Tuesday, March 27, 2012

RDI's Family consultation program

Guest blogger Dr Gutstein-

The Family Consultation Program (FCP): Frequently Asked Questions

"I believe that these children present a challenge and opportunity for all of us. The challenge they present is to understand and appreciate the thousands of elegant small steps it takes to turn a small infant into a fully competent adult human being. The opportunity is the permission we are given when we are privileged to function as Guides, to slow our pace and  admire the daily miracles of development.”  - Dr. Steven Gutstein, 2006

What is the Family Consultation Program?

The RDI Family Consultation Program was designed to help families restore the natural "Guiding Relationship" when it has been disrupted or has failed to develop. Parents work with a trained RDI Family Consultant to harness the immense potential residing within each family. The goal is to to provide parents with tools and the knowledge of how best to use these tools function as a 'Guide' and facilitate their child’s mental growth. The program has provided a second chance for thousands of families worldwide to resume the critical functions that are the universal basis of family life and their children's success in the 21st century world.  

Our program mission can be condensed into two statements:

  • A. Teaching parents to guide their children in a manner that builds Students' competent enactment of their role as mentally active dynamic learning Apprentices.
  • B. Teaching parents to guide their children in a manner that builds the Students' essential motivation, responsibility and neural foundations for Dynamic Intelligence.  

What is the problem? Why is this program necessary?

Most of us are fortunate to have grown up and raised our children in circumstances where things largely go as they should. We may think that parenting is difficult, but in reality we take our good fortune for granted. Our children’s development takes place in the context of a natural intuitive "Guiding Relationship."  

If we were fortunate and all our stars lined up the way they were supposed to, we could remain blissfully unaware of this behind-the-scenes brain and mind building process we call the Guiding Relationship. That is, if nothing went wrong. But what if it did? What if, for example, a child was born with neural vulnerabilities that were so great, that they disrupted the natural process?

The most talented guides cannot succeed when they are unable to obtain reliable feedback from the child to determine the “edge” of their child’s competence. Without this feedback, guides can no longer safely present productive challenges. The  process quickly breaks down or never develops in the first place. Some children, such as those with Autism Spectrum Disorders, are born with such significant neurological problems that even the most capable parent is unable to function as a Guide. Until our program was initiated in 2001 an initial failure to form a Guiding Relationship meant that opportunities for children's dynamic mental and neural development were irrevocably lost. There were  no courses in Guiding. There were no books or manuals.

What is the value of the Guiding Relationship?

Children who learn to actively engage with the support of their parents in safe but challenging learning opportunities–problems and situations that are just beyond their level of competence–develop a strong motivation to explore and expand their world, as well as develop competence and trust in themselves and their Guides.  

By the end of the first year of life, infants who have experienced success in the Guiding Relationship, respond to the experience of uncertainty, by entering a state of mind Scientists refer to as "Studying." When children are in a state of Studying, their heart rate slows, their movement decreases and their attention clarifies. Once they decide to engage with new situations, children's brains release powerful, highly pleasurable neuro-chemicals that sustain their engagement. Their brains also begin exploring new neural connections, determining which best provide the new integration needed to solve the problem.

What are the consequences if the Guiding Relationship does not develop?

Children who do not receive the benefits of a functional Guiding Relationship go through life perceiving their world as pervasively threatening. Their innate drive for curiosity and understanding is buried. Children perceive themselves as incompetent and fragile. New problems and settings are experienced as too difficult, new information too discrepant. Their strategy is to pervasively avoid and withdraw from any problems and situations they perceive as new or different, as well as those persons associated with them.

Without the Guiding Relationship, the child's brain fails to develop in a neurally integrated manner. Children's minds fail to develop critical abilities needed to understand change, to perceive the world from different perspectives, to perceive shades of “grey” rather than viewing problems as either “black or white.” The child grows up unable to speculate, wonder, or improvise. When problems do not work out as planned they have no way to adapt.   

  • Children do not develop feelings of competence
  • Parent lose their sense of empowerment

How do you Measure Success?

