Rank #1: Hope for Children of ALL Ages
Thank you for joining us for RDIconnect’s® own podcast series, ASD: A New Perspective. In this episode, Dr. Gutstein talks about the common misunderstanding that treatment for ASD must begin before a certain age to be effective. He then explains why, at RDI®, we believe it is never too late for treatment to begin.
May 26 2017
Rank #2: The Importance of Self
When we talk about autism, we often hear that that the biggest concern is social relationships and the inability to relate to others, but Dr. Gutstein explains that it is also (and perhaps more importantly) how the child relates to themself that matters.
Kat Lee: Welcome back to ASD: A New Perspective, the podcast show where we help you understand what is going on in the mind of your child. We encourage you that growth for your child is possible. I’m Kat Lee and in this week’s podcast, so many times we hear that autism is about social relationships and how the children relate to others. But Dr. Gutstein says it’s also about how the children relate to the self.
Dr. Gutstein: Our job is to say, “Look. We want to see that we’re building those foundations. We’re building resources, the knowledge, the mental tools, the habits, and the motivations.” The intrinsic motivations, really important. We keep building up those abilities in a balanced way together, and we build them in a step by step way, and we teach that child to gradually take ownership of them, of the mental tools and learn how to use them gradually in more different, more challenging real world environments, and take responsibility for them.
But that’s a gradual process. Then we add more complexity and more integration et cetera, and more components. We very carefully nurture the development of each child, of each child’s mind, and self, and brain. Because they’re all together. They’re developing the mind, the self, and the brain, they’re all developing together. They influence each other. There’s no separation between the three. They have to be seen as one organism, right?
The mind, the self, and brain. Same thing, just on different levels. Just like self development, social development are the same thing, just looking at it from different perspectives. There’s the relationship with themself, there’s relationship with themself and others. The relationship with others defines who you are. The relationship with who you are defines how you manage relationships with others.
There’s no, you know, you can’t take those things apart and treat them separately. You can’t teach them discretely. You have to put the, together. Which is another piece of this puzzle, another piece of this model, but I hope we can emphasize for.
Kat Lee: Well, this is something that you’ve impacted me so much on that when we talk about autism, it’s about, a lot of the time talked about social skills and how they’re relating and theory of mind with other people, and other people’s perspective, but you have talked so much about our relationship with ourselves being key, but undiscussed, the self.
Dr. Gutstein: Absolutely, yeah.
Kat Lee: And how it’s the key. You can’t have with others without having with yourself.
Dr. Gutstein: You can’t. The opposite people will be the opposite way, and you can’t have the self without relationships with others. Well when you compare yourself to others, you differentiate yourself from others, you identify with others, right? You learn how to use your mind.
They’re interconnected, they’re parts of a larger process. You don’t want to take that part and just talk about the idea of just go to social skills without self skills, or self skills … The idea of talking about skills even, if you think about it, is a scary thought.
We have to build not behavioral skills, we have to build mental tools, and we have to learn … Those are different than just tricky things and discrete behaviors. Those are ways of thinking and ways of making judgments, and ways of looking at an experience and being able to extract something meaningful from yourself. They’re ways of trying to prepare by considering the future and looking at multiple possible futures by looking at being able to handle multiple points of view and unwinding them.
It’s not just being able to do those things, it’s wanting to do those things. The intrinsic motivation, the desire to challenge yourself to move into more complex, dynamic environments, you need to do those things. You see, if you keep yourself in … If you avoid any kind of expansion of your world, if you hide out in your closet if you will, or your room, you don’t have to develop any of those mental tools. You don’t have to learn to do all those hard things.
So the reason you develop those mental tools is that they have this incredible desire to expand into more challenging areas of the world. To do more on your own, to expand interpersonally, to expand environmentally, to expand and understand more, and try and get more meaning and make sense of more things, which means you’re gonna have more frustration, which means you’re gonna have more confusion and uncertainty, and things are not going to make sense for a little while, right?
