Diary entry day one......

5am:   Get woken by husband who is going for a run (in the rain!)

5.45:   Get up kids and let the dog out for a wee.

6.45:    Say goodbye to number one son and wish him a good day at school.

7.20:    Tell number two son that it is time for school..... lets go!

7.21:    Oh shit, dog has destroyed two large bags containing plants for school.

7.22:    Oh double shit, number two son is missing a shoe, I can't find it anywhere.

7.23     Find new pair of shoes that I bought at the same time as the missing shoe.

7:40     Arrive at school, unload the kid and plants.... and decide to stay for a while.

9:30     Oops, still at school but enjoying time with the wonderful team and the kids.

10:00    Arrive at shopping centre to have coffee with lovely friend. 

11:00    On 2nd coffee. I swear too much and have a wee driz! Sorry, lovely friend! x

11:45    Oh my word, look at the time. Need to go collect number two son from school.

12:30    Collect number two son. Am so excited to see photo of him on a bike!

1:00pm   Number two son has lunch, dog has a biscuit, I had lunch when out.

1:15       Think about doing a planned RDI engagement.

1:20       Find dog with half eaten bar of camel chocolate (given by lovely Dubai friend).

1:20      Frantic phone call to vet....... whilst on phone, number two son calls me......

1:20      Needs a change of clothes..... "oh shit, please go and get some clean clothes"

1:21      Frantically look for dog to see if choking or vomiting.  Happily playing in garden.

1:22      Door bell rings. Delivery of wine for husband. Dog likes visitors and open gates!!!

1:25     Manage to get dog inside house before opening the gate for delivery man.

1:27     Go and find number two son to find him in state of undress and curtains open.

1:27     Sigh!

1:28     Stuff it, decide to go to the beach front for a walk with dog and number two son.

1:45     Arrive at beach and go for lovely stroll, although dog keeps finding chicken bones!

2:30     Head home feeling better.

3:00     Go to a dentist appointment for me and number two son.

3:30     Oh crikey, I need a filling. Number two son very happy with iPad.

4:00     Pretending like mad that being in the dentist chair is easy and fun *thumbs up*.

4:15     Tired of being in the chair and tired of pretending. Number two son being a star.

4:30     Number two son in the chair. Like heck is he going to open that mouth!

5:00pm   Collect number one son from a lovely friend's house.

               Evening chaos begins

7:00pm   Number two son in bed

               We sit down to hastily prepared supper.

                Number one son very concerned about dog.

                Husband admits to eating the chocolate (and thought it delicious).

                Husband admits to leaving the chocolate on coffee table. 
                ("but the dog shouldn't be in that room")   

7:42pm    Sore mouth and no pain tablets.   

7:44pm    Off to rummage in pantry cupboard for some chocolate!  


RDI - we are turning hard into easy!

There is so much that my boy battles to do, even something really simple as making his own juice. The motor planning involved with such a basic every day task is really hard for him.

Don't get me wrong, he is certainly capable of learning, however, the process is long and drawn out. Personally, it is not a problem for me and I am happy to move along at his pace. I don't see the point of trying to fast forward and miss out on any crucial steps of his development. Upon reflection, Nick has certainly plateaued many times over the years, although interestingly, since starting RDI he has made steady progress without any hiccups!

This brings me to our latest objective. We have been working with this one for a few weeks and it is one that I have really enjoyed doing..... in fact, I like it so much that we are just going to keep on doing it!

*Nick is motivated to seek out and engage with challenging decision-making opportunities. Nick experience Himself as being able to "do hard things." When offered the option, he begins to prefer engaging in "Challenging" (subjectively appraised as difficult), over "Easy" situations. NIck learn to differentiate the experience of feeling challenged from the experience of feeling overwhelmed, as well as from activities the Nick has already mastered.  (*This is based on just one objective in the RDI program)

The following is my latest video footage and feedback that I sent to our RDI consultant.

