What is research telling us for treatment?
As a parent, my journey with autism has been a long one, but an optimistic one. Looking back it is almost surreal to think how far we have come, Jake and myself.
My evolution from parent in denial, parent in despair, parent in the midst of looking, searching, even praying for answers.
Answers to the echolalia, answers to the inflexibility and insane insistence of sameness, Answers to the craving for isolation and the seemingly endless need to self stimulate.
The constant worry, constant sadness, constant isolation of even myself, withdrawing further into a world focused solely on trying to find a way to help my son.
What if I had known what I know now? What all parents should know in 2016: That the guiding relationship is so crucial to our children’s development.
We know it instinctively.
We try to interact.
We try to relate.
We try to reach out to our child with autism,
but something is not right.
Our child with autism does not want to reach out to us!
Making it so very hard, if not impossible to connect,
to reach our child.
Research is now clearly showing that the breakdown of the parent-child relationship sets us down a path of no return.
It actually makes so much sense.
How else do typical infants learn, grow and develop?
No one would argue that infants learn from their parents. Why should infants with autism be any different? ALL children need and deserve the opportunity to be guided by their parents. “Therapist, teachers, professionals are wonderful people” as Dr. Gutstein, founder of RDIConnect, knowingly states, “but they can not take the place of parents.”
Parents need to be empowered, parents need to understand what the research is telling us in 2016.
YOU CAN be your child’s best advocate.
YOU CAN guide your child’s growth and development.
YOU CAN make the biggest impact in your child’s life.
I have done it for my own child (now a grown man) and you can too!
Please Join Us May 14th & 15th, 2016 at Kean University, Union, NJ and Learn a New Perspective. Dr. Gutstein will present and break down the research in a clear and understandable way. We are Redefining Autism and you should too!
To Learn More
Redefining autism is looking at autism through the lens of the 21st century, looking at what current research is telling us about autism and, more importantly, the implications for intervention.
At the RDIConnect Fall Conference 2015, Dr. Gutstein spoke about the guiding relationship as he has from the origins of RDI. Dr. Gutstein looks at kids with autism and sees potential, sees possibility, sees hope. We know kids with autism fall off the typical developmental pathway and RDI asks, “How do we put them back on that path?”
The most important ingredient is the parent - child relationship or guiding relationship to be restored. And that’s great news for parents because we CAN do that. It may not be easy but we parents are our own best resource, along with a guide to help. A guide in the form of a RDI Consultant, someone to navigate us, partner with us, show us the way. Help us find the path.
Current research is catching up with what Dr. Gutstein has been saying for years. In a recent study Hobson et. al* concluded that improved parent-child interactions decrease the severity of autism. Countless RDI families know this to be true, I am one of them.
Where does redefining autism come in?
Dr Gutsten continued to explain that kids on the spectrum have lost what he calls mastery motivation, a desire to seek out growth, a desire to seek out challenge, a desire to grow and learn from their parent guides. Think of any typical child playing peek-a-boo. The child is motivated, thrilled by variations, and excited by the dynamic nature of this simple game.
Parents have an innate desire to guide their child’s growth and development.
But, tragically at the same time parents are seeking to guide their child, the child with autism is withdrawing, clinging to sameness, resistant to change, urgently trying to maintain homeostasis which, of course, is impossible to do in our ever changing dynamic world.
This mismatch is what Dr Gutstein believes leads to the continuing spiral down the wrong path for our kids with autism. As parents continue to push their child, their child just withdraws further. Often times turning to ritualistic behaviors for comfort in a confusing world.
What is a parent to do?
As a parent, I believe just knowing this information is powerful.
I remember trying to do just that, reach out to my son with autism to guide him, show him new things, challenge him.
And just as Dr. Gutstein explained at the Fall Conference my son continued to withdraw. His desire for mastery motivation was not activated. He withdrew further and further. I knew I was losing him, but didn't know what to do about it.
Images of him swinging on the swing for hours, jumping on the trampoline, which became a permanent fixture in our living room, and insistence on sameness are a distant memory.
I remember one day sitting in the dinning room having dinner conversation and seeing Jake jumping away and thinking “how can I let this be my normal?”
Luckily, I found RDI when Jake was 9 years old and we slowly made our way back to normalcy. We regained our guiding role as parents and slowly Jake began engaging with us and the world around him. And this was only the beginning.
Next steps: Dynamic Intelligence Curriculum
At age 16 we continued our journey with RDI and the Dynamic Intelligence Curriculum. The Dynamic Intelligence Curriculum is for kids who have established the guiding relationship with their parent or guide and are ready to begin taking more responsibility for their growth and self development.
The main goal of the DI Curriculum is to create an organized system of stored knowledge about one’s self. An external representation of knowledge that you can draw from when planning and preparing for future challenges. The goal is to learn about yourself in relation to the world and your relationship with other people in your world in a way that will benefit you in the future, to make you a more competent, successful person.
It sounds complicated but it isn’t. It actually is an essential tool for all people on the autism spectrum as a universal deficit among people on the spectrum is their inability to learn from past experiences and apply this information to future situations.
No wonder my son would say, “Life is hard for me”, “I should have known that”, “Why am I so stupid?” He was lost and confused and he knew it, but he didn’t know what to do about it, until now.
Now he routinely saves information from experiences he has. He stores the information, categories it, matches it with similar experiences, updates this knowledge and plans for upcoming challenges and situations. In a word, he is EMPOWERED. And I must admit, it is awesome to see!
To me that is redefining autism in a nutshell:
Empowering parents! Empowering kids! Becoming the best person they can be!
*The Relation between Severity of Autism and Caregiver-Child Interaction: a Study in the Context of Relationship Development Intervention
Jessica A. Hobson , Laura Tarver, Nicole Beurkens, R. Peter Hobson
To Learn More
Redefining Autism: RDI 2-Day Workshop
May 14th &15th 8am-4pm
Kean University, N.J.
Redefining Autism Online Summit 2016
Join us for the first ever RDIconnect Redefining Autism Summit 2016 featuring Dr. Steve Gutstein and others. This exciting online event will bring together recognized experts on the cutting edge of autism treatment to address the topics that matter most to you and your family.February 8-12, 2016
Kristine Mastronardi is a RDI Certified Consultant and Parent. Kristine has experienced first hand her son's remediation through the RDI program. Her mission is to spread RDI awareness to other families so they can experience the same rewarding success for their own families.