Wednesday, March 14, 2007

when does it stop being Autism?

Truly, I've been busy. I've been working my hind end off at my occassional-yet-amazingly-stressful job. But I probably could have found time to blog, if I'd really felt the urge. And I DID feel the urge. Only I wasn't sure what I'd say. I opened up this form more than once in the past week, stared at it a bit, even started a sentence or two, then closed it and went to bed or out to play with the ponies. I just didn't know how to put into writing what was running through my head.

What it boils down to, though, is that I've been pondering the above question. When, in the course of Autism Remediation, does the word "Autism" stop applying to the child?

Jacob's made such amazing progress in the last month -- the last two weeks in particular, that it goes beyond what is possible simply through a remediation program. The only explanation I can think is that natural development has kicked in, and is kicking butt. (Er, well, kicking brain I suppose....) Not only does his (old RDI) Stage 7 stuff look good, but he's suddenly not only co-creating with us (Stage 8), he's also doing HUGE amounts of collaboration (Stage 9). I'm not even sure what's beyond Stage 9 in terms of objectives and goals -- maybe he's doing some of that stuff too. Not only is he holding his own in interactions, but he's planning and carrying out projects, purposely involving us in them, trouble-shooting difficulties for himself and others, problem-solving, making discoveries based on self-designed experiments -- all for the first time ever. His brain has thrown itself into high-gear and there seems to be no stopping it.

The timing is interesting -- RDI is about to launch it's new Operating System and the"new" version of RDI ("5.0") which is a major overhaul of not only the way the stages are set up, but the way the entire program is run. The major goal of consultants and their existing clients right now is to figure out where in the set of new stages (which have been rearranged so as not to even resemble the original stages, and follows closely the various facets of typical development) and objectives (some 1600 of them, or so I hear) they fall. It'll take months. It's confusing, and it's scary for parents who have gotten comfortable with the old stages and where it put them in the scheme of things in regards to stage work.

For me, I'm not even sure where we fall in the old stages anymore. So I'm embracing the release of the new stages, so I can work my way through and see where we're at. Where do I think we're at? I have a strong suspicion that we're pretty much at a place a typical 4 year old would be. Maybe a 5 year old? (Tho I don't know many typical 5 year olds, so am having trouble comparing.) And we're definitely in the process of shifting into cruise control -- Jacob's making some pretty enormous developmental strides with me standing on the side lines waving my hand as he passes.

Coincidentally, just as I was starting to wonder how much longer we would even be needing RDI, I ran into an aquaintance of mine who was doing RDI about a year before I even found out about it. She got to know Jacob "before" (people who have met him since RDI have no way of understanding what he was like before), so she knows exactly how far we've come. We got chatting about RDI, and I found out that she'd dismissed their family from RDI some months ago -- she said that she was so confident in her son's current developmental path, she just didn't need it anymore. Of course, her family still lives an RDI-friendly lifestyle (it's more a parenting style than anything else, and is something that will carry on for the rest of their parenting lives), but she's not done any purposeful stage work in quite some time, and couldn't even tell me what stage her son was at. She then looked over at Jacob, sitting next to her son having a conversation about something that only could interest young boys, and asked me if I'd considered that it was time to move on with him, too. I admitted for the first time to anyone, even myself, that yes, that was exactly what I'd been wondering myself lately.

Does the word Autism still apply to Jacob? Do I even need to be purposely doing RDI anymore?

Some pretty big questions. I'll be spending the next couple of months trying to determine the answers. Stay tuned.


At 7:09 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Shelly,
We are just starting an RDI program for our two boys and have been reading your blog for a couple of months. I have to say, your post brought tears to my eyes. Reading your posts, I have often thought to myself thaat Jacob often seems somewhat "typical" in his interactions, play, and curiosity. Whether or not you continue with your RDI consultant, it seems to me that you are on a great trajectory that will only continue towards the stars. I can only hope that we will hit this point with our boys at some point. Congratulations. Rachel

At 7:27 AM, Anonymous kyra said...

i second the congratulations! i am SO EXCITED for you guys! beyond excited! moved and thrilled and delighted and overjoyed. it is so incredible to read about jacob's progress, but then, not incredible considering how much i believe in RDI and you and jacob. you are all amazing and inspiring and i only hope (and believe) that i will be writing a similar post in a year's time.


At 4:11 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm so pleased that you have come this far. Your blog is something that has kept me going the last few months as our little boy starts out with RDI.

Not that I know really where Jacob's at, but for what it's worth, I'd keep in touch even if loosely with RDI.

I have an older brother who always had some learning issues as we grew up. From learning about ASD now, I would say that if he was a little boy today, he'd be on the spectrum, if mildly. He has done fine at least outwardly in life - has a job, lives independently, goes along fine, but he still has some oddities with his social interaction.

I think adults would have looked at him in his growing up years and thought, "Yeah, he'll be fine now" but the truth is, amongst his peers, he is still a little strange.

(Personally I'd love for him to look at RDI as an adult, but don't know how to approach him about it.)

We as parents see one view. Peers see another. And if RDI can help iron out those strange bits of an outwardly ok kid, it's worth doing, especially approaching his teen years.


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