But they have an enormous drive to challenge themselves in that way. If you don’t build that drive, if you don’t make sure that motivation is in place, there’s no reason you can’t teach the skills. I mean skills fade away, they have no value, they have no functionality. Along with that you develop the habits of doing that. So for example, if you can’t teach just the skill of developing, we call it experience sample, having an experience and then constructing a sample so that you can save it for later.
If you don’t develop the habit of routinely reviewing what’s going on in your day if you’re not stopping to review, if you’re not stopping to represent it, if you don’t develop that habit of routinely doing that, then you can’t teach the skill. The skill has no value. It has no place, it won’t be performed, so the habits have to be there, the motivations have to be there. The mental tools of how to use your mind.
The evaluation of your mind, by the way, is very important, and a lot of the foundations is the awareness of mind, of feelings, the importance of feelings or using feelings as information. But also of the fact that I have ideas, that I think through things, that I make judgments. Those are things going on in my mind.
Learning to value your mind and other’s minds is much more important than what we call theory of mind skills, or all those skills, because it’s what drives that. The problem we find with autism is not the lack of ability to teach the theory of mind skill. It’s the motivation, it’s the understanding, the intense desire to know minds, to know my own mind, to realize that that’s the key to unlocking more understanding of the world, and more agency and more ability to succeed in the real world.
Actually in my mind myself, understanding who I am, understanding what others have learned. Understanding that you hurt my feelings, tell me, right? All of those things, you know, developing knowledge about myself and others, those are the tools that allow us to be successful.
Kat Lee: And thanks for joining us for ASD: A New Perspective, the podcast show where we help you understand what is going on in the mind of your child. We encourage you that growth for your child is possible. I’m Kat Lee. See you next time.
Mar 23 2018
Rank #3: What is Mindful Guiding for Parents?
This week, Dr. Steven Gutstein begins a new podcast series, “The Heart of RDI®: What is Mindful Guiding for Parents“. In this first episode of the new series, we join Dr. Gutstein as he defines MindGuiding and Mindful Guiding and how they fit within the RDI® Model.
We do not believe that we can, that we’re in the business of establishing what we would refer to as the natural intuitive guiding relationship. If that’s already occurring, then we have no reason to be doing what we are doing. So, what we want to think of is that we are establishing what we refer to as a mindful guiding relationship. Now, let me even preface that a little bit. I use that word intuitive. Mindful guiding is still an intuitive process, it’s not an analytical process where you refer to charts and graphs, and sequences and procedures. I’d rather say it’s mindful versus purely unconscious or go with the flow. That’s not what we are doing. On the other hand, we don’t want people to feel uptight and manualize over a sense of procedure, first do this and this and this. So, there’s a great deal of intuitive judgment that must go into a mindful process, but we’re consciously aware that we are doing. I think that’s the key in mindful. Okay. So, we want to establish as mindful guiding relationship where the guide is mindfully functioning, and the apprentice is functioning in a way that indicates that they are motivated to assume their role. That they are providing what I refer to as the thrust, or the engine of this shared process. That, along with the guidance system, allows the rocket to launch and get to its destination.
So, the apprentice doesn’t have to have all the skills in place for us to proceed to what we think of as dynamic intelligence, or the use of the guiding relationship, but they have to have developed that excitement, that desire, or learning the desire for learning through and with others. That initiation of exploration, that valuation of discovery. That really represents what being an apprentice is all about. You have to experience that. That has to become part of their identity. That has to become internalized. You could be missing all kinds of things. It would have to continue to be developed and built through a guiding relationship, and I think you could keep those two issues in mind — How do we develop a guiding relationship, and, how do we then use it? I think it helps us as beginners, and us as veterans, to do our jobs much much better. So, we think about that, and then we think about the next step and going into mindful guiding, and then mind guiding, which is what starts to happen naturally even towards the end of the first year of life in typical development where if you are guiding a child as a parental figure or ongoing relationship, without even realizing it you will begin to interject mindful terms, terms about thoughts, and feelings, and internal states into your communication with that child. And to elaborate, even before they might understand those things you’ll unconsciously become more aware that your primary role is to develop their mind. Now you might not know that unconsciously, but through your actions as a guide, especially during the course of the second year and onward, that becomes quite evident when we observe this in its natural form.
