Tuesday, November 21, 2006

the 4-day workshop

We thought we had worked it out so that both The Map Man and I could attend the 4-day RDI Parent Training workshop in January. Connections Centers highly recommends that you attend this as a couple (to the point of highly discouraging you to attend as a single, and basing pricing per couple -- no discount if you come alone), so although we had wanted to attend a 4-day earlier in our RDI program, we had to wait until it was somewhat local, as we can't both be away from our farm overnight at the same time. In January 2006, it came to Boston, so we signed up, and arranged for my Mom to stay at our house for the week and watch the kids during the day while we drove back and forth (2 hours each way) to attend the workshop. Seemed like a great plan, until my Dad hurt his back and needed my Mom at home with him. So yet again, I headed off to a workshop without The Map Man. Really, he's the one that should have gone, but he just didn't want to do it by himself, and was afraid we wouldn't get our "money's worth" if it was him instead of me that went.

The 4-day workshop was an in-depth introduction to RDI, with direct work on the new Parent Objectives and specific exercises to work on setting up RDI activities for your child. In short, it was everything you need to know to get started working in RDI with a Consultant. I really wish we'd been able to get to a workshop a year earlier, as this would have cleared up SO much of my vast confusion when I started out. Dr. Gutstein is concise, clear, and overwhelmingly brilliant. Unfortunately for me, he didn't say a whole lot that I didn't already know. If I had it to do over, I wouldn't have spent that sort of money on something that I was clearly beyond. So although I enjoyed the workshop, and feel that The Map Man DEFINITELY would have benefited vastly from it, and also feel that this is THE very best start to an RDI program that you could possibly have (no wonder some consultants require attendance at a 4-day as a prerequisite for working with them!), I can't say that I personally learned a whole lot from it.

HOWEVER, what I did come away with were 3 very key things in furthering our program. We were a few months into our Stage 4 work, and while I felt that we were progressing ever-so-slowly, I was starting to realize that we might need some sort of shift in our criteria if we ever hoped to master Stage 4 before Jacob graduated from high school. I got that boost from the 4-day.

Here were my 3 eye-opening realizations:

1. I was still living in fear of "the big meltdown". Even though it had been months and months since Jacob had produced a truly earth-shattering meltdown (which in and of itself was amazing, given that they were a daily -- or sometimes twice or thrice daily -- occurrence prior to RDI), I was still dealing with my own emotional fall-out from the trauma of those days, and was afraid to push Jacob too far, for fear of producing "the big meltdown" again. Dr. Gutstein showed video of a boy doing an RDI exercise (I think it was stage 6, which I was pretty in awe of at the time) with his mother. His task was to take an item of clothing from one end of the hall, bring it down the hall and put it in the washing machine. His mother was making this task impossible. She kept swiping the item from him, blocking his way, putting obstacles in his way. He kept coming back for more attempts -- even though he was starting to get upset with her, even crying at times. Dr. G said "He's upset, but she doesn't care. She knows that's just his way of expressing his frustration at how hard this is. She keeps on working on her objective with him." Eventually after many attempts, the boy is finally successful in outwitting his mother and getting that item of clothing into the washing machine and shutting the lid. The look of accomplishment and pride -- the look of COMPETENCE -- on his face is burned into my memory. I gasped, and realized that I was still living in fear of Jacob completely losing it, to the point that I kept backing off when he got upset. I needed to push harder when he got upset, for him to learn to work to succeed. "They have to learn that it's OK to get upset, they can recover from it and go on to succeed" said Dr. G.

2. Related to the above, it was pointed out to me that I wasn't giving Jacob enough challenge. I was over-scaffolding, being too careful to make sure that he was successful that he didn't have a chance to really work on problem-solving. I was too afraid of him having a meltdown about it. This was pointed out to me by my "small group leader" -- the workshop is held as a large group for the first day and the mornings of the next 3 days, with Dr. G presenting his RDI information, showing video clips, etc. The afternoons of the last 3 days the participants are broken down into smaller groups, with a Certified Consultant as a group leader. This is where the individual program work comes in, as participants actively work with their spouses on identifying their child's strengths and weaknesses, and come up with some specific plans for activities to work on. The Consultant also meets privately at some point with each couple (at breakfast, lunch, or dinner) for a private consultation based on a video tape that was sent in ahead of time. The first thing that my group leader said was "You've got to stop scaffolding so much, he needs some challenge!" She hit the nail on the head, and we spent the rest of our private session discussing ways to give Jacob more of an opportunity to problem-solve. (For example, in cookie baking, instead of having everything we need out on the counter ready to go, put out a few items and let him figure out what we're missing, and where to find it.)

3. The confidence that the research results are supporting that this works. Dr. Gutstein presented some research results (that are still unpublished, I believe) to support the effectiveness of RDI. The studies were done by Connections Center, so they aren't exactly unbiased. Unfortunately, although I went scrambling around my admittedly disorganized office space, knowing that I was writing about the workshop today and hoping to get my hands on the results he provided us, I can't find my copy of them anywhere. And since they are unpublished, I can't direct any of you to go find them either. Which is frustrating me beyond belief. But they showed a very large percentage of kids moving one or two diagnostic categories after 2 or 3 years of RDI. Kids that started out as "Autism" had moved to "ASD", kids that had started out as "ASD" had moved off the spectrum altogether. I think every child in the study (20-something if I'm remembering correctly) had changed at least one diagnostic category. There were bunches of other more intricate details that I won't even begin to guess at, but those were what most stuck out in my mind and gave me the biggest reason to jump out of my seat cheering (if memory serves me correctly, I don't think I actually did that, but I wanted to). There it was -- PROOF that Autism could be remediated.

Not that I needed proof. I could see for myself with my own child. And once we got through Stage 4, the whole world could see.

Message for tonight: Get thyself to a 4-day Workshop!! I can't recommend it highly enough for anyone starting out on the RDI voyage. It will help you build yourself a sturdy boat and give you the tools you need to launch it and keep it afloat as you head out into the deep water. Certainly a better deal than how I did it, paddling a leaky canoe with a tennis racquet....


At 8:28 PM, Anonymous dianne said...

I have read all your past posts. Wow, what a wonderful blog!!!! Thank you. Dianne

At 9:07 AM, Anonymous kyra said...

the 4-day! it was great to go with dave. he finally got a chance to sink in and absorb some of RDI and we got to talk about what we heard each day TOGETHER! so rare and important! the big AHA moment for me was about our struggle with Guider/Apprentice. stop trying to GET MY SON TO DO this or that and just concentrate on having an experience together where i am the guide. that's all. and boy did it help!


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