RDI ~ Observation and Imitation

We have been assigned a new RDI objective and it goes something like this;

Observation and Imitation

I need to provide opportunities for Nick to observe me demonstrating small things that I do on a day to day basis; and it needs to be something he is not used to doing. I then need to revisit that same activity a few hours later and observe to see if Nick is capable of memory retrieval and can imitate my previous actions.

As mentioned by our consultant; "The Challenge- Even though we will observe the goal of being able to carry out an action, we are looking, in this case at the goal beneath the goal of observation and imitation, leading to the understanding of the intent of observation to be able to carry out a goal"

"Nick observes carefully while you demonstrate a simple cause and effect action that results in a clear outcome. This observation will then carry over to understanding the relationship between observing and actually taking responsibility in doing it."

Sounds easy, right?

For the sake of this blog post, I am only going to focus on one framework....

*Making a cup of tea*

My aim was for Nick to observe me opening the cupboard and taking out one cup, the canister of teabags, the canister of sugar and a teaspoon. I also planned to make declarative comments to highlight each item. Due to other commitments throughout the afternoon, I decided to wait three hours before revisiting this activity. Then our roles would change, it would be my turn to observe and Nick would be responsible for taking out each item.

The following (very short) video clip shows both interactions 

Hmm, this wasn't as easy as I thought it was going to be. You can see from the video clip that Nick was aware that he had to take the items out of the cupboard, however, he was unable to remember the items and the sequence in which I took them out of the cupboard. 

Reflecting on this particular clip was a learning curve for me. I came to the conclusion that the time between activities was too long and I had given Nick too many items to remember. I also realised that he had no understanding of tea and sugar. He didn't know the words 'canister' or   'silver'. He was not aware of the difference between the spoons in the drawer. 

Not to be too harsh on myself, I do think that we, as a family, need to be more mindful of including Nick in more day to day activities! To our detriment, we have over indulged our special needs child; we have pandered to his whims because of his disability. His needs are high; however, he has proven to us that he is capable of so much more. We have to raise our expectations and guide him to succeed.

Moving right along......

The next time I introduced this activity to Nick, I made sure to use only two items and to spotlight the pattern on my cup. I was also mindful about slowing down and giving Nick time to observe, think and remember! 

Nick was relaxed and attentive. Our interaction was a positive experience.......... but, would he remember what to do in one hour's time?

I also wanted to see if Nick could retrieve from his memory the information about my cup, therefore, I snuck in a little curve ball of my own! I chose a brightly coloured striped cup and placed it next to my blue flower cup. Nick would see the striped cup first!

Viola, how good was that? :)

You can see at the beginning of the clip that Nick wasn't keen on participating ~ he asked me for the computer and then for the car. However, he quickly slotted into the pattern of retrieving the items AND check... he took out the blue flower cup!!!! I made sure to spotlight that success!

By making a few changes and simplifying our objective, we achieved success. That is a great feeling! The next time I do this activity with Nick, I can add a little challenge. Perhaps I will add an extra item for him to remember. Maybe I will introduce a different pattern of engagement. The possibilities are endless.

I think it is important to remember that I am not training Nick on how to achieve a skill. I am purposely providing him with opportunities and giving him the time to process information, think about that information and then decide on his next course of action. I am not telling him what to do, I am inviting him to respond. I am challenging him to become a dynamic thinker.



  1. wow you guys are doing reall well!

    Nick looks calm and you are cute :D

  2. Switching from teaching rote skills to offering dynamic thinking opportunities is challenging but SO rewarding! The video clips are helpful, too!

  3. Thank you for sharing this... I know now where to look if we will get similar objective... My 'private' video library... :o)

  4. I have certainly indulged my dd with cerebral palsy, especially when her growth spurt happened and she lost several skills. Reading this makes me realise that I need to find more ways to help her to think. Good to see Nick doing so well in the third video xx

  5. @Stranded ~ Nick has made some lovely progress over the last year.

    @Penny ~ You are so right, offering dynamic thinking opportunities makes all the difference!

    @Petra ~ ha ha! :D

    @Blue Sky ~ I think it is only natural that we over compensate for our kids, such is life!

    Thank you all for your lovely comments. x

  6. You r soooooo awesome.
    I baby R aa lot mostly becasue I find that its much easier to do something myself than to teach him but of course its long term a very terrible thing

    1. Hi K, we mums are the same all over the world! We always do too much for our kids! :)

  7. 1. Did Nick make a hard c sound when asking for the computer? I thought I heart it.

    2. I loved how the curve ball didn't make him flinch. I also enjoyed how he sniffed the tea. Joy is pausing to stop and smell the tea.

    3. One of my best tips is doing nothing. Sometimes, we took too long to get done what Pamela wanted done. So, she ended up teaching herself to do it. :-)

    1. Hi Tammy
      I am not sure about the C in this instance, although he does use it for "computer". Nick is amazing with curve balls, he can be very flexible at times! :) Pausing does work a treat, I need to do it more often!! I would love Nick to be like Pamela, in fact she is often on my mind when I look into Nick's future.

  8. He did so well. It's hard to remember to let our kids do things for themselves but so worthwhile in the long run.

    Waiting is so hard, isn't it. It's something we had to learn with Cameron quite early on because his dyspraxia slowed his responses and if we repeated and/or moved on he'd get too confused to participate.

    Looking forward to the video where Nick makes you a cup of tea. :)

  9. Gidday Jane! :)
    Yes, it is worth it in the long run. Waiting can be hard although I find that it makes such a difference... I wish I had captured Nick on video this afternoon. We were carrying a shoe each to put in the cupboard and Nick took off ahead of me. So I stopped and waited. He kept referencing me to see what I would do. I kept waiting! Eventually he put a huge grin on his face and he came back to me. We then walked to the cupboard together to put my shoe away! :)

  10. Those moments when it all works are so precious. Cyber high five for Nick - and you.


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