For most of us, anxiety is an unwelcome component of uncertainty.
We ponder these bedfellows in the big context of an ill-defined, uncertain future crisis, an imminent projection. Within the arena of big, these are humongous and most of us would agree that they create the person a storm of avoidance and a subsequent search for predictability.
Imagine though, if overwhelming anxiety in response to uncertainty kicked in much sooner – not when there was a looming, serious problem but when there was a much smaller difference like a substitute teacher or lost crayon.
It would be hard to enjoy surprises or the prospect of meeting new people.
While not a universal insurmountable problem, this marriage of anxiety and uncertainty occurs frequently enough for families and teachers of children on the spectrum to avoid the introduction of unpredictable scenarios into their lives.
However for RDI® families of children on the spectrum, the use of uncertainty is fundamental for good guiding.
Although it is not always easy, it is always fruitful.
Introducing Challenge to Facilitate Curiosity
We can introduce challenge to our children, beginning with small changes: a red ball instead of a blue ball or a big ball instead of a football. The student notices that the unexpected is ok, easily monitored, easily understood.
Prediction, while perhaps still desirable, becomes less important.
Failure, strategically introduced in small doses, rather than leading to a breakdown or tantrum, becomes a point of curiosity.
Pushing Your Child to the Next Step – When They Are Ready
Lev Vygotsky, the famous Soviet psychologist, observed and wrote authoritatively about the development of higher cognitive functions in children. While he died 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®.
The Zone of Proximal Development refers to the manner in which new knowledge occurs on the heels of previous learning. This 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.
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. Not enough, and the student will never grow. Small mistakes, which allow for an inquisitive approach, can lead to an excitement for the palatable unknown. By allowing our children certain degrees of failure (i.e. challenges) in a safe environment, we can help to guide them toward growth and development.
Scientists have found that our ability to remain engaged, despite the experience of uncertainty, is primarily responsible for the growth of higher level neural functioning and neural integration.
RDI and Neurology
The RDI program is based on this understanding of neurology. By moving the child forward carefully, structuring for growth, and allowing for small failures, you can help to change your child’s neurology and give them the opportunity for growth.