Stage Two of RDI is all about referencing, that is, helping a person to learn how to get non-verbal information from another person. I’m sure it is actually more complicated than that but this is how I understand it. Just think of all the information that we pick up from other people’s face and body language! There are the more obvious head shakes and nods, smiles and frowns, but also many more subtle forms of non-verbal communication that help each of us to navigate life.
Oliver has to be taught to read another person, step-by-step. So first we started with smiles and nods that told him, “Yes, that’s right!” or “You’ve got it!” or “Keep going!” etc. And now we are moving on to frowns and head shakes and the more complicated: watch my eyes and see what they are seeing. So throughout the day I am trying to set up opportunities of uncertainty for Oliver so that he will have to check in with me visually to see what he should be doing. “Yes, go forward.” Or, “No, go back.” Or, “Yes, put it in here.” Or, “No, put it over there.” For the most part he is getting it although that doesn’t mean that he always wants to listen to what I have to say! I celebrate this too, by the way. I love how he now has learned to steal a glance at me to see my reaction to something before he does it – even if it is followed by some mischievousness! And even more, I love how he is learning to look at me when he has done something that pleases him as if to say: “Hey Mom! Did you see that!”
We also tried another activity yesterday that I wasn’t sure would work. I placed two cups on the table upside down and let Oliver see me place a piece of candy under one of them. I then moved the cups around a bit so that he could no longer be sure where the candy was. He had to look at me and follow my gaze to learn where to find the candy. Oliver and Sam both stood on a chair in front of the counter and took turns. Sam had no problem understanding the game and immediately looked at me to get the needed information. He is not yet two and got it right every time. The little stinker! Oliver, however, had a little difficulty understanding what I wanted from him. He immediately reached out for BOTH cups and seemed to be more interested in trying to get them to continue moving around on the counter. But after a minute or two he did come to understand that finding the candy was the object of the activity. The first two or three times I did everything but point to the right cup and shout, “It’s under this one!” But then he got it. During that short, simple activity he came to understand that he could learn information from following my gaze! Of course I’m sure we will have to do it many times over and in many different contexts before it becomes second nature to him. But still! He is just so amazing to me!