Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Dear Child study team director

Hi Mr/Mrs  _____,
Thank you for getting back to me and your email. I am happy to answer your questions...and once I answer them if you have more questions please feel free to ask them. I want you to have a good understanding of RDI...
 You were approved to provide RDI services.....
Thank you
I have your proposal in front of me and there are a few things that I need clarification on before I can proceed any further. In your proposal you recommend an RDI assessment. I need to know what the assessment procedure consists of, what are you hoping to find or to document in your assessment, and what type of report will you prepare for the district regarding your assessments.
The RDA ( Relationship Development Assessment) consists of numerous elements, with over 25 categories. First, there is a parent questionaire and meeting to discuss this. Second, each parent/guide will do a set of 4 separate interactions in my office. For each parent this is about an hour. Within the two hours with the parents, as the guiding is being assessed, the student *apprenticeship* is also being assessed. I then do specific activities with the student based on what I saw with both assessments from the student ( this is done a few days later after I construct the information from the initial assessment). Within the hours of interactions that I assess, I am viewing developmental milestones that are in place/not in place. I will be balancing these two factors 1. Critical Impact: Which foundations and obstacles are most critical for apprentice development, 2. Developmental Readiness: Which elements must be addressed first to enable success with other areas (even if another area is perceived as more important) There are over 30 that I am looking at. To give you a few as an example, as I assess how the student interacts with the parent, I am reviewing the mutual focus of joint attention, the level of stimulation or arousal that can disorganize the student, the adjustments in co regulation when there are variations in the environment, the degrees of uncertainty that both parents and student can interact under, the communication model being used, and the students competence with minimal instruction.
What I am looking at are the things that a typical child, through the developmental process, has developed before they start school. There are specific milestones in place to help with their success. These milestones, school do not *have* to teach because they are intuitive to the developmental process. In other words, students come to school *ready* for the process of education. With Autism, students have not mastered these same milestones. This makes it extremely difficult for students to learn without crucial milestones in place. What we end up doing is creating an atmosphere of compensation to help them. This is an excellent tool to help, but compensative measures are very different then remediation. Look at it this way, if your eyesight is poor, you wear glasses or contacts. This is your compensation for poor eyesight. Eyesight, for the most part, cannot be *cured*. In this example, compensations are wonderful and useful. For Autism, compensations are useful, but only in the context of helping the student be successful WHILE the remediation process is happening. An example of this is behaviorism is a compensation. ABA teaches behavioral modification and never claims to teach a student how to think, or problem solve. We hope that they generalize a thinking ability. But studies show this is a real struggle. How can a student generalize what they do not personally experience? We, as adults do not even do that. RDI, because we are based on developmental science, concentrates on the students thinking and decision making…their competence and resilience. Something that 12 month olds have had thousands of hours of practice with…and something that 5 years olds before they enter school, are becoming proficient in. However, our kids with Autism, they are still stuck low in their developmental trajectory. RDI addresses the foundations of development, recognizing a bottom up approach to remediation for Autism. We cannot build upon a foundation that is not there…so RDI focuses on rebuilding that foundation.
THE RDA will make it clear where exactly the student dropped off their developmental trajectory, and what developmental milestones need to be addressed for success in getting the student back on their developmental track. It does this by careful observation of behaviors between parent and student, and student and their environment.
For the family and district I will submit a guide report along with an obstacle assessment, and an RDI plan. This RDI plan will consist of family objectives, and if the team decides, RDI principles and strategies can be implemented in school. At first these are very basic as we are working on foundations. As the student progresses, then typically we can involve the school in more of the actual remediation process along with doing a compensation assessment( more on that below)
Secondly, what does the school component consist of? You mention an RDI curriculum, how does this mesh with the Common Core Curriculum and the VB program being provided by ________________?
This depends on the school. I have some families who keep this program separate from the school. The school knows the objectives being worked on and strategies but for the most part, the home program does much of the remediation. This is why hours may be unique to each RDI program, depending on the student. Then there are classrooms/teachers who want to be very involved in the RDI curriculum. This needs to be a team decision. Typically I do 1-2 hour per month of classroom visitation. This helps the teachers feels supported. The RDI curriculum is based on developmental milestones. How this compares with VB was mentioned above. VB/behaviorism is a science where the behavior is conditioned for change through reinforcers. This compensation does not look at development, and what is lacking to create the natural intruistic motivation for proper behavior. RDI is based on developmental science which does look at missed developmental milestones as the center of the core deficits of Autism. Remediate those core deficits, and you remediate Autism. RDI is a bottom up approach to remediation and VB is a top down approach to compensation.
How RDI compares to Core curriculum standards is much of what I already commented on. A student needs certain prerequisites to even understand the basic in core standards, to know how to integrate the experience of these standards in their own learning. With huge gaps in development present, this cannot be done successfully. This is the black hole of trying to educate children with Autism…trying to get them the information when they do not have an experience base of emotional and social understanding to draw from. RDI is complimentary to the NJ core curriculum standards of NJ and any state. RDI curriculum is not a writing or a math curriculum, however writing and math are used many times as part of the interactions when working on developmental objectives.
What does an RDI home program look like?
AN RDI home program is set up for the guide/parents/caregivers to set up interactions based on what objective they are working on. They will concentrate on that objective, through various interactions, anywhere from 1 week to 1 month until that milestone is mastered. This is carefully documented through feedback and video. Depending on the school involvement, there can also be objectives in the classroom. The first set of objectives are based on the developmental milestones of a 9-15 month old, and this is where most of our kids with Autism Fall. You can watch these two videos and see how much social and emotional understanding a 12 month old already has. These milestones cannot be skipped…in the hopes that the child will just learn how to behave.
What you will see in this first video is how in tune this 12 month old is to their guides presence.
In this second video you will see how this 12 month old can already borrow their guides perspective for safety. If you have to tell a child to look at you, then the child does not understand that our faces hold the key to understanding what is going on and how to borrow perspective.

These two milestones, children with Autism who have not been worked with developmental, do not have mastered.
I hope my answers have been helpful…within RDI there is an entire education phase to understand theory ( this is just the tip of the iceberg)...and parent objectives that go along with student objectives
What I can tell you is that there is a crisis for students aging out of the educational system…a crisis because they are taught compensative measures without addressing full remediation. NJ core standards want students graduating who can problem solve, be team players, and operate in a global society…being able to live independently. All children need dynamic intelligence to do this…our kids with Autism need that second change in their development to get there. That is what RDI is, in the simplest language possible.
I will be giving you a call.  Please feel free to call me with any further quesitons!
Thank you...

Kathy Darrow