So, another criterion here is the sense that we are ready, or parents are ready, or guides are ready, or you are ready, to consider serving or becoming a mind guide, that has some value. Again, that doesn’t mean the child has to have a huge amount of language, doesn’t mean you have to be ready for conversations yet, but it means that that makes some sense, observing what’s going on between the guide and the apprentice, the student. So, those become very critical terms.
So, I think if we can keep in mind that development of that guiding relationship, feeling secure, that that’s in place, which doesn’t mean everything’s perfect, that’s going to be important. What I mean by that is, we don’t really need to see the child as 100% compliant. Look at any typically developing two-year-old who is very much in a guiding relationship, and you’ll see that a great percentage of the time they may be trying to control things, they may be oppositional. And so, we don’t want to communicate somehow that the guiding relationships only form when you have the perfectly compliant, passive, whatever, perfect apprentice. I think that’s very unrealistic. And, I think especially for many of the children that we work with who have been extremely passive, not to mention that they’ve already been oppositional, they have been very passive, they’re often going to go through a stage like a typically developing two-year-old where you’re going to see somewhat of that controlling oppositional action, but it’s not going to be 100% of the time.
You’re also going to have many opportunities where you’re providing guidance to that child who wants to initiate, and I think that’s the other piece of it. When you start to see parents, parents are still worrying, what activities should I do with my child? Or, how do I keep them motivated? Or, how do I keep them engaged with me and not running off? We don’t yet have the guiding relationship we want, we don’t. As opposed to sometimes when I am guiding my child wants to take over, or sometimes they are oppositional about it, that’s different. But when we have a guiding relationship in place, it’s intrinsically powerful for that child who want to remain engaged. It may be a game sometimes of arguing, but engaged with their guide. And provide that guide with many opportunities throughout the day, for influencing, for often limiting their actions in terms of discovery and trying out things that may be too difficult for them, as well as providing a little bit of challenge, or elaboration, or support for what they are trying to do. But you see that energy, you see the mindfulness coming from the parent. You see the energy coming from that child. The energy to engage with you. Also, the energy to be autonomous.
Autonomous doesn’t mean disengaging and walking away from you. It’s autonomous through your participation. And that could be your participation in a more peripheral supportive way, your participation in co-participating with them, with them being peripherally involved with you, having a more minor role in something that’s a bit ahead of what they are able to do on their own. But you will see that they want to become more autonomous and they also want to maintain that engagement with you.
The child should be supplying the effort to stay engaged with you. The child should be supplying the energy to want to want to develop, to want to increase their confidence. That’s a motivational thing. That should be internalized. And that becomes the most important element. And parents should be perceiving their role in a facilitative way. They should be starting to move out of co-participation as the only modality. There should be a balance between that, and an increasing emphasis on facilitation, either through autonomy support, support of actions, whether that’s emotional support, or structuring activity so that it is not too difficult for that child, those are two ways, or by stepping back. Those are ways to provide autonomy support, as well as balance with providing challenges to that child. They should perceive their role that way and feel comfortable that way, and to not be worried at all at this point about what to do because the child should be, and this is the third thing, they should have at this point developed a number of frameworks, activity frameworks, that are mutually expanded and extended by both parties, they’re both finding ways to add interesting things to the activities that they are doing, and they should have more than enough of those activities. You don’t need to quit the activities.
