What kind of therapy do we do with Esme?
Well, we do lots of things. Most of the things we do are the same things anyone does with their kids. We play, we cook, we jump rope and chase her around the house, we teach her to do chores like make her bed and tidy her toys. It really looks like we are just interacting with her the way you would any child.
Everything we do with Esme is very intentional. We had to re-train ourselves to parent her the way she needed to be parented. We did this using RDI or Relationship Development Intervention. RDI is a therapy protocol for children or adults with ASD. There is no “too early” or “too late” – in fact, we use a lot of the stuff we learned in Esme’s RDI program when we interact with Haven.
So what is RDI? I once tried to explain it to someone and after around 30 minutes I think I actually saw them start to nod off. The theory behind it is very complicated. And really very simple.
The way we think of RDI is this; RDI teaches Esme how to learn from us, her parents.
It teaches her to want our approval, to seek our opinions, to use us as a guide for navigating her world. It teaches her to be less isolated and more dependant so that she can learn and move from dependence to independence – the way any other child would. Autism made her stop seeing the world as a place full of interesting things to learn and do and made her see it as a place full of scary, unpredictable things to run away from. Autism stopped her from developing the ability to use her parents and other adults as guides to deal with the world; she didn’t know when she was safe and when she was in trouble, clearly very little made sense to her. With no coping mechanism to deal with the scary and confusing world around her, she continued to turn inward, shutting herself off from the world and coping with dynamic situations by controlling them (I have never met a child with autism who couldn’t take control of any situation at any time – either by acting out or by shutting down.)
RDI has taught Esme that she can use Cameron and I to show her how to navigate the world. She looks to us for information, approval and reassurance. She is understanding how to calm herself without stimming and controlling. She is learning what we think is important in the world and paying attention to it.
Without working on speech, she has started talking.
Without working on behavior, she has stopped having as many tantrums.
Without working on sensory stuff, she has stopped stimming.
Her development is “normalizing”. She is happy and secure.
Is it a lot of work? Yes, but you wouldn’t know it by looking at us. RDI is a way of life, and once you know it, everything you do is another opportunity to teach. What looks like making a cake or doing the dishes is actually therapy around here.
So what is RDI? It is our families path out of the fear of autism and back to the joy!