The Family Consultation Program assumes that relationships–the consultant-parent relationship, along with the supportive partnership of Parents and the Student "Apprentice,"–are the primary vehicles for progress and eventual success.

The program is considered successful once the Guiding Relationship between parents and the vulnerable child becomes solidly established and provides a learning environment for the child's development of Dynamic Intelligence.

Success is also determined by the Students' ability to transfer their "Apprentice" role to other safe, consistent adult guides.

In the final analysis, success cannot be measured by checking mastered objectives off a list. Rather, it must be based on the ability of the family to construct and maintain an environment for the vulnerable child that provides lifelong opportunities for mental growth and that eventually leads to the child's self-management and personal ownership of development.

Who participates in the Family Consultation Program?

Program participants include parents and concerned family members, along with a vulnerable "child" of any age. Children may have been born with or acquire neurologically-based vulnerabilities that obstruct the development of the natural Guiding Relationship. Parents often enter the program possessing "normal" parenting abilities. Frequently, they successfully guide or have guided the vulnerable child's siblings. However, when deprived of active participation and accurate feedback, even the most masterful Guides cannot be successful.

What is the length of time a family will participate in the program?

The Family Consultation Program has no defined program length. The program is designed to accommodate parents and children with a wide range of obstacles and handicapping conditions. Therefore participation may range anywhere from months to years.

A few thoughts on Dynamic intelligence

Guest Blogger-  Dr Gutstein
A Brief Introduction to Dynamic Intelligence
Steven E. Gutstein Ph.D.

What is Dynamic Intelligence?

  • The real-world application of the most sophisticated level of human neural processing.
  • Mental functioning that has evolved to enable us to successfully handle challenges presented by complex, dynamic environments

The Gutstein Dynamic Intelligence Model, considers human beings to be active decision-makers, problem-solvers, opportunity-seekers and life-long learners, who benefit from their own and others experience, to make and execute effective decisions, in increasingly complex, dynamically changing environments.   

Dynamic Intelligence is deployed in settings where emergent change is the norm. These are fluid, information rich environments, where paralysis or chaos results if we cannot rapidly "filter" and narrow down the Decision-Making Field. They are "volatile" environments where new situations may emerge without notice and require immediate set-shifting.  They present tasks and problems where even the most careful plans inevitably require multiple revisions, as we encounter unanticipated factors, inherent in dynamic environments.

Let me provide just a few examples of the unique abilities we consider as hallmarks of Dynamic Intelligence:

  • Selecting personal goals in balance with the needs of others and the limits imposed by the current environmental field 
  • Widening our perspectives to consider multiple viewpoints. 
  • Selecting several potential response options and "mentally modeling" them in our minds
  • Rapidly "narrowing" our response options to select a contextual "best-fit" response
  • Maintaining a dynamic equilibrium through "on line" adjustments of multiple competing variables, such as performance quality and quantity
  • Updating and upgrading our knowledge, through evaluating the effectiveness of current efforts, whether they be successful or unsuccessful

    Dynamic Intelligence provides us the ability to select from a range of potential responses, matched to the unique needs of a situation.  Take the example of the world-famous wound specialist, whose 3-year-old son fell and cut his knee. Rather than using the height of his sophisticated medical knowledge, the famous expert respond to this wound by saying, "Oh Jimmy has a boo boo.  It's all right. Daddy is going to kiss it, put a band-aid (anti-bacterial of course) on it and make it better. Oh look at the dinosaur on the band-aid! What kind of dinosaur is that?" In this example, the expert physician is also an expert father. He recognizes that helping his son to reduce the emotional impact of the event is  more important than accessing any expert knowledge he might have about his sons' wound.

    Guiding...and why it is so important

    Guest blogger ...Dr. Gutstein on Guiding....
    A Brief Introduction to Guiding

    Steven E. Gutstein Ph.D.

    Parents have many different responsibilities and take on many roles with their children. They provide for their safety and physical health. They protect them and keep them safe. They teach them how to take care of themselves and do the tasks of daily life. They have fun together. They provide them with rules and discipline but also with lots of love. These are the parenting activities we are most familiar with. They are the easiest for us to see.