A parent who is saying “Gee, he gets bored so quickly still. I don’t know what activity to give him,” that’s not a guiding relationship, that’s not an apprenticeship yet. Because an apprentice is not just something, it’s not about I’m doing this to please you, or I’m doing this to be compliant, they’re operating out of their own energy, their own desire to grow and develop. They are co-participants in this relationship, in maintaining this, and growing this. With using the frameworks that you already have to grow, not that you can’t introduce new things, but there shouldn’t be any need.
I’ll give you an example, my grandson and myself, who’s about 2 ½ years old, we do a lot of yard work together, we do some woodwork together, and we play with trains together. You know, we have a finite number of things we do. But those things keep growing and expanding. And he elaborates on them, as well as I do. So, he’ll invent new variations, and I will, and we have to do a lot of compromising and sometimes negotiating. But, there’s no lack of those things, it’s not like I ever have to think — Gee, do I need another activity? Sometimes I will think of that, for instance the summer is coming here in Houston and all the things we’ve done outdoors we can’t do, that’s no different than anything you would do with any two-year-old in Houston, Texas because you wonder now that we have to do everything indoors what the hell are we going to do that’s going to be interesting and exciting, and that is a limited number of things. So, we have to be creative. It doesn’t have anything to do with autism. It has more to do with having a two-year-old in a very hot climate, that you might expect. But in terms of everyday worrying, that worry about activity, that should not be at all present for that person if we have a guiding relationship. That’s really telling us that both parties are invested in this and they’re both moving in the same direction. That we’re not worried about, you know, are they going to walk away? That anxiety is still, is that child going to leave? What do I have to do? When I think of activity with my grandson it is not that he is going to walk away from me, it’s what can I do that we’ll both enjoy that’s indoors, now that we must move towards indoors. And, like you would do with any child. But it’s not at all that he is going to leave to do something else, because what the hell is he going to do? His ability to do on his own is fairly limited. I am excited when he does things on his own. It’s like he’s starting to do things on his own that are interesting, and I love it because it gives me a break. It gives me a way to relax. It’s that type of feeling you want to see rather than if there’s still that fear that they are going to disengage, then we don’t have that guiding relationship in place.
Jun 09 2017
Rank #4: Why Do I Feel Incompetent as a Parent?
Are you feeling lost as a parent of an autistic child? In this podcast episode, Dr. Gutstein and co-host Kat Lee, go a little deeper into the feelings that surround us as parents of a child with autism. Why do we feel so incompetent at times and how do we become empowered as parents again?
Feb 03 2017
Rank #5: Infants & Parents: How it Works!
In this episode, Dr. Gutstein continues to discuss the similarities and differences of typically-developing infants and those who are later diagnosed with ASD. Here he discusses what happens during the latter part of the first year when the divergence is most clear.
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The main finding that has been replicated a lot, and you will see this later, is what’s called the social passivity of these infants that go on to have autism. The social passivity really means that they are acting more like children act at 5 and 4 months. They’re not actively engaging, they’re not actively initiating if you think about a typically developing infant at a very young age. You’re really doing their passive. You’re really doing all the work of engaging, and it really changes later on.
So, one of the things I want you to keep in mind here is we are not necessarily talking about a regression. We’re not talking about the fact that these children initially lose something, or something happens that makes them function worst initially, but we are talking about the fact that they don’t develop. They maintain their more primitive way of relating when we start to look at them at that second interval, and so what the scientists are struggling with, and trying to understand now, is what’s happening between that period of time. That seems to be a very critical period. Now there may be factors before that that are influencing, but there’s something happening in the latter part of that first year that really creates a divergence between those children who are going to have ASD and those who are not, and what I want to do now is to give you some perspective from typical development to help you understand what might be happening, is that infants are born with two powerful drives, and I think most psychologists and most developmentalists would agree with this, and neuro scientists.
