Thursday, May 29, 2014

Not letting Autism get in the way

This is a presentation from the Autism One conference 2014... Speakers are Kathy Darrow, Amy Cameron and Kimberly Isaac-Emery.  Here are two of the videos that you can hear playing in the background but cannot see.  Click here for 1st video and .Click here for 2nd video  .  Click here for the third video/Amy reviewing the assessment....and this next video is the video that we ran out of time and could not show  Click here for the ending video.    Please contact me at if you have any questions!  visit my website here

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Healing the Body Building the mind- RDI

Here is the first presentation on RDI at the Autism one conference 2014...  Here is the video that was played as Kim described the Guiding relationship  Click here to see the RDI activity now shown in the presentation   For more information on RDI visit my website here or email me at

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Awareness... and the call TO ACTION

  Today Amy Cameron is my guest blogger... Please read this important message.... You will be directed to her new blog at the bottom of this post!  
If you are already aware of autism, DO something about it.  Today is World Autism Day. People from all over the world are supposed to “Light it Up Blue” to raise awareness of autism. The CDC just released the new statistics last week indicating a 30% increase in autism. 1 in 68 children has a diagnosis of autism.  ( 1 in 45 Children in New Jersey!!!) In the 25 years I have spent as a therapist specializing in autism, those numbers have risen from 1 in 2500. Clearly we have an epidemic. Clearly it is not about better diagnostics. Clearly it is not all about the genetics. We don’t seem to know what is causing this crisis. Common sense tells us we need to start being very careful with what we are shooting into the bodies of the very young, despite what the American Pediatric Association mandates
Chick here to read the rest....

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Answering the RDI "question "

Many apologies for not posting in a while….I definitely want to get back to going through the many components of RDI for my readers.

Over the course of the past month I have been working with a few schools alongside my families, and recently attended an RDI conference for professionals, followed by an RDI Dynamic Intelligence workshop for a few of us alongside Dr Gutstein as we continue to look at mindfulness and continuing the theme of competence for individuals who are at higher stages in RDI.
Yet over and over again….What is RDI?  How do you explain RDI?  How would RDI “handle” that? What would “RDI” do?  And as I talk to teachers, professionals, parents as they ask these questions,  the usual response after I answer them is Hmmm that’s interesting.
So take a look here and here and here and here  and I'm sure I'm missing a few great blogs

With that said, I'm going to take a few moments and talk about Why RDI?

When my kids were first Dx, I was focused on what I wanted them to do….  Talk, play, be able to follow directions, make friends, insert yours here.  When these simple processes don’t unfold naturally,  its smacks us in the face as parents and the focus,  for me anyway, was getting all those wants to happen.  Fortunately,  or so I thought, there were some programs to help my children *get* these skills.   I'm not going to spend time on the why and why nots…but for my family  it became clear in a few years that something else was needed. 

My son knew how to do many things, but did not understand the why of most of what he was doing during the day.  In RDI we refer to this as *product*  The skill of taking the trash out, or getting dressed or putting shoes on, or requesting something with language.  What he struggled with was the process…the Mental process of the motivation of why?...making sense of what was going on around him….the things that are not said that we,  we just know.  Like…  when do we take the trash out?  How full should it be?  What shirt should I wear today if its going to be colder or warmer?  Which shoes should I wear if it is raining outside?  What is someone else thinking compared to what I am thinking?   Those mental processes were not taught to me,  I gained that experience based knowledge by my own discoveries as I made meaning through my experiences, and most of the time if asked,  how do you know?  We would all say I dunno, I just know.  How do you learn what to do in situations where the answer is not clear, there is no right or wrong way, or you have to consider many factors before making a decision?

So that is what RDI is….we want our kids on the spectrum to be able to experience their world, take those experiences for their own internal learning about who they are…about their own sense of self…and how what is going on around them applies to THEM. And instead of withdrawing from the world because of uncertainty, they begin to understand when that feeling of uncertainty comes, they can engage with their world and make decisions….That its okay….they can feel resilience and competence.  They don’t have to withdraw, or act out, have a meltdown, run away, etc.  After all, the withdraw, and behaviors are just the symptoms to the underlying core  which is being able to handle the uncertainty of daily interactions. 

