Tuesday, August 15, 2006

RDI 101

Ok, I realized after I posted yesterday's offering that I need to step back a few steps and explain what RDI actually is. Well, it's Relationship Devleopment Intervention, an Autism Remediation program developed by Dr. Steven Gutstein and Dr. Rachelle Sheely, the dynamic duo that heads up the Connections Center in Houston, Texas. It's only been "around" for less than a decade, but it's growing by leaps and bounds because, well, it WORKS.

It is a parent-based program, facilitate through Certified Consultants (who have to go through rigorous training with continuous recertification requirements), who admister the RDA (Relationship Development Assessment), help the parents design a program based on their specific child's needs, and provide feedback via office visits or video tape reviews (many parents use consultants that are not even located in the same state as them).

The general premise is that by working on systematic objectives that target the core deficits of Autism, we can address the incorrect path the child's brain started down at the point where it first deviated, filling in the missing neural connections and developmental paths along the way. This sets the brain back onto the course it was meant to, and their brain (and hence their behavior and functioning) takes up a more natural pattern. And hence, Autism eventually becomes remediated, and the child begins acting more and more like a neuro-typical (NT) person (or my new favorite term, NA -- Not Autistic -- person).

The different between RDI and the other "Autism intervention" methods is that this is the only one that directly addresses and affects the core deficits. The rest of the programs teach compensating mechanisms and skills, so that the child can use their strengths to make their way in the world in a somewhat acceptable (to who???) manner. RDI actually addresses the deficits to fill in the missing pieces, rather than working on the strengths. (Why work on strengths? -- they are already good at that stuff! Like rote memory. I don't care that my 5 year old can name all the state capitols. I want him to have a real friend!)

RDI is all about improving quality of life. And just what IS quality of life for a person with Autism? Same as with any other person -- the ability to live on their own, to be able to obtain and maintain satisfying employment, to have reciprocal relationships with other humans, to marry and raise children (if that's what the person desires), to have a full, satisfying, happy life.

I'll add a couple of my own: To know who they are and have a real sense of self. To feel comfortable navigating in a dynamic world. To be able to choose what ever path they choose to follow. To dream of the future and have the abililty and desire to make those dreams come true.

I'll spend the next several days outlining some of the workings of the RDI program before I get back to Jacob's progression through it. Posted by Picasa


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