Friday, December 01, 2006

our 2nd RDA and choices

This is a family photo taken the week of our second RDA at an historical state park near where our consultant lives. This was early June, 2006.

We had our second RDA a little over a year after our first. We were on the verge of mastering Stage 4, and had just discovered the extent of Jacob's deficits in Self Awareness and Appraisal. I was feeling pretty down about the whole thing. Although we'd made so much progress with his Autism Remediation, it seemed to me like we were starting all over again with a new set of challenges. Somehow, I had this unrealistic idea that once we got through Stage 4 and got rid of Jacob's inflexibility, we'd just fly through the rest of the RDI objectives. Instead, we seemed to have hit a wall. That stupid inflexibility had been SUCH an enormous mountain, I really expected that once we scaled it, there'd be a clear view ahead of us. Instead, we saw a bigger mountain.

I took Jacob to the RDA 1 and RDA 2 sessions, and The Map Man joined us for RDA 3 and the wrap-up session, as we had done during the first RDA. Next time we're going to do it differently, though. Our consultant said that it's easier for her to see what's going on with the child if the parent who works with them less attends the RDAs. That shows her what the child is capable of as opposed to what I'm capable of. Makes sense to me, wish I'd thought about that sooner.

During RDA 1 I was really pleased with how Jacob kept with me during activities, and I left with a really good feeling. But the following day, during RDA 2, I sat in our consultant's living room watching her work with Jacob on the video monitor, alternating between elation at how solid his RDI obejctives through stage 4 looked and how much co-regulating he was doing (a Stage 6 function, that we'd not formally addressed yet), and feeling sick to my stomach over his obvious inability to make even the simplest of choices. Our consultant kept scaffolding the choice making until she was assigning each choice a hand, then he would just pick a hand to make that choice. Jacob was pushed so far to the edge of his competency that he was wildly stimming -- spinning, hand flapping, jumping up and down, all things I hadn't seen from him in months. I wanted to curl up and die, and did my best not to cry all the way home.

A couple days later we were back for RDA 3, and our Consultant showed The Map Man and I some activities for not only allowing Jacob practice making choices, but also gave him a chance to think about things that he liked and disliked (work on Self Awareness). The main activity went something like this (with lots of variations on this):

Together we created a cover for what was to become the "Jacob book" (a place to write down preferences). We laid out several colors of paper, and Jacob chose which one he wanted to use. Then we laid out several different color markers, and he chose which one of those to use. We used it to write a title on the page, then we laid out several photos of us for him to choose which ones he wanted to stick on the page. Then he chose between glue stick, glue, and tape to adhere it. Then he chose from a selection of stickers which ones he wanted to stick on the page. And so on and so forth. It was tedious, it took him massive amounts of times to make those choices, but a couple hours later we had a front and back cover and a couple of inner pages. Good on him for being able to stick with us through all that. It wasn't particularly fun for any of us.

Our work at home became variations on this theme -- sometimes working on the Jacob Book, sometimes on other similar frameworks where he got to make choices a lot. Our entire day became about offering him choices and letting him make them. What for breakfast, cereal or cheese and crackers? Which type of cereal? Which shirt to wear today? Which pair of pants? Which diaper design? Which toothbrush do you want to brush with? Which pair of shoes to wear? Which jacket? Which car should we take? Should we go to the bank first or the post office? Lunch at McDonald's or home? McDonald's drive-thru or eat-in? Table and chair or booth? Etc, etc, etc.

We started with a choice of two things, then when he became proficient at that (he was making a choice between two items fairly rapidly), we moved to three items, then to four. After four, he seemed to be able to handle the choices between many things, but the jump from three to four was big for him -- often times I had to remove one of the items as a scaffolding to get him to make a choice.

Over the course of the summer, Jacob had lots of practice making choices, and by the end of the summer, he was pretty readily able to make choices that were provided to him. We still had (still have!) a lot of work left to get him to come up with his OWN choices, but at least we can now send him off to pick out a pair of pajamas to wear, and he'll return in a reasonable amount of time with his selection, rather than finding him half an hour later standing at his open dresser drawer staring at the choices.


At 8:50 AM, Anonymous kyra said...

you guys have worked so hard and made such amazing progress! yippee for jacob and making choices!


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