Assignment: Easy and Hard

I decided to re-visit our old dishwasher activity. We haven't done it for ages and I thought if would be a great opportunity to guide Nick and really emphasis the difference between easy and hard. I chose to work with a reciprocal pattern. Due to Nick battling with motor planning, I felt that this pattern would be beneficial for engagement. I decided that I would take my turn first and through observation and the use of declaratives I hoped that Nick would understand what we were doing and how we were going about it.
I was very specific on my framework sheet that we would each use three of each item that was to be stacked into the dishwasher..... thus preventing me from spending too much time on the interaction. My mantra was *keep pausing* so I was very mindful of stopping/pausing and also slowing my pace down. I had planned to cut back on the amount of language that could be used and only make comments when I thought necessary. I also planned to *think aloud*.
  • What did you observe in terms of the challenge? Nick was happy to join me at the dishwasher, although I did notice that he was keen to rush through our engagement. I had to really ensure that I slowed right down in order for him to pay attention to me. If I had left him to carry on, he would have quickly put the items into the dishwasher and then leave. Kudos to him though, he was aware of my actions and he adjusted himself accordingly to regulate with me and to reference me for information. 
  • Did anything surprise you? Oh yes, I was amazed that he quickly realised how the cups were to be placed. My self talk and demonstration must have been spot on! Our hard turned into easy... so I had to quickly improvise in order to spotlight the next hard! Big Smile. I took him to his edge plus one.... and because it was so easy, I just had to do it again!!
  • Site one or two (or more if you like!) time codes that you feel are important and state WHY they are important:  
0.16: Nick was keen to get to the sink and get an item, and I remember thinking (fleetingly) that I needed to slow him now. Thus, I put my hand on him to make him stop and wait. I am not sure if this was important... although making that physical connection with Nick made him aware of the need to stop.

0.45: I emphasised that what we had just completed was *so easy*. This was important because in order for Nick to hear and remember the difference within our engagement, I needed to spotlight the moment.

0.54: Nick was pushing in the top tray but I hadn't finished with our engagement. I didn't tell him that we hadn't finished.... I just gently pulled out the tray and held it in place when Nick tried to push it in again. I purposely kept a big smile on my face to let him know that it was okay but we were going to keep going.

1.31: I laughed because I had realised that our *hard* had become our *easy*. This is very important to highlight here because I am aware that I took Nick to the edge plus one and he aced it. Immediately I started thinking that I need to spotlight *hard* therefore, I will have to give Nick an extra challenge. This was not on my framework sheet but I decided to wing it! I made sure to spotlight that what we had done was too easy.  

1.47: OMW, I nearly missed this! Nick watched me rinse the bowl and then make a move towards the dishwasher. Nick went to open the dishwasher!!!!!!!!!!  
2.02: Nick is rushing, therefore I slow him down a bit by giving him a little explanation of what is going on and I emphasis *slow*.  This is important to make note of because it shows that I am understanding the need to take it slow in order for Nick to regulate with me and be aware that he can learn from me, from observation and body language and the words that I use.

2.24: Nick is asking for help.... which is pretty consistent of him when he is feeling incompetent. I don't want him to give up, so I tell him that I know he can do it. I like that I can encourage him naturally and spontaneously without putting any thought into it.

2.28 - end. I spotlight that what Nick is doing is a bit *hard*..... and you can see him persevering. I make sure to spotlight that he *did it* when he finished. After this plate, we then stopped as I didn't want to push Nick any further. I realised that he was at his *plus one* and that he had done enough. 
  • What did you do well in this frame?  I liked that I really made a point of slowing everything down. I am very happy that I didn't go overboard with the language used and also that I am very comfortable with the use of declaratives! It may not look like it but I was constantly assessing and thinking about my next step. I feel that I was paying more attention to our actual engagement than the activity itself.
  • Is there anything you would change? Upon reflection, I feel that I need to put a little bit more time into thinking about each engagement and make any needed amendments before I actually do the next engagement. I must continually reassess my frameworks to ensure that I am taking into account the edge plus one concept. I also need to remind myself to only take Nick plus one and then no more.

CONCLUSION:  I really enjoy this objective. Working with easy and hard has really highlighted to me that *edge plus one concept*. I find that I am continually looking at what we are doing and then planning for the next *hard* step. From another perspective, the same objective has turned into a learning experience for Nick. He knows that he has done something easy and he feels competent. He is aware when something is hard, however, he perseveres with a little guidance and he learns from that experience. We can only but move forward!

