W had his best mate and her mum for a sleepover. The plan was to sleep in the tents but as I needed a good sleep at the moment, I piked. Also, W had a touch of croup so I suggested we all stay inside. Despite how excited he was he happily went along with it because he was so happy to have Z there.
R, Z’s mum said she was fine to have both kids out there with her so I thought about it a bit. He loves them, feels safe around them and we were so close by if there was a problem. So I sat him down and told him he could sleep out there if he wanted to and gave him the option to come back in if he needed to at any point. I knew R would be really tuned into his needs. He was super excited!
He slept out there all night like a big grown up boy! R said he went to sleep fine and she said he woke up in the middle of the night, sat up and asked for some water then re-made his bed and went back to sleep. WOW. And he felt so confident and happy about it. It was a real milestone for him.
They played so well together. The kids respect one another and stop to listen to each other and ask for clarification etc so nothing becomes a bother. They bring out the best in each other. They are so beautiful to one another and it is so sweet to watch.
One time W was carrying the heavy tent and he said "Could somebody please help me with this". Z went right to his aid and they did it together. He said "I could do it on my own but it is much nicer with two". Oh my heart just melted!
When they left W explained to me all the thinking that he had done to work out that he was safe in the tent. For example; he said he heard a noise and woke up and wondered what it was and where he was, then he felt the tent and thought about it and realised that he was in the tent and I was inside so he gently said R’s name and she was there for him and he felt safe.
So interesting that he thought to share his thinking with me about how it all felt for him.
Then after they left we got an invite to a bonfire to roast bunya nuts. There was going to be about 5 other families there so about 10 kids. I checked with W about it and he was really excited but said he really wanted to go for the fire, not to play. So he helped the 2 adults who were doing the fire and they are really awesome with him, they always have been; and he followed them and referenced them perfectly.
By the end of the night everyone had commented on how much W has grown and changed and how wonderful it was to see me out and about and enjoying myself.
M and M parents of W aged 6 and S aged 2
A Family Story Continues
This weekend our beautiful boy turned 7 years old. Looking back on the last year, I can see how far we have come. When W turned 6 he had a party with his best friend, a 35 year old neighbour and her husband. The idea of being with other kids sent him into a dizzying spin of anxiety and complete melt down.
This year he had the most AWESOME, AMAZING, FANTASTIC party with 2 very sweet and sensitive kids – his FRIENDS! How is that for a year of transformation?
I wove a lot of RDI into the party preparations. We are working on a few things…
Keeping secrets (or surprises) from him, which is a big one because it adds an element of uncertainty that is uncomfortable but also exciting.
Playing around with the whole lying thing. For example, he would say, "There is chocolate in the piñata isn't there?" I would look at him with a cheeky grin and say, "I’m not buying chocolate." So, we would play with it because it was safe and fun. This normalizes the experience for W when other kids lie or express things figuratively to him.
Connection and “You and Me” time over the preparations, such as making the piñata, etc.
Continuing with W’s main hurdle – socialization with other children
After all this preparation, it seemingly fell apart. It was all too much for W. He literally fell into a heap on the floor the evening before the party. He cried for 2 hours straight. He said he wanted a party but he needed his daddy to be there for the piñata, like last year. When W gets overwhelmed he wants no variation, and everything needs to be the same as it has been in the past.
I tried to fix it for awhile. I called M at work and asked him if he would consider taking the day off. I spoke with W about the fun we had had with his friends in the past and how daddy was never there on those play dates but I was, and he was safe. Nothing seemed to work. He said he was happy but on top of it was "fear, anxiety, sadness, disappointment and anger." He is so articulate at times!
We got into bed and I cuddled him to sleep, rocking him gently until he finally drifted off. He kept saying that tomorrow would be a disaster and he was sad, sad, sad. :-(
I got back up and called M and pleaded with him to stay home from work but M wanted to wait and see how W was in the morning. I felt like I couldn't carry everything on my own. I couldn't do food, activities and keep W in sync if he was this desperate and upset. I was a mess. So I focused on all the things about W that I adore, everything about him that makes him SHINE. And I fell asleep with deep gratitude for all that he has taught me and all that I am, because of him.
The following morning I woke up at 4.30am and thought long and hard about how to keep him 'with' me and how to turn it all around. I realised that I was pushing the edge with too many things at once - the social stuff, the changes from last year, the secrets, the anticipation, the lying game. So I decided to tell him that I needed a helper to bury the treasure for the treasure hunt over at the creek because it was one thing that had him really on edge. I thought doing that would get him back with me and would result in him feeling competent. It didn't feel like an act of compensation, it felt like connection and joy and fun!
W woke up at 6.30am and before he even woke up properly, he started to softly and sweetly sing "Happy birthday to me". Phew! Relief! I knew it was going to be ok. I told him about my plans to get him to help me and his eyes lit up. He was so happy. He didn't even mention the stress of the night before. He didn't even ask M to stay home from work. He was happy, excited and amazingly sweet.
