Laughing with RDI

Give a boy a water pistol and he knows exactly what to do with it! Not so with my Nick. 

First up is the anxiety of being introduced to a new game. Next is figuring out how to hold the pistol correctly and then adjust the finger pressure in order to squirt the water. Further motor planning is required to set up obstacles to shoot at; and then planning how to aim the pistol so that the water hits the target.

Not very easy for Nick, yet it is doable.

I set up a planned engagement for us to have some fun together. The objective was for Nick to discover how to do all of the above, with enough scaffolding to prevent him from becoming too anxious (edge plus 1). With a lot of guidance from me, we set up some plastic cups on top of a balustrade and then spent some time modeling and practicing how to hold the water pistol and pull the trigger. We then took turns to shoot the cups. To be honest with you, Nick didn't really enjoy the experience, although by the time we had finished, he did share a couple of smiles. Note: I always ensure that we end on success and spotlight the important parts of our engagement. 

The second time (a few days later), I invited Nick to join me in another 'shoot the cup' session. Nick immediately headed to the balustrade, therefore I knew that he had remembered our previous experience. Note: It was windy and I was very interested to see how Nick would cope with this variation. I passed Nick a plastic cup and he carefully positioned it on the rail. It sat there for five seconds and then blew off. He looked at me with a puzzled expression. I passed him another cup. It also blew away moments after he had placed it.

What happened next was so delightful and really highlighted to me the importance of ensuring that engagements should not be task driven. Nick laughed out loud and turned to me share the experience. He took another cup... and it blew off as he placed it. His laughter was contagious and I made sure to pause what was happening and spotlight to him what fun we were having. I then added a variation to our engagement by inviting Nick to help me collect the cups from the garden below. This was another edge plus 1 moment and he coped so well with the extra challenge. #werockflexibility

Perhaps I should have ended the engagement there, however, I felt that Nick could be stretched a little bit further, therefore I decided to move our game to the other side of our house where there was no wind. This caused him to show a bit of anxiety, yet when he saw that we were doing the same game, he quickly recovered. He also remembered how to hold and shoot with the water pistol. Yay. We had an absolute blast (pun not intended!) taking turns to shoot the cups.... and then the dogs! :)

Helpful reminders;

I didn't use a lot of language.
I made an occasional comment.
My comments were declarative/inviting.
I paused a lot to give Nick time to think for himself.
I scaffolded/guided when necessary.
I spotlighted moments that I thought were important for Nick to remember.

Confession time

Dear Readers

I have a wee confession to make!

A few months back I started to feel overwhelmed with all that was going on in my life. 2015 was turning out to be a hectically busy year and something had to give. I made the decision to give myself and Nick a break from Relationship Development Intervention. I am a veteran RDI parent, therefore felt comfortable that we would continue to live the lifestyle. However, the break meant no more planned engagements, no videoing and no reflecting on each engagement (as well as a bunch of other stuff). This freed up a large chunk of time for me.

The break has been healthy. We got to spend time with family, explore new places and take Nick on a huge adventure. I got to practice my photography and read a few books. It was lovely. Nick cruised along quite happily. He fitted in with what we were doing and seemed to enjoy going out and about.

Due to lack of attention on my part, Nick has become accustomed to spending too much time on his iPad. Mother guilt kicks in occasionally over this issue and I have to keep reminding myself that we are on a break and I am not Super Mum. So there! :)

Life has now slowed back down to a regular pace and we have school holidays on the horizon. I am itching to get back into the RDI program and start planning some good stuff to do with Nick. The last few months have been fabulous but it's time to refocus on my boy and our way forward.

The images below are to remind me that life is all about having a healthy balance. Nick needs my input, however, in order for me to remain in a good frame of mind, I also need to pay attention to other relationships and have my own interests. It is all a matter of putting it into practice, which is easier said than done!

Good luck finding your balance.

Di x

Chips and chores!

I walked through the kitchen, passing Nick, who was sitting on the sofa playing with the iPad. He looked at me and made the sign for "chips". "For sure", I said. "I need some help getting the washing off the line and then I can get the chips". Nick shook his head, "no". I shrugged my shoulders, grabbed the washing basket and headed to the washing line at the bottom of the garden.

I re-entered the kitchen with the fully loaded basket on my hip and placed it on the floor. Nick asked me again for some "chips". "Oh dear" I replied, "but you didn't come to help me with the washing".

I pause and wait for approximately twenty seconds.

