We all know that April is big in the autism community. For us in South Africa, April also means school holidays and long weekends, which makes for a very topsy turvy month! My birthday is in April, although it is a bit of a non event in my house! For my husband, April brings the extra challenge of running the Two Oceans Ultra Marathon in Cape Town.
Funnily enough, my birthday, the marathon and the expiry of my RDI subscription all fall on the same day!
Anyway, for the month of April, I have decided to give myself a birthday present!
I am going to take a break!
Obviously I am not giving myself a break from autism, so to speak! That would be rather silly considering that my child has autism and I certainly can't ignore him! :) Why am I taking a break? I am tired, so tired of trying my best, so tired of trying to be Super Mum. I am tired of wearing my sensible big girl undies. I am tired of trying hard to maintain a balance. I admit it, more time and energy is put into my child with special needs than into me or the rest of the family. So, for the month of April I am going to tilt that balance in the opposite direction.........
I am also going to give myself permission to NOT FEEL GUILTY if I don't give my child 100%..... Oops, that sounds a bit far fetched, but I am sure that you catch my drift!
I am not going to think about assignments, interactions and engagement. I am not going to think about following through on the O.T, Physio and SLT homework. In fact, I am going to try really hard not to think about any type of intervention.
If my child wants to eat Spaghetti Bolognaise (loaded with lentils and carrots!) every night during April, well then, so be it! If my boy wants to hop into my bed to watch a bit of TV in the early hours of the morning (not before 6am though!) I think I may join him.
I am giving myself permission to take a break and not feel guilty about it!
In fact, I am going to be a very chilled mum woman from the first day of April right up until the very last day of April!
I also think that Nick is going to love having a relaxed mum! I may have a little battle on my hands when May comes around and we commence with the whole routine again! :)
Oh yeah, I am also going to Cape Town for a long weekend with the Hubs and Teenager. Can't let the man run a marathon and not be there to catch him at the finish line. I wish we could take Nick with us; however, there are going to be too many people, too many social functions and too many changes ~ I know that he will be much happier staying at home!
I am giving myself permission to take a break and not feel guilty about it!
I enjoy talking about RDI and sharing my thoughts and the progress of my relationship with my child. My involvement with my son has moved on from being that of a carer to being an active participant. I can really feel my connection with Nick ~ it is if we have an invisible thread holding us together...we move and dip and sway.. rolling along but always together. I can see how relaxed my boy has become and I feel extremely *chilled* at taking him out into the community. I can hear my son connecting with me. He may not express himself with words but we communicate with ease. Life is slow. Life is calm. Life is good.
It is my understanding that RDI is divided into three categories. #1 Parent goals. #2 Student goals. #3 The Dynamic Curriculum. At present we are weaving and interlinking our way though #1 and #2. We are a long way off #3, however, I have no doubt that we will get there……. slowly but surely, we make progress!
The beauty of RDI is that each developmental stage has been carefully thought out in accordance with a child’s natural development. Each and every objective within each stage is there for a specific purpose. We may not have worked our way though many objectives during the past year, however, our personal growth has been positive and very visible. Nick’s level of competence has improved and he is much more confident at approaching new challenges. His increased flexibility and resilience has made life so much easier for us all. I have learned the importance of *engagement* and I rejoice in the strides that we have made in this area. I am also very aware that with any activity I do with Nick, the activity is only the *prop* for our connection with each other. I know the importance of non verbal communication and I am slowly coming to grips with using declarative language in a more natural way. Using this style of language with Nick works a treat. I enjoy watching him process and *think* about what I have said...... and yes, he always responds! :)
When we are assigned an RDI objective, I take some time to think about what we are going to be doing. I choose a few activities that I can use as props. I write up a framework sheet for each activity:- our roles within the activity and the co-regulatory pattern that we will use. I make a point of setting myself some limits as it is very important to me that I don't push Nick too far beyond his level of competence. As Nick's guide, I need to be very aware of taking him to the edge and just a little bit beyond. It is a fine line....if I take him too far, our interaction becomes more about the activity than our interaction, which defeats the purpose of what I am trying to achieve!
I have two video clips to share....
The first clip is on engagement ~ emotional investment and responsibility. My assignment went something like this. Consultant: I want to now concentrate on Nick's engagement *contract*. All this means is we are going to target Nick's engagement on a higher level. To do this, we start with seeing what he does when you are less engaged in moments of interaction. We want to see his understanding of his responsibility to do *something* to re-engage you . When you pause with engagement, I would like you to wait and have limited eye contact for approximately 30 seconds. What does Nick do? Then you can resume the activity."
We spent around two weeks working on this objective, using different activities to ensure that Nick didn't get *stuck* on the same old, same old! This is one of our final clips and you can see that Nick is very capable of re-engaging! You may wonder why I didn't respond immediately; but I know my Nick so well..... I wanted to wait until he re-engaged with purposeful intent......
My second video clip is also on engagement ~ keep going! This assignment follows on from the one above! Consultant:This next objective is to continue with Nick...being able to re-engage. You stopped engagement and he was still (with you). Now we want to see what happens if you leave the (space)...*lose focus* with instructions for Nick to keep going with the action you left him with.(very simple actions) First start off very simple and only *stop* your focus for 5 seconds. We will be focusing on giving him more opportunities in this area. You are going to be walking away or stopping more then you are used too! We are going to gradually build up time for Nick to *keep going*, understanding the end point but also being engaged, for 30 seconds.
As we work through the activity, I notice that Nick is involved with removing the items, however, he isn't referencing me for information. Therefore, I pause and wait for him to acknowledge the pause. I slowed down the whole process.You can see that Nick was comfortable with me moving away from the activity. He took a few moments to process that his role was to carry on unpacking the bag. I thought he did great. He easily slotted back into our pattern when I returned to the activity. The second time I moved away from the activity, I used the word *finished* without thinking about what I was saying. Whenever Nick hears the word *finished* he thinks we have *finished*!! I realised my mistake when I saw Nick leave the table and walk over to the camera. I didn't want the interaction to finish like this, so I went back to the camera and stood by Nick and made a point of commenting that I needed to turn the camera back on. You can see that he came back to the bag with me, without any fuss. How's that for resilience? :)
The last paragraph for this blog post........
This is only a tiny peek through the window. A minuscule glimpse into my relationship with my boy. This blog of mine is my own personal journal to chronicle our journey. My beliefs are my own and I am comfortable with my choice of intervention. For further information on RDI and children who are at the other end of the spectrum, you can pop on over to my friend Zoe's blog, Food for Thought ~ adventures in the not Nigella not Jamie kitchen. You may like to take a look at this blog Jacob's Journey. You could also go and check out Kathy's blog...What is RDI?
Today's facebook status.....
Me and the Nick have just walked for one hour and twenty minutes. We collected pinecones, threw stones, looked at the birds, waited for the zebras to move out of our way, hummed, blew raspberries, very carefully walked through long grass (phew, no snakes!) and we had the best time.