    But there is much more going on underneath the surface.  Over the last 30 years, developmental psychologists have discovered that people are not born with Dynamic Intelligence. While some people are born with more potential to acquire Dynamic Intelligence than others, even those with the highest potential will not develop Dynamic Intelligence unless the right opportunities are made available to them.

    While all of the above parenting functions are important, there is one parenting activity, occurring largely under the surface and unique to human beings that is performed in every culture on earth and that appears critical for Dynamic development. Through The "Guiding" process, parents and other important family members become the primary architects of their children's mental and neural development.

    Foundations of the adult mind are developed in the first years of life through thousands of hours of active engagement with and through others minds.  From the middle of the first year of life, hour-by-hour, day-by-day, in every culture on earth, children interact with parents and other important adults, in thousands of deceptively simple encounters, with a very serious underlying agenda; constructing the architecture of the child’s brain. 

    • Whether or not a child's neural centers become more integrated and learn to collaborate depends upon this process
    • The degree to which a child learns to make complex decisions and solve difficult problems, depends upon whether the child will have the benefit of thousands of hours of careful parental guidance as a junior participant in authentic activity. 

    How do Guides Operate?

    The difference between a child perceiving his world as challenging and embracing the world, or experiencing his environment as threatening, comes down to just a few factors:

    When the Guiding Relationship is functioning, it becomes a collaborative dance between more experienced "Guides" and less experienced "Apprentices," where each partner contributes to the success of the shared endeavor.

    Because Guiding is about transferring mental "tools" from the guide to the Apprentice,  joint engagement -  a strong shared state of understanding and experiencing - is critical. In addition, the Apprentice must perceive that he is junior but legitimate member of a collaborative partnership. The environment must provide a context where learning has meaning to the Apprentice and he experiences sufficient investment in the process.

    Guides serve as choreographers and managers of the learning process to make sure it is  productive and ensure that the Apprentice is gradually learning to guide themselves. Starting in the first year of a child's life, parents extend their guide role to others. Grandparents, older siblings and eventually teachers and coaches enrich the child's mind by providing their unique perspectives and methods.

    Guides provide “low intensity” settings, where the child Apprentice experiences the safe opportunity to be curious, study problems and explore different ways of solving them, without having to suffer consequences for the inevitable mistakes and failures resulting from experimenting with new ideas and perspectives. 

    Guides act as a catalyst, leading Apprentices to the “edge” of their competence and inviting them to take one step beyond, but not forcing or demanding that they do so. They view themselves as a "potentiating" and not a "directing force. 

    Guides use indirect influence. They provide opportunities for Apprentices to engage with new ways of thinking and experiencing, but never coerce or demand learning or performance.

    Guides are careful not to unwittingly become obstacles to the Apprentice's experience of actively contributing to his own mental growth. Rather, they provide opportunities and invitations for Apprentices to challenge themselves. They recognize the importance of chidlren experiencing that they themselves have made the conscious decision to move out of their comfort zone.

    Guides make ongoing, as-needed adjustments and revisions to maintain an optimal state of challenge and provide a "safe landing," if the Apprentice does not experience success when taking steps into the unknown. Guides seek to remain on or near a dynamically changing edge of competence: Too low and the child's existing neural pathways will handle the problem. Too high and the brain will move into avoidance or withdrawal mode.

    Guides allow their Apprentices to co-participate in tasks, problems and social interactions that are above the readiness of the child to master, but that provide the Apprentice a way to safely and productively observe the manner in which the more experienced adult determines meaning and significance and makes decisions, without initially having to take responsibility themselves.

    Apprentices rapidly learn that understanding the decision-making processes of their Guides, as they navigate various problems, tasks and interactions, is the "golden ticket" to becoming a competent, respected member of their society.

    Over time, Guides gradually allow their Apprentices to take on more mentally challenging roles and responsibilities, so that they become more competent in managing the problems and tasks that are central to succeeding within their culture.