A previous tip gave an overview of the Relationship Development Intervention RDI® Program and why Dr. Steven Gutstein developed it. One of the most important and fundamental principles of RDI is “guided participation”. The idea here is to have a parent, teacher, or older sibling guide the individual with autism through an activity or interaction so they make discoveries. For example, the emphasis in RDI is for individuals with autism to make discoveries about people – rather than telling them what they should do or expect in a situation, etc. Once a discovery has been made, then it can be built upon so that the individual with autism becomes increasingly nuanced in their understanding of how people and the world work. An important goal of guided participation is to transfer wisdom and let the autistic child make discoveries so they develop thinking skills and a sense of competence. RDI is a cognitive program where the goal is to develop brain connections not made during infancy.
When working with an autistic child, it is important to guide them so they make the discovery – rather than telling them the answer or what to do. Instead, the purpose is to engage in demonstration, modeling, and “doing together.” It is important that they to learn to watch you and learn about how you think. Just think of the old adage about teaching them to fish so they can eat for a lifetime instead of giving them the food so they can eat one meal. Dr. Gutstein has quoted a Chinese Proverb that really explains this: “Tell me and I will forget. Show me and I will remember. Let me do and I will understand.”
Another important goal is to develop the child’s thoughtfulness rather than focusing on compliance to requests. With guided participation, it is useful to slow things down and make it easier for the individual to make discoveries. Indeed, this could be considered the essence of RDI. As the child’s guide, we aim to use collaboration to build bridges from child’s current understanding and ability, to their new understanding and ability.
So for example, when your child is cooking with you, think twice before simply telling them the food (let’s just take gravy, as an example) is done. Guide them through the process of figuring out how you know if the gravy is done. Another example of guided participation would be talking out loud while you do something so the child can hear your thought process.
You can find information on RDI on the official website at www.rdiconnect.com.
There will be more tips in the near future on this webpage describing activities you can do with your child based on these principles.
RDI information contributed by Nebraska parents Steve & Meg Westby
(For more tips please visit our Autism News section where everything is archived!)