rodric and Kai close-up 6It’s hard to explain Relationship Development Intervention ( Basically, it breaks development into thousands of tiny qualitative steps. A consultant assesses where you child is developmentally, and then the parents work with their child to take the next few tiny steps, which RDI calls objectives. Once those are mastered, you get the next objectives. It’s brilliant, and has been incredibly helpful in our work with Joseph.

I’ve been to a number of RDI parent workshops, and the one thing that always comes up between us parents is what we call RDI guilt. Because RDI is totally parent-centered, this is the guilt that arises because none of us feel that we do enough RDI with our kids. I have been known to suffer from this guilt — but not today!

The inspiration started because Blue Eyes (husband), Joseph and I were at a festival in town. There was a bouncy house there, and we walked over and watched the kids jumping for a few minutes.

Now, let me explain that only once has Joseph been in a bouncy house, and that was at a private birthday party with only 3 other kids in attendance. Any other time we’ve encountered such an animal, Joseph has adamantly refused to have anything to do with it. Strange kids, odd set-up, lots of noise: forget it.

So I thought we’d watch and that would be it. But when the kids’ turns were over, Joseph couldn’t wait to go in. Blue Eyes went over with him and helped himĀ  through the little door.

But then it happened. Joseph started to scream, “I want out! I want out!” and Blue Eyes helped him out. Well, we tried, I thought.

Then I watched all that RDI coaching click in for Blue Eyes. Encouraging competency in these kids is a big part of RDI and Blue Eyes didn’t give up and let Joseph feel that he just couldn’t do it. He got Joseph to start jumping on the little inflated part just outside of the bouncy house door. I was watching from across the way, and I could see Joseph’s face go from unhappy and frustrated to exhilarated.

Then, with Blue Eyes’ encouragement, Joseph crawled back in the house. Blue Eyes held his hand through the entryway, and Joseph jumped again. It wasn’t long before Blue Eyes was out of the picture, and Joseph was having a great time inside the bouncy house. He enjoyed it just as much on his second round!

In RDI terminology, Blue Eyes scaffolded Joseph by helping him until he could do it in his own. It was some of the most beautiful scaffolding I’d ever seen — and all the more so because it was entirely spontaneous.

I was so inspired that, on the way home, we stopped to buy lemons and honey. Once we got home, Joseph and I made lemonade together. RDI is all about interaction and apprenticeship, so it was easy to use those principles as I coached Joseph in juicing the lemons, filling the pitcher with lemon juice and water, pouring in and stirring the honey, and of course tasting as we went.

It was a very satisfactory experience for both of us, especially as we enjoyed our lemonade together afterward.

And, after that, we cleaned up his old paint cups and filled them with new paint. This, too, was very interactive and encouraged feelings of competency.

So today I am a rockin’ RDI mama! And Blue Eyes is a blow-me-away RDI papa!

I do love RDI when I’m not feeling guilty about not doing enough of it. One thing I love is that it gets you out of the compulsion to drive your kid here, there and everywhere in order to see if other people (the “experts”) can fix him. It scaffolds the parents so that they can work with their child in really amazing ways.

When talking about this journey of autism, RDI is fond of saying, “It’s not a sprint — it’s a marathon.”

And on this marathon, we find that, whereas typical kids may get something with just a few repetitions, our kids sometimes need a little (or a lot) more help learning something. BUT. We still get there.

And every time we end the day feeling encouraged, hopeful and competent, it sets us up for a great tomorrow.