The title art for the RDIconnect podcast "Autism: A New Perspective." The subtitle reads "The podcast show to understand what's going on in the mind of your child and encourage you that growth IS possible! Hosted by RDI Certified Consultant Kat Lee."
Autism: A New Perspective
Unlocking Potential

Unlocking the Potential of Individuals With Autism

Why do so many people have such low expectations for individuals with autism? Absolutely everyone has potential. The key is unlocking that potential. As professionals and as parents, when we see someone struggling to grow and to move forward, we can’t point the finger at that individual. Instead of asking “Why aren’t they able to do this? What are they doing wrong?,” we should turn it around and ask “What more could I be doing to help and to understand? What questions do I need to ask? What am I missing here?”

RDI®: A Different Kind of Autism Remediation

The RDI® Program puts the power back into the parent’s hands by helping you to re-establish the Guiding Relationship, with help from your Certified RDI® Consultant. With RDI®, you can use everyday experiences to help your child build relationships and life skills.

Ready to take control of your child’s learning and development? Find a consultant and get started with RDI®

Autism: A New Perspective is available on iTunes!

Full Transcript 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 podcast, such an encouraging interview with Dr. Sheely about autism and potential for our children. Let’s listen in.

Kat Lee: One of the things that my families are talking to me about is the low expectations some professionals they see are having of their children. Maybe their children aren’t talking yet or maybe they’re struggling with self-esteem, or maybe they just don’t have certain skills. And so they kind of feel like they get put into a box that they… Really, it’s better to say their child gets put into a box that they can’t get out of. One of the things that struck me about you and Dr. Gutstein all those years ago is you didn’t put any child or adult in a box. You always see the potential.

Kat Lee: And I love the way in our recent podcasts we’ve been talking about, you asked yourself a question, and it seemed to me that one of the questions you answered or addressed was that issue of just deciding a person’s potential based on, really, I hate to say nothing, but nothing of value. How did you know to ask yourself that question? How did you know the potential that every little or adult human has? 

Dr. Sheely: I think there’s an easy answer to that, actually. I think the easy answer is that we approached it from a state of being very humble and not knowing what we were looking at. So we just said, well, you know, we have to be curious. Let’s be curious, and let’s stay curious. Let’s stay curious until we know where to get started. And then, after we get started, let’s still stay curious. So if you can put yourself in a position where you have all this education, you have all this training, and you’re able to say, I don’t know. I have to figure it out. I’m very curious about you. I wanna know who you are.

Dr. Sheely: And then you develop a hypothesis to look at the starting point. We all know about that. We develop a hypothesis, but honestly, Katherine, I feel like every time I meet with a family, every time I meet with an individual, I’m just developing a new hypothesis. I’m asking, if I do this, what do I think I’ll see? And those questions are always small next steps. So I wouldn’t be saying if I ask this question, if I structure a session in this way, well, I see you as a college sophomore next year. No. Will you respond in a way that shows that you’re thinking even better, that you’re thinking about thinking? 

Kat Lee: I love what you said about when you meet a child or an adult, an individual. The other thing I love is, and you’ve talked about this in the past, but I think it’s good to talk about it again, that as a professional, understanding that when you see that individual again or over a period of time and you see they’re struggling and that progress isn’t making, you don’t point the finger at the individual. I’ve seen you point it back at yourself. Like, what do I need to think about? What questions do I need to ask? And I’m afraid that we may not be doing that enough as professionals. You know what I mean? 

Dr. Sheely: I do know, and I think you’re asking the right questions. I think we’re all… I think we’re both involved in like what’s the best question to ask, but I think that is true, and I remember one time I was seeing this boy. He was very complex. He was very involved, and he had an IEP at school, and at the end of the year, we got what we always got. Oh, he just had a great year and it’s still a work in progress, and the mother and I spent the summer with him, and we met every IEP goal, including writing his name.

Dr. Sheely: We went back to the school and said, Well, that’s no longer a work in progress. What’s next? And we put it in front of them. These were your IEP goals for an entire year. And we kept asking not why didn’t he have it? Why can’t he do it? But how do we teach him? What are we missing here? And I feel that if we can keep asking that question, not why aren’t you doing it, but what am I missing? What have I overlooked? What’s the first step? What’s the very next step we all need to take together. We’re going to make progress. I’ve never met anyone who doesn’t have potential. And I always say I don’t know what it is.

Kat Lee: As long as we’re asking questions, I love that you ask different questions, like how? What? Why? But you’re not looking at the student. You’re not looking at this young adult and saying, what are you not doing? It’s what are we needing to do? I think that’s such a beautiful process, and I love what you say about knowing you don’t know, but I think it’s also being comfortable knowing you don’t know as a professional, and I think sometimes that can be challenging for some.

Dr. Sheely: I think it can be challenging. I think it’s particularly challenging when we’re just getting started and we’re maybe sometimes questioning, Can I do this? Why don’t I know? Will I be respected if I say something like that? And I probably did that when I was a much younger clinician, but as the years go by, I recognize the value of being open about not having an immediate answer. I honestly feel that I’m going to come up with a way to get started, that if I just give myself the time to do it, if I study this more, I’m going to know where to get started.

Dr. Sheely: I believe that, and I would say, I guess we never say always, but almost always that happens. So if we can keep that in mind, and I had, I remember saying it to a parent one time, and she said, I feel so relieved that you said that to me. And I said, Well, it’s the truth. You know, I don’t really understand your little boy yet. Aside from him being really cute, I don’t know anything else about him. And she said, Well, he is cute sometimes. But it was that I said, I don’t know. He’s presenting us with so much complexity and so many different things. We’re just going to have to start it out and figure out which thing do we do first? And how do we do it? 

Dr. Sheely: And within a couple of sessions, we were able to calm him down to the point where we could start at least doing an RDA to see what the guiding relationship looked like. We couldn’t do that in the beginning. I mean, it wasn’t his fault. We just didn’t know.

Kat Lee: I love these chats with you because we both, we came into this with different journeys. But when you talked about not knowing, I was thinking about back when I was a parent and we received this diagnosis in a very grim look when our son was two, and all you know as a parent is you don’t know. I mean, I always imagined what it would be like if I had been in the field, been in that profession, and found out what I felt like I knew, but that was definitely far away as possible from what I was doing or my husband was doing, and I knew I didn’t know. So it’s a really profound feeling to know you don’t know. Profound is really actually minor. It’s actually incredibly difficult to know you don’t know what to do for your child and I can see why that mom found it comforting that you would say that because it’s very different than well, you don’t know what to do, so just let me do it.

Dr. Sheely: Well, but the other part of that is that I know how to find out. So I don’t know right now what to do, but I know the process for figuring it out and finding out where to get started. And that is also reassuring. It’s not like I’m just going to take a check the wind and say or start throwing things at kids. Let’s try this. Let’s try that. It’s like, no, I don’t wanna try anything until… Even if there’s guesswork involved, I want an educated guess. I wanna know what happens in these different scenarios. I wanna look and see if I can find 30 seconds here, That was amazing, because then we at least know what to build on. But even if we don’t know that, we know that there’s a process we can use to get started and to start making progress.

Kat Lee: It’s interesting that it’s comforting to hear those words. I think one of the comforting things for me though is what you’ve always said, which is it’s not pie in the sky hope. It’s not comfort for comfort’s sake. There is true potential, and we know what to do to find out.


Kat Lee: And thanks 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 encourage you that growth for your child is possible. I’m Kat Lee. See you next time.


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