Food for thought!

I found an Origami set while rummaging through the cupboard. It included a stack of colourful paper squares and a little instruction manual. The instructions were very clear and best of all, each creation would take five minutes. 

Dead easy. 

The first few folds were straightforward but then it started to get more complicated. With each new fold I could feel myself becoming tense. I was unsure of how to manipulate the paper and I felt incompetent. I began to feel irritated and it crossed my mind to throw the paper into the bin, however, I decided to step back from the Origami and take a little break. 

While making myself a cup of tea, I had a bit of an AHA moment. "Ahhh", I thought, "What I am feeling could be an indication of what Nick is feeling when he is faced with a challenge". 

 1.  I had looked at the instruction manual.
 2.  I was guided by the instructions and felt competent with the challenge.
 3.  I hit a tough spot but persevered.
 4.  The Origami continued to challenge me and I began to feel on edge. 
 5.  Frustration began to surface. 
 6.  Then brain freeze. I can't do this!
 7.  My body went into fight or flight mode. I felt like crushing the paper, yet took the flight option. 
 8.  I walked away from the activity.
 9.  I regulated my feelings by choosing a calming activity (making tea).
10. I started thinking of ways that I could scaffold my learning (i.e. YouTube examples).

Fortunately I know how to regulate my thoughts, emotions and body, therefore it was easy for me to remove myself from the activity and calm myself down before going back to tackle the challenge! 

Not so for my Nick.....

My style of parenting involves taking all of the above points into consideration and guiding Nick in such a way that he learns from each little challenge. I want him to feel competent and willing to try new experiences. 

Questions to ask myself when engaging with Nick

*  What is the challenge?
*  What do I think will be Nick's 'edge plus one'?
*  What is the lead up to the challenge (familiar comfortable pattern)?
*  How am I going to introduce the challenge?
*  How am I going to scaffold the challenge should Nick need assistance?
*  How am I going to spotlight the difficulty encountered?
*  How will I help Nick regulate if the challenge is overwhelming? (With planning, it shouldn't be!)
*  How am I going to spotlight each success?
*  What will I do next time?

Food for thought, hey? How do you feel when faced with an overwhelming challenge? Can you relate?


I completed the crane, although I did get stuck on the very last fold and the final creation is not as it should be. For me, it is 'good enough'. 

Five minutes? More like twenty!

Dead easy? Challenging.... although it was my first attempt

The importance of NOT doing!

I was in the middle of an interview with a really sweet young woman (let's call her Emma). Nick was present and seemed very taken with her. At one point he interrupted our conversation to request some help retrieving an item from the fridge.

Emma jumped up from her chair and went over to the fridge. She then proceeded to 'do' everything for Nick. She repeatedly asked him questions and when there was no immediate response from Nick, she made up her own mind on what he would like. At no point did she pause her action and wait for Nick. There was no space given between a question and her next response.

Obviously, Emma realized that Nick was an intellectually challenged young man and unfortunately she assumed that he was unable to fend for himself. It is only natural that she put herself into a caring role and wanted to help him. However, Emma didn't realise that by removing the challenge Nick was facing, she was actually disempowering him. He quickly became passive and stood back from the fridge, waiting to see what would happen.

I intervened by saying..... "Don't worry, Emma. Nick can figure it out"

Emma stepped back and Nick rushed over to the fridge. He rummaged around to find what he wanted and removed it from the fridge.

I see this type of scenario again and again. Children who need extra processing time don't get it. Children who are given too many commands and not enough opportunity to process/think for themselves. Adults over compensating when children don't react fast enough. Adults doing the 'thinking' for the child. Children not being offered the chance to experience self-made success or even failure.

I do understand that people want to help and make life easier for our children. However, in order to empower our children, we need to........ "Learn to provide opportunities for children to think, decide and wonder".

Screen shot from Dr Gutstein's introduction to the RDI Program

My Nick has many challenges and the severity of his disability means that he will need lifelong care. Nevertheless he continues to be empowered because I am aware of the importance of NOT doing everything for him.

Taking a break

A couple of months back I started to panic over the busyness of 2015. There seemed to be too much on my plate and not enough hours in the day. I was battling to give Nick as much time as I wanted and that lack of time was going to get worse.

I was finding it stressful to think about RDI engagements with Nick. I felt tense when planning how to implement the engagements, record them on video and then journal my reflections. I decided that it was time to sit back and really think about how I was feeling and do something about it.

What stood out for me whilst working my way through my feelings of angst was the fact that the RDI program does not only focus on my child and his development. RDI is also about mindful parenting, families, friends, relationships, myself, finding a balance and living life to the fullest. It was with this in mind that encouraged me to make the decision to take a break. I needed time out. It was important for me to pause and catch my breath.

The beauty of being a veteran RDI mum is that I know how to 'live the lifestyle' and that my relationship with Nick will not be compromised by putting the more formal side of RDI on hold. I am still going to be that 'declarative' mum who has the concept 'edge plus one' firmly stamped on her forehead. I am a 'go slow' woman who is very aware of giving Nick plenty of time to think for himself. In order to keep our consultant up to date, I will continue with my daily sporadic journal entries on day to day stuff. So lovely to know that she has our back, even though we will be on a break until the 1st of November, 2015.

It is all about achieving a healthy balance, therefore I am giving myself permission to take that break and embrace what the next few months have to offer. Lots of exciting happenings on the horizon and I can't wait to experience them, along with Nick. Hint, hint. An awesome family gathering here in South Africa. Also a little holiday that includes Nick. Watch this space!

Curveballs and cake!

I took my Mum and Nick to visit one of my favourite coffee haunts, Churchill House.  Their space is incredibly tranquil and it is very easy to linger for an age over a lovely cappuccino and an exceptionally delicious Bee Sting (small cake).

Upon arrival we found a little spot in their garden and promptly ordered drinks and fattening stuff. Nick settled himself down and requested a milkshake. To our dismay, the waiter came back to inform us that the Bee Stings were still in the oven and that they didn't have any milkshakes! Eeek.

What to do? What to do?

I deliberated over our dilemma for a minute and then decided that we could walk to the local mall and spend some time wandering around. Nick took it all in his stride, although I could sense that he wasn't keen to go *window shopping* again! Typical boy. I also bought him a flavoured milk to drink back at Churchill's.

Anyway, half an hour passed and we headed back, lured by the smell of coffee and the anticipation of devouring a freshly baked Bee Sting. We chose a different table in the garden, placed our order and requested a glass for Nick's milk. The teen plonked himself down and asked for the iPad.

I have a mini iPad that I carry around with me. It has communication apps (which we very rarely use ~ blush), an app that we use ALL the time (Abitalk) and a ton of music. I handed the iPad over without any qualms. Nick stimmed away on his music and gulped down his milk (a new taste ~ woohoo).

I was so impressed with Nick's ability to cope with a lot of variation/change without any warning. A far cry from a few years ago. To be honest with you, if he needs to have some escapism time with the iPad after new experiences and challenges, then so be it! He gets such a kick out of listening to music and my brain switches off to the fact that I am hearing the same old pop song AGAIN!