One I call stability maintaining, and that primarily drives behavior during an infant’s first months of life. The idea to maintain regularity, stability, so to get basic meaning in your world, you know, resolve some of the chaos around you, and especially during the first months of life. The need for regularity, whether it’s physically, whether it cognitively, is very very important, and to sort of keep things stable, you know, to maintain things rather than to be disrupted. Now, in my model and according to research, you would see this receding during the second half of the first year, but it never goes away because if you think about it any time we are under a lot of stress, or fatigue, or crisis, that stability maintain, that need to sort of just move away from change and anomaly, and incongruity, and challenge, really becomes secondary and we need to just sort of have stability, you know, and we do things actually to maintain that stability for a period of time to avoid things like that until we feel less stressed out. So, it’s still there, but hopefully it does not become prominent in our lives, especially in children’s lives.
Now when we think about growth seeking we see it first emerging during the second half of an infant’s, typically developing infants in the first year, and then henceforth we hopefully see it becoming the primary driving force. The psychologists have referred to it using terms such a mastery motivation, intrinsic motivation, and personal agency, but even though those names differ they actually refer to the same thing.
There’s a basic universal human, human specifically motivation for mental and self-growth. What we see is that typically developing infants are becoming highly motivated to actively engage to be active in their world, no longer passive. In the first months, they’re pretty passive. They can’t really use their bodies very well. I think of them as heads without bodies almost because they don’t have the motor control to affect anything, to influence anything, to explore things very well but starting the second half of the year, they get to crawl. They get to move around in psychical space, and they start to develop the ability to be able to reach to things and take them, turn things, and have some way to influencing their world. They also develop cognitively.
What we see around 7 months is that the prefrontal cortex, or what we call the front of the brain, starts activating. It’s there beforehand but we don’t really see a lot of activation until that second half of that year, and we associate that with more conscious thought with what we call mediation not to be so reactive, to be able to stop for a second and study something before you act on it.
So, infants start to become very motivated to be able to engage with their world, with their parents, with their environment, and they’re really starting to do things to enhance their own mental and self-growth. They’re not totally depending on us to do that, they’re going to explore on their own. They’re going to experiment dropping things, see how they fall. Replicating Newton’s original studies dropping different things in the world. They’re going to do that with us, they initiate those. They become initiators, they’re not just waiting or reacting to us. So they’re forming a perception of themselves as an agentic, meaning, being able to be active agents in their world, and also, they stop being interested in what’s familiar. If they already have seen it, they don’t really want to see it again. If they can do it, they don’t need to do it again. And so, this growth seeking drive, we say that it really privileges your attention, it really focuses their attention to novelty and also incongruity, meaning things that haven’t fit their meaning system. That, “Oh I haven’t seen yet,” that doesn’t make sense given my prior system of thinking. Infants are continually having to upgrade, right? Based on new things that their finding and seeing continually having to upgrade and reorganize their understanding of their world based on new information. This growth seeking seems to foster a lot of exploring, experimenting and practicing.
We see infants doing repetitive things, but repetitive things to get better at something, and once they get to certain level, they go onto something else. And also, what you see emerging is a strong desire by the end of the first year to pursue and actively seek out activities that offer the infant a degree of challenge. Not so much that it’s overwhelming but not something that’s easy. They seem to be attracted and will choose, will literally choose an activity without doing anything that is going to be moderately hard for them, and that they have some potential to fail at it initially, but they will be motivated to pursue that on their own. That seems to be an intrinsic built in motivation that doesn’t have to be learned. And they actually say by 12 months we can see infants making those choices. Appraising activities and choosing not to engage with ones that are way over, but also not to engage in activities that are too simple, and with those mastery experience, what they call mastery experiences, are critical because they are filled with rich feeling and emotion. The reason they become so powerfully reinforcing for typically developing children is they have that combination of that sort of frustration, the effort they’re putting in, the difficulty and then the triumph. It’s that big change and affect that’s so powerful on a neurological level on a psychological level. You go from “Ah this is hard,” to “Ah, we all know that, right?” It’s something we have to work very hard at when we finally achieve it has much more of positive feeling than something that comes easier to us. And infants become highly motivated for that even before the end of their first year.
