such that I can be spontaneous with Nick and instinctively make a plan


Di and her family work with RDI® Consultant, Kathy Darrow. Kathy has over 16 years experience in the field of Autism, which includes 11 years in RDI®, first as a parent then the past 7 years as a Consultant. Kathy’s passion to help families with children on the spectrum started when her own two children were both diagnosed before three years old. RDI® was not only was miraculous with her children on the spectrum, but as a family affair as parents and siblings. Being handed the poor prognosis those years ago, she never gave up searching for what their boys needed. As she turned to RDI® on a professional level it has been exciting to watch as children and young adults involved in the RDI® program become increasingly competent and resilient in their social world. Kathy works with local families in New Jersey, both at home, school and homeschool, as well as long distance families (multiple U.S. states and oversees).  If you are interesting in hearing her speak about RDI® and part of her own journey,  please click here for her presentation at Autism One .Connect with Kathy


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