We all have our own threshold…we have built up through thousand of hours of practice as babies and this process continues.  With Autism, that threshold never gets to expand…  and this is what RDI addresses.  RDI goes back and gives an individual a do over….  In this do over the mental processes are developed so the process occurs with the product…milestones with skills…

the WHY with the HOW

It is a very human trait to want to be competent.  RDI acknowledged that our kids want the same thing…
Without the process ( just the product) our kids are ripped off.  They are prompted through their day because they don’t know they can make a decision…they don’t understand they have this ability or if they do understand, the fears of the uncertainty ( being wrong for example) robs them from feeling competent.  Inflexibility…. No wonder our kids like to control everything in their environment…this is safety to them…remove all uncertainty so I know exactly what is going to happen.  This is why many kids will ask questions they know the answers too, or repeat the same conversation over and over.  This is why my own son, dx severe infantile Autism, would stim all day…  to remove all uncertainty.  His stimming kept him safe in a world he did not understand.

Why RDI?  I could not accept that skills were all I could teach my 2 boys.  I wanted to show them that they could be mindful..and that they could make mindful decisions in their world as children, and as adults.  Just like anyone else.

For more information on RDI visit- My Website, and RDI CONNECT

Click here for a quick video from Dan Siegel talking about intuition (crucial for all kids)...the RDI program believes OUR kids with ASD can reach the same milestones!!

Sunday, January 6, 2013

How do I "do" RDI?

In the spirit of creating this blog, I wanted to chat about *doing* RDI.  As with most of my posts here, I have asked many of the same questions that I write about, which is why I am here.

Two of the questions that I run across from time to time is how do I do RDI …and then because a quick answer usually creates more questions…the next is usually Why is RDI vague?

So I am going to try and make RDI less vague …These are my reflections, based on implementing RDI with my own 2 boys over 7 years ago and my work as a consultant for the past 4 years.

RDI is….

Relationship development intervention is based on the latest research in developmental Psychology, transferring these cutting edge advances to effectively apply them to help our children on the Autism Spectrum.  Through empowering parents,  RDI consultants equip families to deliver a state of the art program to help restore the developmental trajectory of their child on the spectrum.  In this step by step process, they are never alone in teaching their child how to experience the world in a better way, in the safety and security of the parents being their trusted guide. They learn how their child’s mind works and are able to create safe challenge in day to day activities. Their child becomes resilient and competent, able to make decisions, have friends, be a team player, have a job and all the quality of life indicators that we as parents want for all our children.

What does this mean in application?

When I discovered RDI for my family, it was based on child developmental milestones …and they were all nicely laid out to work on with my kiddoes.  I would incorporate specific actions into my interactions based on what objective I was on.  My consultant, would then monitor if that milestone was remediated and we could move on, or if there still needed to be more practice/direction, etc.   Here is an example-
Adapting to degrees of change- my son would adapt his behavior successful to remain coordinated- I would carefully introduce gradual degrees of change into my activity …harder/softer,  faster/slower/ higher/lower.  I would then spend time fostering this milestone in the many interactions I had with my sons in a day.

As simple as the objective may sound, my son was very resistant to anything that he could not control.  If I wanted to introduce variation to something we were doing, it would become a power struggle of control.  SO within this objective, other objectives were also addressed ( boundaries, variations. Flexibility, etc depending on your child)

 When that was mastered we moved on…with excitement to all the new milestones my sons were finally getting.  These milestones were not simply static skills,  but rather the building blocks to understanding how to completely engage, collaborate and share perspective!