Now, around the same time that infants start to be motivated to be growth seekers, parents luckily enough become motivated to become what we call growth promoters. What that means is in the first months of life, any of you of course that raise an infant know that your primary motivation is what call homeostasis or regulation, making sure the infant is fed and comfortable and not crying and is getting sleep so you can get some sleep too. You know, changing diapers and keeping away from sudden movements and loud noises, and you keeping a regulated sort of homeostatic environment for that infant. Right, keeping them somewhat feeling like the world is somewhat of a normal place. What happens though is that at around the same time that infants become motivated for growth seeking, parent’s motivation begins to change from maintaining that regulated environment to acting in ways to promote the infant’s mental growth, and even to sometimes provide challenges for them to add variation, add diversity, to add complexity, and certainly to respond to the infant’s growth seeking. So, we refer to this as growth promoting and it’s a pretty amazing thing to see when you look at that change in parents. So we see on the one hand, we see infant’s growth seeking, and we also see parent’s growth promoting. And in typical development, right, what do we see its congreble, it comes together right, it’s very nice. It’s mutually supportive, we have infant growth seeking, parent growth promoting, and what happens when it comes together is it starts a cycle, wonderful positive cycle where both parties are mutually influenced. They’re both sort of driving each other, pushing each other towards growth in a very positive way. Mental and self-growth.
So, over many engagements, remember we are talking about if you’re with a typically developing infant in your home you have scores, many many even in a course of a day, you have 50-60 little tiny engagements with that infant right where this is happening where they are developing, this very strong emotional linkage the infants are developing between their increasing personal agency little by little, becoming more of an ability to influence their world themselves, others. And your role as a parent, parental imaging process, they’re really feeling that connection of you being agents supporting their growth. And if you’re a parent you’re getting enormous positive feedback every time you promote growth promotion, almost every time because sometimes you don’t do it exactly right, but more often than not infants are going to be very excited, very encouraging to you in their facial expressions, their vocalizations, very reinforcing to you, very supportive of you and infants who are really feeling the desire to engage with their world along with you as a guide. On their own they look for new ways to involve parents in their growth seeking. So, it’s a mutual cycle if you think about it that. It keeps moving both parent and infant in the same direction, and that results in what I call the formation of a guiding relationship that both infant and parent are both invested in maintaining their ongoing engagements because they are the best way for the infant’s growth to occur.
It’s when the infant growth seeking and the parent growth promoting are synchronous and are working in unison, and are mutually reinforcing each other, we use the term guiding relationship for that, and it’s a mutual enterprise as our experts tell us. Each person’s actions and emotional reactions serve to trigger the actions and reactions of the other person, and it’s a continuous manner moving towards the child’s developing functioning, and here’s Cohen that says it’s not the child’s existing needs of competencies, or the adults framing and scaffolding, but the interaction that creates the potential, and then when more of the relationship depends on parents provision and necessary experiences the infant’s capacity to respond and the emotional tone of their interactions. Now I would say that a little bit differently because that last one assumes that as parents who are already initiating, and if you look at actual day to day typical development that’s not the case. Infants are much more involved in being the initiators of it. And what I like to use is this analogy of sort of a guided rocket launch, you’ve learned NASA, and in typical development without realizing it, and pleasantly you expect infants once they start to become 6, 7, 8 months to function as the engine thrusting, you know, supplying the energy, the lift off thrust for mental and self-growth. And if that’s happening then the word guiding makes sense. Because what guiding means then is you are taking this energy as a parent and trying to guide it, trying to use it in a way that’s most productive for that infant. But that assumes, right, that the infant is supplying the energy primarily and that allows you as guide to act with what we call the guiding system. Directing that infant’s energy in a productive way. And that’s really important because that’s what guiding is.
