Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Doing RDI

Can I just say that Monday, the one day of Blog silence, nearly killed me. I kept pathetically checking back on my favorite blogs hoping that the author hadn’t heard about it! When I finally gave up the hope I drafted a new post that I planned to get up yesterday but I’m only now getting around to posting it. …


I wanted to post a bit more about RDI and how we make it work for us even amidst all of the other things that we have going on. We really try to keep things pretty simple but when you are talking about a household of 5 people there is invariably a lot of extra “stuff” going on.

I first read about RDI about a year ago and I kind of shelved it before I really understood how it worked. It was appealing to me but it is a parent-led approach and at that point I honestly didn’t think I could handle doing more than I already was doing. BUT, I was interested enough that I came back to it six months later and the second time I’m glad I followed my gut. That’s when I e-mailed ThisMom and said: “Can I do it? Will it work with Oliver?” Her resounding and unequivocal YES!! had me on the phone with a consultant that very day.

Overall, I have to say that “doing” RDI has not been terribly time-consuming or difficult for us. Throughout the week we focus on a particular objective that is designed to address a specific skill that Oliver needs help with. Right now we are working on helping him learn to reference. So over the course of any given day we find opportunities to work on this in just about every interaction we have with him. An example might be when I needed the pencil that was on the floor next to Oliver and I said: “Hey, Oliver! Can you hand me that?” Then I looked purposefully towards the pencil. At first he mistakenly picked up the sock and tried to hand it to me so I shook my head and again looked at the pencil. His gaze went back to the floor where he located the pencil and handed it to me. Another example of how we use referencing in daily activities is when we set the table. I hand him the plates one by one and indicate with a look where I want him to set each of them down on the table. When we first started RDI an activity like this would not have been possible. Not only could he not reference but I could barely sustain his attention for 30 seconds at a time. Now these kinds of interactions might last anywhere from 2-3 minutes to 30 minutes or more. And I am amazed at how many opportunities I find throughout the day to weave in a little bit of RDI work. I look at everything we do and wonder how I can vary it so that he will have to flex the part of his brain that he needs to.

Besides this lifestyle sort of strategy we also set up specific periods of time throughout the week when we have the camera rolling and structure activities designed to demonstrate his proficiency at the skill we are targeting. So this weekend, for example, we made cookies together. I had already mixed everything together and set up two cookie sheets when I invited Oliver to help me and turned the camera on. As I handed Oliver a ball of cookie dough he needed to reference me to figure out where I wanted him to put it. The whole activity only took 4 minutes but he was able to correctly place every single cookie. I try to record one or two of these activities every day and then at the end of the week I’ve got about 15 – 20 minutes of video to send to our consultant and I think it gives a pretty good picture of where he stands at any given time.

The other thing that I love about watching Oliver’s progress through RDI is that as we help him fill in the developmental skills that did not come naturally for him other skills DO fall into place naturally.

Here are a couple of things that I noted in my last e-mail to our consultant:

1) Oliver has surprised me lately by becoming upset whenever I am impatient with him or if I use an angry voice with him. This is totally new because it used to be that it made NO difference if I yelled at him. He just completely ignored it. Or maybe he didn’t understand that I was angry. …. But he sure does now. It astounds me.

2) Oliver has developed a pain threshold. It used to be that Oliver didn’t react much to events that other kids would find painful – but now he cries and comes running for comfort whenever he gets hurt. I guess this is just another element of his emerging self-awareness.

So that’s about it on the RDI front but on a different subject entirely: Oliver has graduated to a two-wheel bike with training wheels!! I wish you could see the look of sheer joy on his face as he cruises up and down the sidewalks in front of our house.


  1. I find it so fascinating that you can teach a child to "reference". It's so hard for me to imagine my boys handing me something from the floor, but I want to find out more about this.

    Congratulations on the two-wheeler. He must feel so grown-up!

    I hadn't heard anything about a non-blogging Monday.

  2. Hi Mom to jbg! Yes, the grin on Oliver's face says it all. I hope to post some pictures soon.

    And believe me: when we first saw the RDI DVD that outlines the program and saw the things those kids were able to do we thought it seemed a far off fantasy to imagine Oliver doing the same. But just tonight Oliver looked at me three times for approval to leave the table at dinner time! And I didn't have to say a word to get him to stay until he had eaten enough. I am amazed everyday!

  3. You guys are doing so well. I love all the changes, and how quickly it all seems to come together! I keep thinking, if only I had known about this when Cotton was 2!!!! Way to go on the two wheeler. Sounds like fun!

  4. Anonymous4:30 PM

    Do you think it is all RDI or is Handle helping too? Thanks for this post and Congratulations! Sincerely, diane

  5. that is so exciting! all of it: the lifestyle, the progress, the huge changes in oliver's self-awareness, the bike riding!!!! HUGE congratulations to you and oliver!!!

    referencing was a fun stage for us too. there were so many ways to bring it into the every day and it was always so encouraging to see how fluffy picked it up.

    oliver is flying already!

  6. Hi Diane,

    I think our HANDLE program enables Oliver to be successful with RDI. Previously I think he used so much of his energy making sense of his senses that he had trouble focusing on anything else. The biggest benefit of HANDLE for Oliver is that it has helped him to be able to better focus his energy. And of course he sleeps now :-) which has got to help with EVERYTHING!!!