Last week an RDI consultant came to our city to work with us over a three day period. During this initial assessment period she asked me to engage Oliver in a series of activities that are designed to determine where he is developmentally with regard to RDI stages and objectives. The idea behind RDI is that there are certain "Core Deficits" in all people with ASD. For whatever reason, there are certain fundamental developmental building blocks that people with ASD don't learn naturally -- these are the core deficits -- and they are essential for learning how to relate to other people successfully and to thrive in other dynamic situations. By addressing each of the core deficits in the order in which the traits are known to develop in typical children, it is believed that one can develop the skills that were missed along the way.
I could try to explain the theory in more detail but since I am new to this game I will leave it at that. If anyone is interested in learning more I would recommend the RDI website.
So, the results of the assessment were quite what I had guessed. Oliver is starting out in Stage One and our first objective is to increase facial gazing. He has come a long, long way since we started doing RDI informally back in October. He is now so willing to join me for activities. I no longer have to chase him down to do the simplest things. Our games now last for minutes, not seconds. But I'm still doing all of the work to keep things going. If I stop a game in the middle, Oliver will simply walk away rather than trying to keep it going. But that will come.
There were many things about the assessment that I expected. When activities were introduced I knew pretty much before we started if they would be successful or not. And usually I assumed they wouldn't be. But there was one very poignant moment for me. We had been playing together with a toy that Oliver found very engaging but it took two people to operate. After a certain amount of time the consultant asked me to stop playing and just sit there. I wasn't to speak or do anything unless directed to by Oliver. At this point I kind of held my breath. He really liked playing with that toy and the point of the activity was to see if he would try to initiate play with me. At first he kind of walked around, close to the toy, but not appearing to be taking any more interest in it. Then he picked it up and walked towards me. OK, I thought, You Go, Oliver! But instead of bringing it to me he just sat down with it on the bean bag chair opposite me. I felt my heart plummet. There he was, my own little boy, and he didn't even know how to engage me in something that I knew he really wanted.
Six months ago I think something like that would have really broken my heart. Yes, it still wounded me but not mortally. The reason being that now I really have hope and believe that he will learn how to do these things one day. He is delayed. But he will get there.
The other good thing about the RDA was that I learned how to refine some of the things I had been doing so that they will be more effective. It was nice that our consultant actually travelled to us because we spent a lot of time working around the house, doing the kinds of things that we normally do together, and she gave a lot of feedback as to how we might modify or add to things we were already doing. Another nice perk is that the other mother in my neighborhood who began RDI with her son last month joined us for an hour one day and we both picked the brain of our poor consultant. This was nice because even though her son is on stage two, we both needed clarification on some of the same issues and now I think we can offer each other even more support.
There are some other things that I have been thinking about since last week -- namely: how instructive it has been to watch myself interacting with Oliver on videotape. Also, why switching gears from crisis mode would be my New Year's resolution if I were to actually make resolutions. I don't because I can never manage to keep them. But I'm pretty good at keeping promises so that is my new promise to myself.
Also, and finally, (and this has nothing to do with RDI but maybe with getting out of the Crisis Mode) Nik and I are going out with friends on Friday night. Yeah, you heard me right. Believe it or not it has been more than two years since we've been out together! But I'm a little worried that I won't know what to talk about. Small talk? Lighthearted conversation? It has been so long! So if you happen to read this before Friday night and would care to help me out with some conversation starters I'd be much obliged.