Sunday, July 19, 2009

*Musing on behavior and development and autism*

After too many years of discreet trial and ABA (three years and three months, to be exact), circumstances put us into a position losing all of our staff at one time. High schoolers graduated and were beginning college. Our strongest tutor was offered a job at an ABA clinic, a job that would give her new experience.

A local psychologist was training to become an RDI(r) Program Certified Consultant, and I decided to try RDI(r) while I was finding and training new ABA staff.

That was almost five years ago. We never returned to ABA.

ABA relies on observing and changing behavior, from the outside.

RDI involves behavioral changes within a developmental framework, where, to quote RDI(r) mom, Tammy Glaser, "We are changing our behaviors but we are trying to understand why we are changing matters. "

ABA "works". My daughter learned everything we taught her in ABA. It's just that we were targeting the wrong areas. The stuff we taught her in ABA went waaaaaaaay out of developmental order, and, while she memorized a bunch of information and could perform on command, she was not interactive and could not manage in a regular classroom.

She learned exactly what we taught her, including some bizarre learned helplessness that happened as a by-product. (I wrote about learned helplessness here and here.)

If we'd had a different instrument than the ABLLS to guide the guides, we would have had a much better shot at "ABA-ing" the remediation process. But we needed a more neurodevelopmental instrument than the ABLLS provided.

Having used a behavioral approach, I view RDI(r) as being very behavioral as I change how I use myself. For example, if a child doesn't have to shift his own attention (because the parent does that for him), then he won't (or he can't). But changing the adult in a way that stops the adult from verbally directing attention all the time gives that child opportunities to shift his own attention. You're making a change in the adult's behavior, and that, to me is behavioral. Choosing the behavioral change to make in the adult is based upon the developmental need of the child.

When the child begins to shift his own gaze and attention, orienting his body on his own, the child is able to make new discoveries about what it means to shift his own attention, and now he has another opportunity with new information to process and respond to.

I had to change my behavior in order to make opportunities for my daughter. Slow down. Shut up. Wait. Give her the time she needs to think her own thought and take her own action. Dr Gutstein often reminds parents how we sometimes have to slow down in order to speed up.

RDI(r) was a catalyst for teaching me to give my child opportunities to process information on her own and to respond to them in a dynamic (non-rote) way. There were no scripts or drills to make my child memorize and follow.

RDI(r) offers parents the progression of neurodevelopmental steps that the ABLLS, for us, was missing.

Five years ago, I thought losing our ABA program to circumstances beyond my control was the worst thing that could happen to our autism intervention. I was wrong. It turned out to be the best thing, because it gave me an opportunity to try something different and make some new discoveries about behavior and development and autism.

1 comment:

The Glasers said...

The motive behind the change in behavior is what concerns me. You changed because you wanted to see if there was any value in slowing down, shutting up, and waiting (good lessons for me, too). When you saw the benefits of those changes, you chose to try more changes in your behavior. You were mindful of the changes you were making and why.

I would hope for the same process for our children. Pamela has "good eye contact" because she now knows that she can gain more information to help her understand what is going on around her by studying facial expression, gestures, etc. I do not have to demand it of her because she finds a value in giving eye contact that makes it worthwhile. I am not expecting her to comply for the sake of complying. I am expecting her why neurotypical people do things to our own benefit and she can learn to do something similar, but at her own pace.

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