Tuesday, November 29, 2011

RDI strategies ( with tools of the mind)

I am excited to write this blog ( starting a series to help with strategies for the home and schoolroom) for so many reasons! By the end of this series I may have covered them all, but we will start off with the foundations for why I think this topic is incredibly important for the ASD community.
Tools of the mind is a book that takes a developmental approach for children…typical children, It is written for teachers, to give them tools in the classroom to help their students construct knowledge from their experience and memories. To help equip children with Mental tools as quoted in the Preface “ Mental tools are ideas we learn from others, modify and then pass on.” This is the link from Amazon about the book, http://www.amazon.com/Tools-Mind-Vygotskian-Childhood-Education/dp/0130278041/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1321685132&sr=8-1
and this is a link on a write up about the approach. http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/27/magazine/27tools-t.html?pagewanted=4
This book does not reference children with ASD. So why, as a mom who has heard “your child has autism” twice… am I writing about the Vygotskian approach covered in this book? The reason is…I want to take you on my journey, with my own two children, on why I find it crucial to look at typical development for the answers in how to help children with Autism. I mean we all know this…our kids are not developing typically, and the gap widens with each year. We are told Autism is a developmental delay. We even know ASD children and adults struggle with executive function , social referencing, , relationships ,Experience seeking, perspective taking, etc . Only recently ( alittle over a decade) have we started to piece together, looking at typical development to help children with ASD. Before this, the philosophies of behaviorism were used for our children, even though behaviors were just the by product of what was lacking developmentally. Even with our children’s health, looking at typical development helps us to understand what health conditions may co exist with a child’s neurological delay. This is why supplements like Fish oils, Enzymes, and probiotics can be very helpful to children on the spectrum. They help to restore typically developing body chemistry in the health system of our children( Co occurring condition), so that the developmental gaps can be effectively addressed ( ASD).
Let’s back up 8 years ago…my older son was 7 ( Diagnosed at 3) and my younger son was 2 ( just diagnosed a few months before). As a parent, I felt like I was living this totally different life then my friends with their NT kids. At this point I had an older son who was not affected and then 2 sons diagnosed. I had to approach parenting very differently, contrary to how I always thought about my own parenting style in my head. I felt this huge disconnect…like I was running on this huge hamster wheel, reacting to everything but not going anywhere. I t would take the birth of my daughter..for me to be reacquainted with what a typical baby can actually do…and how much we really take for granted in terms of mental cognition. Of course any parent with a child with ASD no longer takes any mental state for granted!
As I watched my little girl, and then watched my two sons, it was like I was dealing with two different *species* of children. I kept saying to myself, why the disconnect..I mean, after all, they are all children. How do I give my boys, what my daughter has *naturally*? I realize this is the million dollar question! And I definitely realize that each child is unique. As I really delved into this question, attended seminars, conferences, etc, it became apparent to me some of the questions I chased after… And yes, vygotsky’s theory of development does have a role in my journey, along with other theorists.
So it makes sense now, my oldest son who was diagnosed on the spectrum is now almost 15 and my youngest son is 10…why I want to blog about Tools of the mind. They are both school age, with my one son a freshman in high schoo( Both no longer struggle with the core deficits of Autism). Schools today are struggling with helping children be good creative thinkers and problem solvers…but schools today for ASD? Yikes. I weep when I read stories about abuse in the school, on the bus, etc. it is far to commonplace. There is a lot I could comment on about this topic, and perhaps that will be for another day, but for now, I have to just state that I believe teachers want to teach, but our education system is so rigid on accumulating information that we have lost the art of helping children to think…I mean think, reflect, and make decisions. This will definitely be covered in more detail in some of the upcoming chapters. So if we, as a society, struggle to educate *typical* children, then how are we doing when it comes to children with ASD? THAT…is one of the goals of this series!
That first quote at the beginning of my post, “Mental tools are ideas we learn from others, modify and then pass on.” That is exactly what my own journey has been like. My mental tools in the world of Autism, and how I have come to modify what I have learned, and pass on.
Tools of the mind is not a book on Autism…but is a book on ALL children. I will also get into this more as we dive into the book, but the intervention I chose for my two sons ultimately was based on the very same premise…the information on how to HELP children with Autism is found in the world of Typical development. Taking the same plan, and *redoing* it because our kids missed out on those milestones the first time because of Autism. RDI ( Relationship development intervention) is based on many of the same principles of the work of different cognitive developmentalists, including Vygotsky. RDI applies this knowledge concerning typical development, to ASD…bridging that great divide and making, well at least for this mom, like all her children were following the same plan!
Next up…Chapter one of “tools of the mind”… I hope you will join me with this book, going over strategies for supporting our ASD children in their classrooms…working off of principles from the model of typical development!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Countdown to the Holidays.......with RDI

