Consciously reflecting...

Last week I watched a webinar hosted by Dr Gutstein. The webinar was based around a case study involving a dad and his young son. It is always fascinating to be part of a webinar like this as I find real life stories very interesting. There is nothing like having a window into the experiences of another family. The information that Dr Gutstein gives is so rich and full and when applied to a real life scenario, his words become even more meaningful.

A real AHA moment for me was when Dr Gutstein made the following comment, "...operating on a conscious level". I took this comment to mean: Is your child in a state of consciousness? Is he thinking about what is happening around him? Is he monitoring, planning and evaluating? Is he consciously making decisions?

I decided to use this weekend to conduct a little experiment with my boy. 

We were going to hang out! No expectations or pressure in any form. In fact, if my boy wanted to be alone and do his own thing, well, that was also okay! I didn't plan any engagements that would encourage him to *think*. I wasn't particularly mindful about giving him opportunities to use his brain. My role was to observe him throughout the two days and assess whether he was actually operating on a conscious level without any input from me!

I watched him remove his pajamas and get dressed. There was no deviation from the normal procedure that happens every day of the week. I watched him as he took out the items needed for breakfast, lunch and supper. I watched him as he removed, placed and put away each item in the exact same manner as yesterday. I went along with it as he went through his ritual of signing his requests for all of his favorite things. 

For two days I watched my son.

Throughout the two days a couple of incidents stood out for me. #1 I was making him some juice and I spilled some water on the counter top. I said "Oops, what a mess, I need to clean it up". Mindfully, I waited. Nick went to collect a cloth and he then placed it on top of the mess! The end. #2 Nick was grumpy and for the first time ever was showing his displeasure. He stomped around the kitchen, banged his lunch items down on the table and also slammed a cupboard door. The end.

That's it folks. The sum total of any action which showed me that Nick was thinking differently. Everything else was all about established patterns, little routines that Nick knows off by heart. Regular stuff that happens every day in the same way. There was nothing new to observe, nothing that gave any indication to me that Nick was capable of deviating from doing what he knows and feels comfortable with.

The conclusion to my experiment is fairly obvious. Nick was not operating on a conscious level. There was very little evidence to suggest that he was using his brain to further his learning, to reflect on experiences, problem solve and so on and so forth. 

Please don't think that I am describing my son in a negative light, as this is not my intention. My reflections are about sharing my thoughts and spotlighting to myself the areas in which to focus on with Nick.

You see, Nick is extremely capable of being in a state of consciousness, however, at this stage of his development he needs the extra guidance from me. I need to offer him opportunities by creating planned engagements and by being mindful about my style of communication and also giving him the time to observe, process and react. 

This video clip was taken recently and is by no means perfect, however, I am thrilled that we have a lovely co-regulatory pattern going. We both have a role to play and Nick is really focused on what we are doing and he is also coordinating his actions with mine. There is room for improvement on my part and that is the beauty of watching my own video footage... I get to reflect, analyze and then plan my next step.

For interest sake, I also wasn't operating on a conscious level this past weekend!! :-) 

"Neurons that fire together wire together".  Donald Hebb

Thank you #R2BC

Check out the little picture above! Well, that picture is what has kept me going for the past few days. You see, I have been feeling a little blue. This happens to me each time a momentous milestone should be happening for my son. My lovely boy, who just happens to be on the more severe end of autism. This is the year that Nick should be starting High School. This is the year that many of my friends have children starting High School. I am happy for them all, although I cannot lie... I have been feeling very sorry for myself and for my Nick.

It's been difficult to think of reasons to be cheerful, however, here goes....

I am extremely thankful that Nick does not realise what he is missing out on and that he is a sweet, gentle teenager.

I am very blessed that my first born (Nick's one and only sibling) is a balanced, mature and exceptionally bright kid. 

I am so grateful for my husband, who is the most easy going man I have ever come across. He also loves to cook during the weekend which is a HUGE bonus! :)

Now that school has recommenced after a long five week break, I am feeling very cheerful about having some time for myself. To take some time to do what I want, without having to take into account the challenges of raising a child with special needs. My *me time* is only for a few hours each morning, however, I am grateful for every one of those hours.

My thanks go to Michelle over at Mummy from the Heart who hosts #R2BC. This picture has helped me get through the week.

What is RDI?

Psst, I will let you into a little secret!

RDI is all about parenting.

When I first got involved with the RDI program, the focus was on the child. There was a book published by the Connections Centre, giving lots of ideas on the games you could play with your child to work through some basic stages of development. I have the book somewhere, not sure where. All I know is that it has been gathering dust for a few years. 

Then RDI moved on... It became more precise. Child development was broken up into more finely tuned objectives within developmental stages. The parent's aim was to work through the objectives in order for the child to progress through the program. All the information was available for us to look at. We could see where we had been and where we were going. We also had access to a reference library of sorts, where we could watch footage of other parents engaging with their children. Awesome stuff.

