If you’re a parent of a child with autism you get deprived of the role of being a parent, and you probably don’t even realize it. So you start doing a million other little things to try and make the situation better, but really, all you are trying to do is feel competent as a parent; because you haven’t been able to function as a Mind Guide and no one even told you it as possible!
Kat Lee: Welcome back to ASD: 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. In part two of why dynamic intelligence, Dr. Gutstein talks about the loss of the Mind Guiding relationship between the parent and child and the key that relationship is to Dynamic Intelligence.
Dr. Gutstein: And of course the unfortunate thing for autism is that they through no fault of their own, they and their parents are not able to form what I call a mind guiding relationship, which is the format by which typically developing children learn to manage their experience. It’s the only way that they learn. Now, one of the things that’s important is that one of the products of the mind guiding relationship is the ability for children to start learning to have new experiences, to learning to learn from their environment away from being with their guides, on their own, to think about things when their not with their guides. To explore things and experiment with things on their own, to wonder, try to make sense of things. And so gradually you become more independent or more, I shouldn’t say independent, or autonomous in taking over more responsibility for developing their dynamic intelligence.
Dr. Gutstein: If that doesn’t happen, if growth is only limited to engagements with your guides, then you’re not going to develop very much. Initially, that’s the case. And as we know with young children usually that’s the case. But even as they become preschool age, three and four years old, and you start to see that they can come back to you having thought about something or experienced something that they want help with or want to understand, that you are there for. That they’re starting to take this away from you, which then multiplies the power, the effectiveness of the mind guiding relationship exponentially, doesn’t it? Because it means that eventually they can do this all their waking lives if they wish to. And that your role then becomes more supportive. You’re not the primary purveyor of experience, but you help more to interpret it, to help them with things that don’t make sense, to pose challenges at times. But they begin to challenge themselves.
Dr. Gutstein: One of the real important things about the mind guiding relationship, why it’s so efficient is because we don’t expect, we expect the child to become more of a self-organizing learner, to take over more of that self-growth away from you, with other guides and on their own, and relationship with peers. And to be reflecting and to be considering and thinking and looking for meaning and trying to make sense even when you’re not around. More and more so. And that’s one of the really critical aspects of a mind guiding relationship is its orientation towards developing the autonomy of the child as a self-guided learner and to continually adapt the role to guide based on that. Without that, it’s just not possible. It’s just not powerful enough.
Dr. Gutstein: Anyway, I know I’m trying to move between everything here. Kat, you want to something?
Kat Lee: I do because I was so glad you brought up four-year-olds because I was thinking about how it feels like, I’ll say feels like, that people glaze over and say, “Well, you’re talking about later in life.” No.
Dr. Gutstein: Oh, no. As soon as infants are able to even sit up on their own, which gives you an enormous sense of empowerment and then actually do something in the world, reach for something, grab something, complete an action that leaches a goal, you start to see this transformation and the desire to want to operate in a more complex, dynamic world. And that becomes gradually more and more the dominant intrinsic motivation, that activation. It’s never all or none, but it becomes more noticeable. And then of course in the second year it becomes even more noticeable because you start to see more active communication towards you around understanding new things in the world. So that whole pointing, drawing attention about what’s that? And hey, do you see that? And noticing something new, wanting to get your impression of it. And then of course, the input of language to want to share experiences.
Dr. Gutstein: It becomes much more noticeable in the second year that your role of guiding is very clear because they’re out there exploring and wanting to know and wanting to…. And occasionally of elaborating and occasionally of inserting something new becomes more and more what you’re being asked to do by that child. Your primary role, it’s no longer then keeping their body from falling over. Yes, you might still have to keep them safe, but that’s not what they necessarily see you as your primary role of, keeping them from getting into trouble. But your primary role shifts to guiding and then to mind guiding, not just their bodies, but but really their mind, when you present novelty and you present new objects. So we turn something upside down or we show them a new thing, you’re already guiding the mind in a dynamic environment. So dynamic intelligence in the foundation start early, early on the motivation, the intrinsic motivation, for growth seeking which is essential for dynamic intelligence, has to be established early.
Dr. Gutstein: And what do we see in autism? We see that that doesn’t happen or if it starts to happen, it gets interrupted very early or it gets co-opted by the need to maintain stability, the need to maintain homeostasis. Why that is I think differs dramatically from child to child, from infant to infant, who’s going to have autism. I don’t think there is a single or ever going to be a single reason for that. It doesn’t really matter. The point is is that there’s a disruption and that gradual emphasis of growth seeking, of that motivation for growth, challenge, novelty, mastery doesn’t develop, which means you can’t be a guide because you have nothing to guide, and it means then the opportunities to learn how to manage your experience in the world, shared personal internal aren’t there. The opportunities aren’t there.
Dr. Gutstein: And so that’s the story. That’s the story that we want to tell people. It’s an obvious story. Anybody I’ve ever told it to who isn’t already biased in some way, it makes sense to them immediately. Especially if you’ve had children, it makes sense immediately because it’s what we do. And it’s one of the critical roles of being a parent is to be a mind guide. We know that. And if you have a child with autism, you can’t do it until we help you to develop this and to help the child activate that growth, so you can begin to feel comfortable with it to start orienting more towards growth and desiring that part of their development, their realm.
Dr. Gutstein: And to perceive you as someone whose primary job is to help them to grow, to experience new things and learn how to manage those new experiences, and to continue to get involved in more complex dynamic experiences and more unpredictable experiences and more interrelated experiences and to learn how to be competent in those and to continue to develop that. On a micro level, whether it’s certain moments in certain things that happen, on a situational level, sort of middle level, on a larger level, which is basically relationships and identity. Who am I? Should I trust this person? What’s important in a relationship for me? That macro level. On any one of those levels that becomes your job, that becomes your role.
Dr. Gutstein: So if you’re a parent of a child with autism and you haven’t been involved with RDI, you get deprived of that role and you probably don’t realize it because it’s implicit and no one ever talks about it, and you start doing other things, whether it’s getting resources for your child or I don’t know what you’re doing, directing them in certain things. But you’re trying to feel competent because you haven’t been able to function as a mind guide. And no one’s told you that you can. And so, on one hand, you don’t realize it because it’s not explicit and on the other hand no one has talked to you about it. No one says that’s the problem, and no one says you have the ability to do it. So that’s the story.
Kat Lee: Thanks Dr. Gutstein and thank you for joining us for ASD: 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.