This time of the year gets even busier for us so here are a few ideas to put some RDI into your day to maximize opportunities.Try some of these fun activities with your child...Remember to keep it simple, with lots of pauses and non verbals to help foster experience sharing and lots of waiting and declarative communication to see if your child can *THINK* of his/her next step!!!! Some modifications may be needed depending on your child. Have fun and always keep in mind ...it is the experience we are spotlighting, not the activity! Check back in January for 60 days through Winter...with RDI

Paint together , each of you with a brush and poster boardCut two pieces of fruit up and taste test the differencesTake a walk to spotlight breathing in the cool air
Play Freeze DanceCoordinate drinking a favorite drink together (cocoa anyone???)Blow up a balloon and see how long you can keep it in the air
Start a placemat
Finish the placemat!
taking your time for the experience and not just *getting* it done
Decorate a pie
Enjoy Thanksgiving dinner..take a moment to practice raising your fork together to eat at the same timeSing together...take this opportunity to sing your favorite holidays songs or any song that you both enjoyLook through a few pictures from last year at thanksgiving, and talk about memories made(Even if you are doing the reminiscing, your child is listening)
Make the bed, then coordinate falling on the bedPut three surprise items in a bag and anticipate what is in the bag togetherPlay Catch
Any Christmas or Holiday cards yet?? Check the mail!
Keep checking!!
Make a homemade Christmas Card together
Take a walk together and spotlight any lights that are on houses, etc
Take a drive to look at lights in the neighborhoodMake a plan together for which 2 holiday shows to watch in the upcoming week.Who do we need to buy for?? Involve your child in thinking who to buy for this season
Go to a different store that you have never been tooShare a moment with putting together or picking out a Christmas treeWater the tree together/ or fix branches together ( for an artificial tree)
Make a gingerbread house- SImple is grahams and frosting or a kit, or from scratch! Use lots of candy! :)Involve your child in some activities for decorating the tree ( simultaneously put two decorations on at the same time)Put aside 10 ornaments, one for each day and then decide each day which ornament to put on the tree together ( lots of non verbal or *thinking*
Cookies!!! Need I say more! Making a batch may be overwhelming, so have your child pour in the vanilla or some other small role.Need to taste the cookies!! Comment on the flavors you taste and your favoritesTake a walk together and spotlight any lights that are on houses that weren’t there the last time?
Bring out some wrapping paper and scaffold your child’s ability...practice folding and taping all the way up to wrapping an actual present togetherMore Cookies! Stirring together! Coordinate the cookie dough
Lots of pausing and waiting
Bring out two bins, so each of you can coordinate putting the cookies away together
Review with your child a few minutes of video from cookies or tree decoratingHoliday craft … match an idea to your childs level
Unwrap a box together for a surprise Model as necessary
Take a walk together ...wow look, more lights then even before!Sing a favorite song together, pausing to help your child step inSet the table together, giving your child a simple role they feel competent in
Merry Christmas/Happy Holidays. Spotlight for your child in some of the traditions of your family as you celebrate your holidayMake clean up fun...pretend the wrapping paper is a swamp to escape from or have a *snowball* fight with paperAlll that trash!! Coordinate taking the trash out together!
Take a walk to just relax and *be* together recovering from the hustle and bustleSleep in!! Stay in your Pj’s alittle longer today and play a board gameHappy New Year!! Coordinate making noise with pots and pans ( can be done during the day too:))