Lev Vygotsky, the famous Soviet psychologist, observed and wrote authoritatively about the development of higher cognitive functions in children. While he died (1934) long before the public awareness of autism, his work, especially the concept of the Zone of Proximal Development, was fundamental to the creation of RDI. As a refresher and clearly an oversimplification, the Zone of Proximal Development refers to the manner in which new knowledge occurs on the heels of previous learning.
An important understanding of the development of knowledge is underscored in the RDI Family Consultation Program, goal one:
It will only come about if the child is spending most of his waking hours activity engaging with people and things in this world.
Or, as Vygosky would put it, reasoning develops through practical activity in a social environment.
Learning how to evaluate, to plan the very next step for the cognitive growth of a person with autism, occurs through a collaborative relationship between parent and consultant. It is within this relationship that theory takes on a more practical and natural form.
Failure, of course, is important. Too much and the student might experience chaos and withdraw internally or externally. Small mistakes, which allow for an inquisitive approach, however, can lead to an excitement for the palatable unknown. The gentle prescription of failures by parents who are guiding their children endows each with a sense of competence about themselves and their own curious nature. It is a fundamental antidote to passivity as it nurtures volition in an unpredictable world.