Contemplating communication....

Last week:

Nick stood beside the locked gate that lead outside to the car park. He looked to me for assistance. "Ah, we need the keys", I said. As he gazed towards the keys on a nearby bench, my friend hurriedly picked them up and passed them to Nick. "It's this key, the yellow one, see here... it's the yellow one". He took hold of the key and tried to insert it into the lock. I waited patiently. I knew that it would be difficult for him, however, I wanted him to persevere and also to ask me for assistance if he needed it. My friend watched this for a few seconds (no more than 10 seconds) before jumping in to help him. As quick as a flash, she put the key in the lock and was saying, "turn the key, turn it towards Mum, turn it this way. Nick fumbled, and again my friend stepped in, she gripped the key and unlocked the gate for him. 

The result? Nick was not given the opportunity to think for himself and make a plan. He was bombarded with a lot of language and too many instructions. It was overwhelming and caused him to become anxious. It was not a positive experience. 

I was just the same before being introduced to RDI.  I thought it was necessary to continually prompt Nick. I figured that the best way he could learn was by rote, consistent repetition and rewards. However, it didn't work that way. The more commands and directions he was given, the more static his thinking became. (To this day, the only way I can get him to close his lips is to say, "do this" and model the instruction by closing my own lips). Each time I gave him an instruction or stepped in to solve a problem I was actually taking away opportunities for him to learn and grow. I wasn't empowering him to use that brain of his!

This morning: 

We are in the kitchen. Nick is putting away his breakfast items and I am unloading the dishwasher. I take out a cup and then pause. I wait for Nick to look towards me. As his eyes meet mine, I hold out the cup... he looks towards the dishwasher and then back to the cup in my hand. He understands that the cup is clean and needs to be put away. As he takes the cup and puts it into the correct cupboard, I get ready to hand him another one. I set up a gentle co-regulatory pattern of giver/putter and Nick follows my lead with ease. 

I remove the glass jug from the dishwasher and hand it to Nick. He hesitates for a moment, not sure where to put it. I pause and give him time to think of a plan. He is still unsure, therefore I shift my eye gaze to the pot cupboard. He immediately follows my gaze, opens the cupboard then drawer and puts the jug away.  

Still working with the giver/putter pattern, I pick up a clean saucepan. I casually comment, "I wonder if Nick can remember where this goes". He takes the saucepan and again he hesitates. Again, I give him plenty of time to think about what to do. I decide to make another declarative comment, "aha, it's your spaghetti saucepan". Nick now knows exactly where it belongs! :)

We continue to unpack and put away until I choose to finish the activity. I let Nick know that we are done by saying, "thanks for your help, I will do the rest". Off he goes...... his demeanor suggests that he feels calm, happy and competent. It was a positive experience.

By making the simplest changes to my style of communication I am now empowering Nick to use that brain of his!

* slow down the pace
* pause
* less imperative language
* no direct prompts
* no commands/instructions
* don't overwhelm with a lot of words
* more declarative language/comments
* use self talk 
* use eye gaze and body language
* keep pausing
* remember ~ the engagement is more important than the activity

Give it a try. The results are addictive!