A weekend in pictures!

Driving in on Friday...
I take off my seatbelt and breathe.
My shoulders relax and all worries disappear.

Driving out on Saturday...
Pictures are deceiving. It is a cold windy day and we are stuck indoors. Enough, we cried... lets head for the snow!

Okay, there we have it ~ snow!
We also went to our old favorite coffee spot BUT no animals allowed! 
We found a better spot WITH better cappuccinos and the dog sat at my feet.

Home again... 
Having a little chill time! Yes, that's Nick under there. No, I don't know how he can work the iPad without seeing what is going on! Me ~ I am irritated because I don't have internet access except for my phone! 

The wind has died down. Come on lazy boys, lets go walking!
We are feeling a little apprehensive. Nick is not a keen walker and this route is a bit tricky in places! 

Crossed the rickety bridge, trip, trap. Giving a little bit of assistance up the steep slope.

Hey Mum, are you still with me?

Okay, I have had enough now. Can we go home?

How about computer?

*WOW* .... he made it to the top.
I still can't believe it!

We walked from  w...a....y   over there and some!

There is something so special about this magical place that we are lucky enough
 to visit once a month.

My big kid, the dog and my big kid's friend.
The dog had a wee op that involved stitches, hence the cone!
(Photo shared with permission!)

Until next time......

My Hopeful Parents post for August

If you pop on over to the Hopeful Parents blog, you will find a wee letter that I wrote for Nick....  

RDI ~ on the fly!

Being an RDI mum means that I journal a lot. It might be a nebulous little paragraph, perhaps a long story or even a photograph. Regardless of what I may write, it is certainly a great way to reflect and to keep track of our progress. 

The following is my latest journal entry.

It's been one of those slack days! The type of day that involves being a taxi mum and a dog walker. The hours in this type of day just fly by so quickly and before I know it, the day is over and I have put very little effort into *planned engagements* with Nick. Life happens and sometimes it is just best to go with it!

Anyhow, as I was on the way to the beach with boy and dog in tow, I was thinking away to myself (whilst driving very carefully!)... what could I do with Nick that would be productive, a learning experience and encourage a meaningful interaction! Ho hum, I started thinking about our latest RDI objective and how I have been incorporating the concept of easy and hard, whilst making juice and regulating the water flow from a tap. 

Water! Dog!  That's it..... when we get to the beach we can give the dog a drink of water. In my car I have an old ice-cream container and an old juice bottle full of water. I think of different scenarios to spotlight that what we are doing is *easy*. Generally, when we get to the beach, Nick takes off his shoes and stands there waiting for me to get organised. I wondered how he would react when I invited him to help me. I decided that Nick's role would be that of holding the container while I poured the water into it. He could then put the container on the ground! Yay, success! Nick responded to my invitation to help and he found the experience very easy. I spoke about how *easy* it was and then we all traipsed onto the beach. Okay... to tell the truth, Nick tentatively put one foot in front of the other and the dog immediately started sniffing the ground and munching on all sorts of delights (think the dog is going to feel very sorry for himself later!).

As the dog continued to explore his territory and Nick plonks himself down on the nearest log, I start thinking about what we have just done and mull over my next step. Hmm, I now need to spotlight that what we are doing is harder than what we did before. Again, I ponder over this... if we were to swap roles, how was Nick going to cope with taking the lid off the juice bottle and pouring the water into the container. Let's face it, his motor planning is not the best! In the end, I thought "why not".... this would actually be the perfect example for *hard*.

As we walk back to the car, I talk about the dog and how he will need some water, especially after eating that very dodgy fish head! Nick doesn't give me any indication that he has heard me, although when we reach the car, Nick went to collect the container (that I had left under the car). Nice one, Nick! 

Oops, no water! I take the juice bottle out of the car and give it to Nick. I then take the container and wait. I don't say anything as I want Nick to reference me for information. I want to see if he can decide what the next course of action is. I don't want to prompt him in any way! 

