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.


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