Nick jumps up from the sofa, holds one side of the basket and waits for me to pick up the other side. Together we carry it to the table. I fold a cloth and pass it to Nick, indicating with my eyes where it should be put. We continue with this giver/putter routine for three items. 

When I have finished folding the washing, I give Nick a small bowl of chips.


This little story may sound a bit mundane, however, I want to spotlight our 'conversation'. 

Nick engaged with me and made a request. 

I approved his request, yet also made my own request. Using declarative language, I invited him to assist me (and dangled a little carrot chip to entice him!). 

Nick decided that he didn't want to help, which was fair enoughI collected the washing without him.

Nick made a further request for chips, however, I felt that it was important to express why I didn't think he should have any. 

Nick then had a bit of an 'AHA' moment and of his own accord made a plan to win those chips. He decided to come and help me. Smart boy.

I made sure to only fold three items, as didn't want to turn the experience into a chore.

I also didn't want to hand over the chips immediately as a 'reward', therefore I finished folding the clothes before getting him the chips.

*A simple interaction that gave me the opportunity to encourage Nick to think for himself and make his own choices. 

Adventure journal ~ Happy Heart

Traveling with this boy of ours exceeded all expectations. He was so relaxed and happy to fit in with our spontaneous plans. I am sure that having a base in which to stay made a big difference. Having the familiarity of a home, bed, sofa and surrounds helped anchor him.

We gently encouraged him beyond his comfort zone. Many a day he hopped in and out of the car more times than I can count! Experiencing four villages and a long lunch in one day was quite mind blowing. A vast difference from times gone by, when we could only do one outing a day.

Our biggest adventure was taking him on a high speed motor boat for a two hour trip out to sea. We deliberated over this decision for a few days before taking the plunge. The trip was something we really wanted to experience and there was no way we could leave Nick behind! He did find it stressful alighting the boat and then disembarking, however, he loved the ride, especially the speed in which the boat bounced over the choppy waves.

Eating out was relatively easy. He went a bit over the top on Spaghetti Bolognese or French fries, although this was more my fault then his. Europe is expensive and I didn't want to waste food or money, therefore it was best to order his favorite food. We offered food from our plates and he tried a few tastes here and there, which was huge. I always had fruit on hand for stop gaps. Funny boy tried Guinness, not just once but twice. His facial expressions were comical and gave us a good giggle. I doubt that he will be trying it for a third time! 

The iPad was a win. Nick used it at the apartment when we were all having some down time. He also used it when we stopped for food/drink. We all love his Abitalk app and together we created some fun sentences with relevant photographs. Nick never disconnects from us when using the iPad. He constantly watches what is going on around him and frequently points out things of interest or comments on what he sees.

All in all, the adventure was a fabulous success. Now to plan the next one! 

Adventure Journal ~ An Update

Greetings from Portugal.

We are so proud of Nick. He managed three flights, one of them being a long haul, with very little stress. I gave him a sleeping tablet for the overnight leg of the journey, which knocked him out for a few hours. A win. We had a couple of squeaky moments due to sensory overload, however, he responded well to some quiet reassuring words. 

He has quickly adjusted to having a new home and has already chosen 'his' couch! We have been spending our days hanging out at the apartment, visiting local areas and also venturing further afield. Yesterday was a biggie. We were out all day exploring the countryside and quaint villages. 

Today we are throwing Nick a curveball and taking him out for supper at lunch time! 

Adventure Journal ~ Oh My Nerves!

Two years ago I took Nick to Cape Town. The trip involved a two hour plane trip and all that went with it. We were away from home for three nights and Nick coped exceptionally well. I was elated.

Nick has now been on a few more trips to the Cape and one to Zimbabwe. He has been carted here, there and everywhere! Since that initial trip he has become familiar (and comfortable) with long queues, waiting patiently, noisy airports, crowds, small spaces, going to new places, meeting new people, visiting restaurants AND eating restaurant Spaghetti Bolognaise.

The fact that he has been so flexible with each new adventure is huge. That memory bank of his just keeps growing and with it comes confidence and increased resilience. I am sure that it isn't easy for him, however, he is very aware that he can look to me (and the rest of the family) for help and reassurance. The iPad is always on hand for sticky moments or chill time.