Nick turns the bottle upside down, over the container! Nothing happens, so I say, "ah, no water!". He pauses then decides to pull up the nozzle of the juice bottle. Still no water. Now it would be very easy for me to tell him what to do, BUT, I want him to figure it out for himself. Again, he pulls out the nozzle a bit more and then holds the bottle over the container.. nothing happens. (Nick doesn't realise that he can squeeze the bottle). I wait patiently, giving him the time to think about his next plan of action. I spotlight "oh no, this is hard to do". He realizes that the water isn't coming out and he stops. Within a few seconds, he has turned the bottle upright, taken off the lid and poured the water into the container! Fantastic, I am delighted that he has figured it out for himself. He did find it hard, however, he persevered and he was successful.

Yay, go Nick! Big Smile

Another nice memory to store in the bank.

As for me.... my mind is onto the next challenge. How can I extend on what we have done? Was there something I noticed during the interaction? What activity can I plan to emphasis the difference between easy and hard? What framework can I write up for a really effective *engagement*. 

Aha, Nick didn't know that he could squeeze the bottle to get the water to come out. There we have it, our next goal. This one will not be done *on the fly*. I will be writing up a framework sheet for a planned engagement.

Now, this is why I like spontaneous interactions. As we go about our day to day business, an opportunity may occur that I can take advantage of. I do put a lot of thought into what I want to achieve, I just don't write up a framework sheet. I like the fact that our informal interactions open up possibilities and give me food for thought.

Upwards and onwards!

RDI - Thinking aloud!

Once a week I try to listen to a webinar hosted by Dr Gutstein. The webinars are available for the parents who are working with a consultant and are members of the RDI platform. Personally, I find them incredibly interesting and I always come away with some snippets of information that have resonated with me. I do admit to also feeling a little overwhelmed with the content of each webinar. My brain takes in what is being said, however, at times I don't have enough time to process the information and keep up with Dr Gutstein! Thankfully, should I be so inclined, I can watch the archived version.

Way back, when I first heard of RDI, the main focus of the program was about child objectives. Working from a developmental perspective each child progresses through a series of objectives and stages. The parents help their children by changing their own communication style; and by purposely planning interactions with their children by using activities as props for engagement. The program has continued to evolve over the years and the focus has moved from the child to also include the parents.

Why the parent? you may ask... Well, if you think about it, in order to help our children progress, we need to be proficient at guiding our children? I think that I am a good parent, however, to be very honest, I am (or was) a parent who skimmed the surface. I didn't delve too deeply into parenting. I may have had a base line knowledge of child development but I didn't (and still don't) know each step and stage that children attain in natural circumstances. 

Through RDI I have learned; and can visibly see, hear and really understand whereabouts my child is on the developmental scale. I have had to be realistic and accept what his capabilities are and come to terms with the fact that my son is lagging far behind that of his peers. Due to the fact that Nick has other issues besides Autism, I don't feel that he will reach the level of his peers. All I know is that we have him back on that developmental path and we move forward. As for how far forward he will move... well, we just don't know what the future holds.

But you know what? I am okay with that. 

I have learned that RDI is not just about the child objectives, it is also about being an effective guide. It involves making decisions and thinking about those decisions. It is about learning from those decisions. It is about creating good guiding engagement habits. To get the most significant growth for myself, I need to learn how my decisions are being made. I need to self evaluate and record my thinking process. In order to guide Nick, I need to be on the ball on how to actually guide him!

I find that I do continuously think about what I am doing with Nick. My mind is always ticking over on how I can take him to the edge of his competence and then take one more step, for learning to take place. I plan an interaction with Nick and then assess the situation as I go along. We might come across an obstacle (i.e. I have discovered that Nick is unaware of gauging the speed of water from a tap). I will work over different scenarios in my mind and formulate a plan. Once I have a plan in place I can then address that issue from an RDI perspective.

I am starting to waffle and this just happens to be the quickest blog post I have ever written!  Please bear in mind that this post on RDI is from my perspective. I have left out a lot of information and maybe I am barking up the wrong tree. Such is life! What I have written is very basic and not comparable in any way with this week's webinar.