As the years moved along in the actual RDI program, the founders Dr Gutstein and Dr Sheely,  watched the program unfold and listened to the families that were stuck in some aspects of the student objectives.  This is when updates occurred.  The basis of a *do over* has always stayed the same, yet as they gained more knowledge on what was successful and where families were stalling, it was incorporated into the program.  This was the birth of parent objectives…the feedback from parents who were successful along with the parents who were struggling.   While RDI focuses on Child development, it became clear that parents and caregivers needed some important information and strategies to create an optimal learning environment to help the developmental process unfold more precisely.  For me this is what makes RDI pretty unique. A specific curriculum to streamline progress that continues into the milestones of adulthood.  Other programs,  for example can teach a child to behave and act a certain way, but that never addresses the underlying social understanding that is needed to truly generalize.  Other developmental programs may be helpful in relationship building,  helping parents to accept their child and help them to build a starter  connection. These are positive helps to our kids. However they often fall short in the long term.  I often hear "My child has stalled in progress, can you help?"  This is especially true as our kids get older and the gap of milestones become wider!! So lets take it a step further.  In typical development engagement starts to occur even before 3 months of age…so imagine if you have a child with Autism who is 3, or 6  or 12 or 20..etc…there is multitudes of developmental milestones that need to be revisited because they missed them the first time.   Once engagement has begun to emerge ( Either through your RDI program,  or possibly ESDM,  a Floortime program or the Son-rise Program) and the child is seeking shared experiences. addressing each stage of inter subjectivity  is crucial to continue to move forward, gaining an estimate of 2 years in milestones for every year. This is why many families more to RDI after other programs if they have not started with RDI and this is why RDI is unique in its approach.
 For my one son, who is now 16, he started in RDI at 8, , at a 1 year old level in social understanding.  Each year he gained 2 or more years and at the age of 12 he was tested and it showed he was at a 9-10 year old level.  This was fascinating to the school Psychologist.  Obviously at 16 he has now caught up to his peers, was in football this year and is now bowling…has friends, and is a team player.  More importantly, the higher milestones of effective decision making based on past experiences have proved very useful in his teenage years! Haha

So ok that was a long example on what makes RDI Unique.

Back to the HOW of RDI …

To help this remediation process for our children to run even smoother, a simultaneous program was incorporated that was devoted to the entire family.  This is to encourage, especially the parents, that they were the BEST people to help their child, and to empower them with tools so that they can see those positive changes in their child.  The biggest Aha moment for parents with the RDI program is that they are NOT alone…that this model does not give them a book and says, now go do it…but more of an unfolding of what is powerful and unique about each family, and what specifically their childs needs are, step by step.  Lets face it, we all are different and our children are all different.  This is why knowing you are not alone is incredibly comforting!  Support groups are excellent ( go here for the yahoo support group with over 800 members )…but when I say you are not alone I mean with a consultant you have someone who is able to pinpoint where your child needs are…and as those needs change as progress is made, there is always a feeling of moving forward!

There are many resources that I have included in this blog to help you *start* to do RDI…but in reality these strategies are the *template* of the important work to come that will NEED these strategies firm, but in itself these strategies are just the beginning!

Here is a basic outline of RDI To help see application of these stages and goals …Im going to spend the next few blog posts going over some specific examples from both the parent goals and the student goals.

STAY TUNED!!..  Meanwhile listen to my latest radio interview on utube

Monday, August 20, 2012

Details on the RDI program

What is RDI click here

RDI in school click here

Wondering if the RDI program is a good fit?  Click here

Relationship Development Intervention is based on the Model of typical development.  This affords children with Autism the same chance at a redo in their development as their peers without Autism. An example of this is- typically developing children develop resilience and the ability to manage uncertainty in the first year of their life. Building on motivation, helping a child feel competent and not only to manage uncertainty but to embrace it is part of the foundations of RDI. This opportunity for a second chance is rooted in Guided participation, which is how we all learned from our parents, and how society passes knowledge onto children who do not have any obstacles preventing them from accepting guidance. ( A book on this topic is apprenticeship in thinking by Barbara Rogoff.) RDI is a precise systemic program for guiding, broken down with objectives for each stage of intersubjectivity ... For more on intersubjectivity Click here

There are 7 goals for parents that empower them with the tools they need for remediate their child’s Autism, and in the process transform themselves into expert guides, decision makers and able to see themselves as competent parents when addressing Autism…along with learning how to help their children ( ASD or NT) became effective in their own decision making.

These 7 parent goals are


Student assessment, planning, and obstacle management

Personal assessment, planning and support

Set the stage for guiding

Guiding methods

Knowledge management

Applied guiding

The student stages follow typical development to remediate Autism

The 5 child/student goals are

Competence Development

Joint attentional learning

Self regulatory decision making

Co regulatory decision making

Emotional responsibility

(Within these student goals are three different stages which includes multiple objectives for each)

click here   to read from a students perspective

Once a family graduates from the Family consultation program they can move on to the next level, fine tuning any obstacles that remain with their child’s/students dynamic intelligence ( in this stage of the program Autism is no longer an issue but families are working on advanced concepts to effective pass on all learning and experience sharing to their child.) RDI is helpful to children and adults of any age..believing that all milestones regardless of chronological age must be addressed and cannot be ignored if we want to continue to move forward with a strong foundation. For families who do not start with RDI, many come  after their previous therapy stalls due to that therapy concentrating on specific skills and not addressing the complete developmental trajectory.

