Wednesday, November 08, 2006

the master/apprentice relationship

I haven't talked about this aspect of the RDI program yet, so I figured it's high time. Actually, I'm not sure they are calling it master/apprentice anymore. I think they decided they didn't like the term "master", as it was giving folks the impression that they needed to be domineering over their kids, ordering them around and making them do stuff for them. More like master/slave.

I happen to like "master". It implies someone who possesses a great skill or knowledge. It also has a serene quality to it. I can just envision myself sitting high on a Tibetan mountain with my legs crossed, quietly murmuring out bits of wisdom, "referencing is the key to higher learning, Grasshopper". Hey, anything that puts me and "serene"into the same thought works for me!

In any case, Master or Teacher or Guide or Guru, whatever you want to call it, that would be us, the parents, the ones who have something of value to teach to our little apprentices.

The trick being, the little apprentices need to THINK like little apprentices. In other words, they need to WANT to learn what we have to teach them. They need to want to be with us to learn it. And they need to be able to learn with our assistance. This is where most parents run into a stumbling block when they start RDI, as most kids on the spectrum work pretty hard to control their environments, which also includes trying to control their interactions with their parents. The reason is because they want to keep everything static and predictable (see those core deficits of Autism!). And let's face it, kids don't make good masters. So a big part of starting out with RDI for most folks has to do with establishing a proper master/apprentice relationship. Without it, there can be no learning.

This is actually an area where we didn't have much trouble. Once Jacob had mastered Stage 1 and was able to attend to us during activities, his desire to follow our lead came pretty naturally to him (so long as we kept things scaffolded so he could be successful). In fact, a little too naturally. So while we sort of breezed through the whole master/apprentice thing during the course of Stage 1, his over-compliance came back to bite us in the butt later when, stripping away all of his inflexibility in Stage 4, we discovered that he was left with no basis to make any decisions (appraisal), and almost no signs of any self-awareness. At least a kid with an opinion, even if it's an opposing opinion, HAS an opinion. Jacob had none.

Ok, ok, I know, I can just feel you all rolling your eyes. Poor me, my kid is compliant. Well, just wait! You'll see how it's just as hard (maybe harder!) to have a child that is too compliant as it is to have one that wants to rule the household with an iron fist. It might take the family with master-apprentice issues longer to get through the first few RDI stages than it took us, but trust me, while you're all chugging along with the next several stages, we'll still be working on trying to get Jacob to make a simple choice like what color crayon to use to color in a circle....

But we're getting a little ahead of oursleves in the sequence of things -- at the end of Stage 1, Jacob was a willing little apprentice, and Stage 2 seemed like a completely conquerable task.


At 8:44 AM, Blogger Christine said...

So, I know that all of the stages have objectives that go along with them. ... is the development of the Master/Apprentice relationship one of those objectives then?

By the way, thanks again for taking the time to write about this. It has been hugely helpful for me.

Did you ever watch the intro DVD? We have just finished over the course of three nights and at the beginning I was very optimistic, but to be honest, as it progressed I started thinking that it was very hard for me to imagine my little guy doing the things on some of those clips. It seems a very long way to go for us! So I need to read all the "You can do it!!" posts I can find!

At 9:25 AM, Anonymous dianne said...

I believe compliance to be a VERY big deal. Does one want their child in a social setting doing whatever the other kids are telling him/her to do? THis is ok if the other children or adults are good, but what if they are telling ones child to do BAD things? RDI helps us to get our kids to THINK. Thank you for your post! I have recently pulled my son from public school and enjoy your blog. Very Sincerely, Dianne

At 9:50 AM, Blogger Harvest Mom said...

Christine, there are some "metafunctions" as they call them, that are not really stages but more overall concepts that you work on across a variety of stages. Master/Apprentice relationship is one of those "metafunctions", as is Regulation.

Yes, the DVD can definitely be overwhelming, but it's also encouraging, because that's where YOUR son will be when you get to those stages! Believe me, Jacob couldn't even do the most basic things on that DVD when he first started. But once we had Regulation down, we started seeing itty bitty bits of progress. I never thought we'd master Stage 4 (variations), because he most certainly was the most inflexible boy in the universe. But we did it, and now he loves variations and going different ways and exploring new things, and even chooses new ways of doing things over doing things the old way. That's a point I NEVER thought we'd get to. Now nobody believes me when I tell them he has Autism. In fact, I don't even tell all that many people any more. And we're only on Stage 6!! Still a long ways to go for full remediation, but even the gains in the beginning stages make an enormous difference in their quality of life.

One step at a time!! :-) Remember, it's a marathon, not a sprint!

At 11:21 AM, Anonymous Michele said...

You said exactly what I have been thinking! Thanks for putting it in the right words. My ds (stage 3) is overly compliant and is just starting to have an opinion on things! It is great, but our passive children have their own issues. I had never really thought of it as him having no opinion, but you are right.


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