Sunday, June 10, 2012

RDI ~ reflections on episodic memory!


My boy has always been an incredibly anxious child. It is not uncommon for him to go into *fight or flight* mode when introduced to new experiences, concepts and anything else to do with LIFE! I am very aware that he would be extremely happy if he could spend the rest of his days glued to some electronic device. No doubt he would come up for air, although only when hungry and/or tired. Sadly for him, I am not on the same wavelength! 


As Nick's mum, it is my role to help guide my boy and show him that life isn't all big, bad and scary! New experiences can be fun. Learning new things doesn't have to be stressful. Going out into the community can be a positive and interesting exercise.


What I have discovered with Nick is that I have to take the *slow and gentle* approach. One of the ways in which I go about this is by working on his episodic memory (RDI).


I have learned over the years, that in order for my son to move forward, I need to help create a memory bank of positive moments for him. Moments that he can remember, learn from and then retrieve when needed. I want him to remember a particular moment and recall how it made him feel..... 


* Did he feel competent?
* Did he learn from that experience?
* Is he capable of moving one step forward from the experience?

To assist in building up Nick's episodic memory, I help him by introducing and guiding him through different experiences. I revisit old memories and build on to them. I also introduce new concepts and activities. At all times I need to be very aware and extremely mindful about my guiding. I must know exactly how far I can move Nick forward (that one step!) to ensure that what we are doing together is a positive learning experience. I am learning to take him to his level of competence and then one step further ~ believe me, it has been hard to rein myself in and it has been quite a journey to *slow myself down*!!


Please find below, three examples. One in which Nick solved a problem all by himself. Another where I am trying to turn an unhappy experience into a positive memory. Finally, an activity in which I am building up a memory bank to help Nick feel competent and for him to learn further.


I happened to see this one out of the corner of my eye and it was a big wow for me! The puppy was bothering Nick as he is wont to do! I saw Nick scanning the room and then go over to the puppy's bed. He picked up a toy, walked over to the puppy and gave him the toy. VoilĂ , the puppy then left Nick alone. Since that day, I often see Nick giving the puppy a toy when he wants him to go away! Nick has stored the memory of creating a solution and the solution was successful, hence it is now a regular pattern. Nick has solved the problem without assistance and has created his own episodic memory of the event.


Taking Nick for a haircut is certainly not a good example of a positive memory!! It has been ingrained into his episodic memory that having a haircut is an unpleasant experience!! However, over the years he has come to know what to expect. I have taken him slowly through the process and with a big smiley face.... Now Nick is happy to get out of the car (he used to cry when driving into the car park!). He is comfortable going into the Barber shop, sitting in the chair etc. He knows that he can choose the scissors or clippers. He is comfortable with the process until the barber starts cutting! (Then I bring out the iPad... when needs must and all that! Stick out tongue)  


Recently I started including Nick in one of my daily chores activities... making cheese sauce! My first goal was for him to stay with me for a short while. He was there to observe part of the process and to take a little turn stirring the sauce. We created an episodic memory in which Nick didn't feel any pressure to participate. He soon realised that his role was to stir the sauce, although because it was for only a few seconds, he understood that I wasn't telling him what to do and expecting him to perform. He was happy to participate. We have now moved on from those early days (around three weeks ago!) and Nick is now taking on various roles with ease. He is comfortable with the experience and he can recall what he has learned so far... AND he trusts that I am not going to move him too far out of his comfort zone. Again, I am also aware of how far I can nudge him further to make our activity a learning experience and a positive interaction, thus building up a positive episodic memory.


To conclude... 


Has it worked for us? Yes, without a doubt! I have gone from having a child who refused to do anything with me, to a child who is comfortable trying new things with me! Gone are the days when he would sit on the couch shaking his head frantically for "no" and continually making the sign for "finished". Let's be real though! My son is extremely challenged and progress is slow ~ but I am OK with that!


Slowly but surely we move on..........


Disclaimer:  This post is my interpretation of episodic memory... I may be way off the mark!!!


13 comments:

  1. It's great to hit on a system that works for you. I imagine the hardest thing must be slowing yourself down...we're so used to belting along at full pace that it takes a bit of discipline. Well done to you both XXX

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    1. Hi Jean
      It was hard to slow myself down, however, it has been so worth it. Life is now pretty much stress free and we just go with the flow these days! Thank you for your comment!xx

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  2. I see so much of my girl in your description of Nick. Creating a memory bank of positive moments is such a great idea. Your example of the hair cut is a good one - the hardest thing for me is helping my daughter get past the bad memories of an experience (going to doctor, dentist, etc). What a truly wonderful mum you are!

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    1. Hi rhemashope
      Yes, our kids are alike!! It is great to have the connection with you and also our mutual friend Judith U. You know what..... you are also a pretty amazing mum! :)

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  3. I don't think it matters if your interpretation of episodic memory is not textbook, as it seems to have a very positive effect on Nick and your ability to do everyday things with him :)

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    1. Hi there Blue Sky, you are right.... and yes, it really does have a positive effect on us. I think that no matter where your child is on the spectrum, being mindful of creating episodic memories is very beneficial! x

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  4. You truly are an amazing mother Di!

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  5. He trusts you and that what matters. Baby steps...you're doing a FABULOUS job. I wish I had your patience.

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  6. @WonderfullyFi ~ Thanks Fi. Back at you! xx

    @A Daft Scots Lass ~ I so laugh that you live in South Africa! :-) You have actually hit the nail on the head... my son trusts me.. when there is that trust, anything can be achieved! I am sure you have loads of patience!!

    Thank you both for taking the time to comment!

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  7. Di, it really doesn't matter that whether your understanding of episodic memory is correcet and I have no idea whether it is. What matters is the love for Nick that comes out of your post - the gentle attention and the victories you and he create together. As you said on FB the other day, you do walk at his side.

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    1. Hi there H,
      Thank you for your lovely comment! :)
      It has taken a lot of work to be able to walk side by side... and building those positive episodic memories has been so beneficial to get us to where we are today.

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  8. Great blog Di. A fantastic explanation of episodic memory

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    1. Thank you, Declan. I really appreciate your comment! :)

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