Why we Focus on Communication

Communication Bandwidth

Successful human communication requires processing information along a “wide bandwidth.” Bandwidth refers to the transmission capacity of a communication pathway. In RDI, bandwidth refers to the extent the person can integrate multiple channels of information into a single packet of meaning.

From a neurological perspective, high bandwidth processing refers to our ability to integrate many different brain-processing centers working collaboratively to determine complex levels of meaning. The mind as a brain structure develops as a response to increasing need to integrate the simultaneous integration of multiple channels of information into more efficient but complex schemas, while filtering un-related, non-critical information in an efficient manner.

Our ability to integrate multiple modalities of information into a single “Packet” of meaning

Our ability to integrate many different brain processing centers working collaboratively to determine complex levels of meaning

Our ability to generate multiple views, solutions and perspectives associated with specific problems, settings and events

Related: RDI: The Power of Relationship Skills Over Social Skills

Communication Channels

We interpret the meaning of any communication by many factors presented simultaneously, including:

  • Prosody (the changes in tone, emphasis, inflection and pacing that lies “behind” your words),
  • Facial expression
  • Gestures
  • Posture
  • Physical space
  • Context
  • Prior relationship with the communication partner

We all know that the way you use our voice, the way you emphasize, the way you pause, the way you gesture, and how you use your face and eyes completely changes how another person will interpret what you were saying. The same message of, “oh, I hate your guts” said with a smile and a sort of whimsical gesture has a great difference in meaning – just the opposite of course as someone who is your enemy threatening you with that same group of words.

Typical Development

Neurotypical children go through a gradual bandwidth expansion beginning at birth as they become highly competent in the broader bandwidth communication processes – facial expression, prosody and gesture – prior to developing speech. They learn quite early to combine these channels to determine the meaning of communication. Children with ASD develop a very narrow bandwidth communication process. Most, even those with significant language delays develop speech, a very “narrow” band of information instead of the “non-verbal” channels of communication.

Our Focus on communication

Unfortunately, most autism interventions reinforce narrow bandwidth processing by focusing only on the non-prosodic “speech” channel. Many of the goals and objectives in RDI’s Family Consultation Program work on building communication through many channels. Here are a few examples:

  • Learn about the unique functions of experience-sharing communication and why it plays such an important role in our program
  • Learn about the reciprocal communication responsibilities involved in successful experience-sharing
  • Learn to construct an experience-sharing communication environment, and facilitating multi-channel, reciprocal communication.
  • Learn to use different forms of indirect communication
  • Learn to embed multiple channel communication into joint attentional learning
  • Learn how to act as an effective role-model for experience-sharing communication. (for example, by using non-verbal communication or Self-Dialogue.)
  • Learn to simplify and/or slowing down role actions or communication
  • Learn to modify communication to focus student attention


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