We skipped over to the creek together. It just happened spontaneously. We were walking and then together we started to skip. Hand in hand, down to the creek to bury our treasure. The last year had been spent with me consciously setting up these scenarios to help W regulate and now here we were, laughing and skipping TOGETHER, in a natural and beautiful way. I could feel the stress and tension just melting away and it was replaced with eagerness and anticipation. Willow seemed hungry for adventure and fun with his friends.
Our guests turned up when I was in the kitchen. Normally I would make sure I was with W to help him with any stress of saying hello and welcoming people into the garden, but he did it all by himself, before I could even realise! I went outside because I heard laughter. The children were playing together and the mum was closing the gate. She walked up to me and said "Wow, that is the best W has ever been. Amazing." Double Phew!! So we had a well-deserved cup of tea while the kids played.
A few hours later I was watching my boy walk along the path to the creek with his 2 friends and his brother. The same path we skipped along and connected on. And now, here he was, my big 7 year old, with his friends, having an amazing day and laughing. He was on top of the world because our world is no longer determined by ASD.
What a ride this is! I love it. Each time it all falls apart, we can grow from it. He can rise to challenges and I can guide him. If things get too much, I have the tools to help him. I can pull back and slow down and get us back in a groove – this is the best birthday present of all because it gives us a freedom we had never known until we had RDI in our lives.
We are doing ok. We are doing awesome.
Seriously, this is the coolest life!!!
M and M parents of W aged 6 and S aged 2
"I feel this program is for pro-active parents who understand that nobody will give their child the best opportunities in life other than themselves. It’s an intense program for parents, you have to be committed and put in the work to get the benefits. When we first started Eloise had no eye contact, she was reluctant to spend time with my husband, myself and her brother and sister, she didn't like to visit friends or for them to visit us, she used to run away from me in shopping centres, in car parks, out our front door and down the road, very scary!!!, we were in despair we didn't know how to help her and how to make her life more bearable, we were only involved in conventional intervention programs that were demanding of her attention, interaction and cooperation, everything that ASD sufferers hate. We could see that this disorder was hurting her but we didn't know how to help her. We were put onto RDI through our paediatrician and met with Bronwen and haven't looked back since (well only to marvel at the milestones that we have reached). All I can say is that this program is real, it works, it doesn't invent the wheel it just goes back to basics, slows life down for the kids to catch up, it re-connects you with your child, they gain trust in you as their guide, it just all makes sense. Life is not only about learning abc, life is about living and communicating and building relationships and this program will give you that. I can’t express in words how thankful I am for getting involved in this process, it has changed our family already and we are only just beginning!!!" RDI parent of 6 months
“Before I started RDI, I had two children and a child with a disability. After doing RDI for 18 months I now have 3 children who play together and we can all do new things as a family.” A mother of an ASD child
"A recent comment made about our son... We thought there was something about him but not ASD …He's too aware and interactive and affectionate! Our Feelings… GO RDI®.... love it when he breaks every expectation of ASD!!!” Parents of a 7 year old boy with ASD
"Before I started RDI, anything, no matter how small, was enough to set me off. I was seriously considering suicide and even attempted it twice. Now I've started RDI®, it takes a whole lot more to push me over the edge and I feel better able to cope with life." 13 year old boy with Asperger’s Syndrome
"I have to consciously think back to remember where we were; how difficult even the simplest things were to do.Going shopping, having friends over, visiting, going to the park, Birthdays were all fraught with tension and trouble.Now we just go places and do things and don't even stop to think about what we might need to plan for or allow for. Life has normalised. Our family has laughter and unexpected moments we all can cope with and often be joyful about. Thanks to RDI we can look forward to the future as positive, promising and full of potential. " Mother of a 13 year old boy with Asperger’s Syndrome
“RDI® helped us to gain a greater understanding of what was happening to our child and his reaction in different situations. The feeling of competence instead of frustration has changed our lives considerably. We have ownership and a positive outlook for our future.” Angie and Michael Parents
“Because of RDI®, thousands of parents and educators have now realized that we can give our children and ourselves a second chance. We can provide our children with the opportunity to become dynamic thinkers and communicators. We can create pathways to success and a quality of life." Steven E. Gutstein, Ph.D.
"I am writing in support of Connect and Relate for Autism Inc. This professional group of highly trained RDI Certified Consultants has organized to meet the critical needs of families with autistic children in the underserved areas of Australia. They are committed to providing high quality, cost-effective and multi-disciplinary early intervention services that will empower parents to function as the primary guides to their child’s emotional, social and mental development. We have developed a sophisticated set of tools so that they can combine the best of face-to-face consultation with distance audio-video communication and on line education. I am certain that they will play a significant role in providing a quality of life for many families in the regions where they practice. Sincerely yours, Steven E. Gutstein Ph.D.
How RDI® is Getting There
Investing in building minds, not shaping behaviours
Developing the dynamic abilities needed for real-world success
Applying modern, “best practices” for learning
Investing in families first
Including older children, teens and adults
Tailoring intervention to each person’s unique needs