RDI has now evolved and is more parent based. Although each child objective is taken into consideration, the focus of the RDI program is now on guiding the parent to be an effective guide to their child. Initially I thought to myself that the RDI program should be about the child; after all it is the child who needs the help! However, as I have progressed through the program I have come to realise that in actual fact the parent's role is huge. The role that I play will carry on past school days and beyond the shelf life of therapy. From my perspective, I don't consider RDI to be therapy; it is more a way of life. I intend to work myself out of the RDI program and in order to do that, I need to know what I am doing, why I am doing it and how I am going to effectively guide my child throughout his life. 

This is such a simplistic explanation and I barely skim the surface. Peel back the layers and there is so much to learn and understand. I have a NT kid and parenting him is easy. It's instinctive and feels natural. It isn't possible to parent Nick in this way. He is complicated and his development is deeply buried beneath the years that have passed by too quickly. My brain has moved past those early days of toddlerhood and I need assistance to *rethink* and then do.

Am I happy with the changes that RDI has gone through? Absolutely! Change is great. Change moves us forward. Change helps us to become more flexible.

Why do I put in the effort when it is obvious that my child is on the more severe end of the spectrum? Easy... I have already seen the benefit to my child, to me and to our family life. How can I not carry on. I have nothing to lose and so much to gain.

Onwards and upwards.

Sharing about sharing...

My personal facebook status this morning:  How are you feeling, Di? Bloody stressed, facebook! How about you?

This morning just didn't work out as planned and I was left with the dilemma of taking Nick along to an appointment that had been made for Thomas. It bothered me that I wasn't able to devote some time to Thomas. For once, I wanted to be there for my big kid, without any distractions, without Nick. Oh the guilt of a mother!

However, something happened, something that stood out for me as a big WOW moment.

Bright Side of Life facebook status:  Due to unforeseen circumstances I had to take Nick along to a specialist appointment for Thomas. Nick was amazing.... For 45 minutes he sat through the waiting and the consult. He did not need ANY screen time! HUGE! :)

How far we have come.......

I have been berating myself for not doing enough with Nick during this holiday season (four weeks so far and another one to go). All those days and hours wasted! Too much screen time all round! Lost opportunities and missed interactions. Oh the guilt of a mother!


The success of our above outing/appointment serves to remind me of all that we have achieved during the last few weeks. 

Bright Side status:  We are getting brave! Yesterday, we took Nick with us to visit friends and have lunch (I took food for him!). Tomorrow night, we are taking him with us to visit friends and have supper (I will take food for him!). #nonickysitter #throwninthedeepend #itsworkingoutwell

Bright Side status: Nick's new milestones for today: First ever late night out with the old's. Happily ate supper away from familiar surroundings. Very relaxed about missing normal bath time routine. #tiredbuthappymum

Bright Side status:  Nick on top of a mountain and wearing shades!! It was quite a business climbing over small rocks to get to the edge! Very proud of my boy! :)

Photo: Nick on top of a mountain and wearing shades!! It was quite a business climbing over small rocks to get to the edge! Very proud of my boy! :)

Bright Side status:  There has been a lot of exercise going on over the last few days!!

Photo: There has been a lot of exercise going on over the last few days!!

Bright Side status:  Hey, guess what....We are at a party (a very low key one!) AND Nick is with us!! Another first! Happy New Year to you all.

Bright Side status:  With a little help from the iPad, Nick made it until 10:30pm! He did great. :). Goodbye 2012. Hello 2013.

Photo: With a little help from the iPad, Nick made it until 10:30pm! He did great. :)
Goodbye 2012.
Hello 2013.

Bright Side Status:  Nick loves books! He is turning each page as I read the story. We pause a lot to make comments on what is happening in the story. Nick is very engaged and always keen to add his own opinion.

Bright Side status:  Nick coped well for about 20 minutes until a baby started crying... then he used his iPad. :)

Photo: Nick coped well for about 20 minutes until a baby started crying... then he used his iPad. :)

Bright Side Status:  We got seriously lost trying to find our friends house. I was muttering at the husband as we were over an hour late. Nick gets our attention.... he holds up his fists and makes the 'sign' for "cross". He then said... "". Very appropriate! :) 
 Photo: We got seriously lost trying to find our friends house. I was muttering at the husband as we were over an hour late. Nick gets our attention.... he holds up his fists and makes the 'sign' for "cross". He then said... "". Very appropriate! :)

So, there we have it.... 

Our first ever *family* holiday season together, where we haven't had to make a plan for a Nickysitter!

As my husband said, "I feel normalized!"


I wish to thank Dr Gutstein, RDI and Kathy Darrow for empowering me as a parent and for guiding me on how to guide my boy. Nick may be severely autistic, however, the last two years have shown such wonderful progress. Onwards and upwards.


I don't generally post about Nick on my personal facebook page, however, I had to share the following.... 

 Thank you all for your wonderful support. xx

P.S. Thomas is fine... he just has to have four wisdom teeth out at some stage!

I am over at Hopeful Parents

It is that time of the month again.... and I am thrilled that my very first post of the year is over at Hopeful Parents.  Just click on this link Striving for balance and giving up chocolate! and it will take you straight there! Happy New Year to you all.