This week we are pushing out all the stops and taking Nick overseas. I have been very relaxed about the 'idea' of it all, although now that the trip is imminent I am feeling a little nervous. Here we are, taking a severely autistic teen on three plane rides to get to our destination, one of which will be an overnighter. My wine consumption has already increased! :)

We have chosen to have a very low key holiday. We are based in one place and will take life very slowly. There won't be any pressure to get in all the sights and if Nick spends extra time on his iPad, so be it.

Wish us luck!

Old Girl on the Block

No more
She quietly whispers
No more endless net searches
No more reading research

No more
She gives a wry smile
No more stress about food
No more worry about muscle tone

No more
She whispers respectfully
No more music therapy
No more O.T.

No more
She is over it
No more listening to bullshit
No more liaising with drama

No more
She recalls lack of time
No more people in and out
No more therapy day after day

No more
She is sneakily sceptical
Of snake oil and such
Promise of cures, of this and of that

No more
She thoughtfully ponders
No more public speaking
No conferences to attend

No more
She sighs
No more avoidance
No more head in the sand

It is what it is
She draws in a deep breath
A mother with a difference
With Autism in her life

It is what it is
She swallows a lump
A mother who is like no other
With restrictions and an invisible cord

It is what it is
She blinks furiously
A mother entrenched in disability
With end of life worries

It is what it is
She looks with adoration
A mother who loves beyond measure
With a different life perspective

Bring it on
She yells out
No more dwelling on 'what if'
Time to shift the balance

Bring it on
She bangs the table
No more with the woes
Time to refocus

Bring it on
She grins
No more all about him
Time to tilt those scales

Bring it on
She smirks
No more with the pandering
Time for challenge and growth

Bring it on
She lifts her shoulders
No more being the mum who can
Time for the girl who was

Bring it on
She straightens her back
No more worrying of what might be
Time for positivity and a glass half full

Bring it on
She says with confidence
No more stuffing around
Time to move forward

Bring it on
She is adamant
Time is about today and tomorrow
Bring it on
One life, live it

R2BC ~ September 2015

My family decided to come and visit me in South Africa. Woohoo, much excitement. 
We had an extra special time together and built up a huge bank of awesome memories. 
Picture shared without permission! :p

Image captured by Niki van Velden Photography

The end is in sight for my Project 365. The year has flown by quickly and I have enjoyed 
the challenge of figuring out my camera. I have a lot more to learn and no doubt will
share a few images on this blog. 

Image captured by me

We have a little adventure coming up and the countdown has begun. Watch this space!

Nick's calendar


Ojo's World

Non-verbal communication

"When Nick was a little boy he showed no interest in looking at my face.  He didn't look to me when I called his name.  He had no understanding of the concept of reading facial expressions and body language.  During those years I did a lot of reading and I came across all sorts of explanations for this. For example; People with autism find it scary to look at a face. People with autism don't see the whole face - only a part of it! In my personal opinion, I do believe that Nick didn't have a problem with looking at me, or any other person for that matter.  He just didn't know WHY he needed to look." My blog post, January 2011.

To help Nick understand the importance of referencing my face and body language for information, I kicked off by using non-verbal communication. I exaggerated my facial expressions. I overplayed the use of my fingers, hands, arms and shoulders. I got down to Nick's level. I gently invaded his body space (touching his knee/arm/hand to get his attention). The sounds coming from my vocal cords were guttural and I used my tongue to click and cluck! A real comedy act, yet one that worked a treat.

Going non-verbal also worked for me. I slowed down my thoughts and reactions and became far more mindful of how I communicated with Nick. I found that I paused more frequently, giving us both the opportunity to think about our responses.


I am at the kitchen counter. Nick is sitting on the sofa, facing away from me.
I gently clear my throat.
Nick gets up and wanders over.
He references my face and then looks at the apple in my hand.
I mime cutting the apple.
He picks up a knife and passes it to me.
I reference him and shake my head for "no".
I look towards the other kitchen counter.
Nick follows my eye gaze and spies the apple cutter.
He collects the cutter and gives it to me.
I place the cutter on the apple and then step back.
I reference him with a wide eye look.... and gaze to the apple, the cutter and then back to the apple.
Nick follows my gaze and then proceeds to cut the apple.
He collects a bowl, gives it to me and then walks away.
He is expecting me to put the apple in the bowl!!
I make a little noise (hmmmm). Nick looks at my face.
I raise my eyebrow, give a little smile and then gaze at the apple.
He comes racing back. :) 

It is wonderful that we can connect/engage naturally over such a simple little interaction. It's worth giving non-verbal communication a bash. It really has been a win for us.