RDI advocates when fostering engagements for the child, to frame everyday activities with the focus on pacing and adjustment, along with the mode of communication and uncertainty present…to give a child a small enough challenge to feel competent in contrast to a challenge to great to handle. Planning and Framing activities allows the interactions to be structured but at the same time * family friendly* for each individual family dynamic, making RDI less about therapy and more about helping the child become competent in engagement through activities the family already does and interacting in their social world.

If you have any questions or would like to get more information on the online system, please email me at
For more info visit my website or  rdi connect

Monday, May 14, 2012

Employment for children with Autism

Think about your last job interview.  What were some of the questions?  Did they include questions like, How well do you work in a team?  Or what are your greatest strengths and weaknesses?  Do you get along with people?  Why should I hire you?

These are all very open ended questions.  In today’s world, more than ever, employers are looking for flexibility,  creativity, problem solving skills, and an overall ability to share perspectives when looking at a task at hand.
Within the  Autism community,  we know that these very abilities that employers are looking for , are what our kids struggle with if not addressed. 
Wanted to throw some thoughts out after reading this article-

For my own two children who were diagnosed with Autism, both before the age of 3,  this was my wakeup call 7 years ago.  My oldest was just about 8.  He had intensive therapy for 4 years and was very advanced in skill acquisition…but lacked flexibility, creativity, etc.  He had a strong desire to be in control of every aspect of his day ( the more he could control, the less there would be anxiety within his day that he had no control of) .  This was my red flag,  because I was told, at the age of 8,  that it was as good as it was going to get…and that his life was going to entail trying to prepare him for employment by life skills, etc.  Fortunately, I did not know it then , but my younger son being Diagnosed was going to change the direction for both my sons.  My younger son did not respond to behavioral therapy,  and after a year I knew I had to act..I was not happy with the *results* so far…and I knew my kids deserved MORE.

In my research, I learned about Relationship Development Intervention.(RDI).  RDI takes a look at a child’s development milestones as crucial for remediation of Autism.  We all know that Autism is a developmental disorder,  but the leading *treatment* for Autism at the time did nothing to address actual development…and was based on changing behaviors despite children having not having the prerequisites to understand the WHY of the behaviors.  An example of this is how we taught my son how to talk at 4 years old.  While we were teaching him how to talk, he kept saying the word  “say”,  copying us.  We had to create a program that was called Don’t say “say”  Now I realize of course that he had no idea why he was talking other then behaviorally he was copying us.  He had no communication milestones in place ( Prosody, non verbal communication, etc…all milestones that babies have in place before they utter their first word). 

So the many articles that are coming out now about adults,  and the crisis that we have for our young adults coming into their own, wanting employment, is heartbreaking .  There are limited long term studies and the studies that do exist are dismal.  The behavioral treatments that some advocate for may have evidence behind them,  but that evidence does not follow through to adulthood.  It is evidence that looks at short term skill acquisition goals.  These have little to do with what will help our young adults succeed as they look for employment.   When we look at the model of typical development, we see the answers on how to help our kids with Autism.  Restoring their developmental milestones  not only addresses skills,  but addresses the understanding that we live in a very flexible world where things are always changing.  Being able to think on your feet,  problem solve,  and relate to others are crucial.  The foundations for these abilities are learned through relationships  before 2 years old.  There is no way we can skip the developmental process and expect our kids to get it …and this is where the crisis rests. 

For my own 2 children  ( and others),  developing their experience within the framework of thinking and relationships remediated their core deficits of Autism.  My second son is now 15 and my third son is 11.  Neither  lack * dynamic intelligence*  See chart here-

This is what we need for families who would like to address their child’s actual development.  Emerging treatments for Autism hold promise to address the core issues that are challenging for them.  It is time to raise the bar for our kids and  understand the promise of restoration! This is what RDI does for our kids, young adults and adults on the spectrum!