Guiding is not to get someone to do something, guides don’t do a lot of that initiating. They do some, but they’re mostly being responsive to this energy that’s coming, and the actions that are coming out of growth seeking. So, if you’re going to be a successful parent guide, you are very dependent on your apprentice, your infant, in this case your child, taking those growth seeking actions providing you feedback and enthusiasm. And if you watch typical development you will see that through their ongoing, infants once they get to that age in the second half of the year, they’re just constantly initiating and they’re taking actions in their world and towards you, and it means that you’re going to spend a large majority of your time in what we call a responsive manner. And that means you’re responding to their energy, responding to what their initiating, what they’re attending to, what they’re looking at. This is productive, and your job is mediate that, sometimes limit it, sometimes modify it, elaborate it, sometimes use it as a springboard for a next step, but you’re mostly in a responsive role. It’s very very important because that is such an alien concept when you think about autism. Where, and we will talk about that later, where parents lose the ability to be responsive. But you also sometimes also have to initiate, right? But even when you initiate, you’re expecting that you’re going to get feedback from that child to determine if it’s appropriate, and determine what is an appropriate one step ahead initiate goal would be, or what you should add to that activity, to that interaction, to make it growth promoting, but you have to expect you’re going to get the feedback. And another thing you depend on, whether you realize it or not, is typically you’re getting an enormous amount of enthusiasm and positive emotional response when you attempt your growth promotion as a guide. You’re just constantly getting affirmation from the infant that leads you to want to do it more and keep going. So those are things that I think we take for granted that make us successful as a parent guide.
Apr 11 2016
Rank #6: Your Family & Autism
In April’s special episode of the RDIconnect podcast series, Dr. Rachelle Sheely and Kat Lee talk about how to move forward after an autism diagnosis in the family.
Kat Lee: So we’re talking today about what is autism, but most specifically, how parents who have a child who’s newly diagnosed feel, because that’s like the first question in their minds, what is autism? Is it what I see on TV or in a picture or in a documentary I saw? I think it’s really confusing, and maybe even more so now because there’s so many social media sources for information that can be confusing. So I thought it was helpful to think about, what is autism and how do those families feel when they get that diagnosis with so much information coming up too, and a lot of the things that they’re told are not autism. That’s what I kind of like to think of too.
Dr. Sheely: So we have parents who get the diagnosis, and they’re not really told what that means, so they go to what they know. They go to Temple Grandin. Oh, well she’s got a PhD. Look how successful she is. Stephen Shore, well, he’s married. He’s great. That’s easy. Or they go to Rain Man and they say, “Ooh.” Or you know, they go to somebody like Stephen, the human camera, and so they have these ideas of people who are out in the forefront when it comes to the diagnosis, and those people all have the diagnosis, but for the most part, the kids are all very different and they each come with his or her own set of capabilities and struggles, things that will be obstacles to them, things that will be challenges to them.
Dr. Sheely: I think the important thing for anybody who is either giving the diagnosis or working with a newly diagnosed family is to help parents know that there’s a beginning point, and that that beginning point is almost always the same. First of all, want to know what your child’s potential is. We want to know what kind of scaffolding or support your child needs to become who he’s going to become. The other thing that we want to know is, how do we re-establish the guiding relationship? And that sometimes gets confused with attachment, or does my child love me? That’s not what we’re talking about. We’re talking about children who don’t look to their parents for guiding in the way typically developing children do, like, “What are you going to show me today, mommy?” No, it’s like, “If you force me to do it, I’ll do it, but I’ve got my own set of things that are of interest to me.”
Dr. Sheely: And so by re-establishing this guiding relationship, we’re actually normalizing the family for the family who has a child on the spectrum. There’s nothing I like better when a family says to me, “You know, my family seems normal.” It’s like, “Yes.”
Kat Lee: That really speaks to me because when my son was diagnosed at two, aside from kind of the processing shock of the thing, one of my very first concerns at the top of my list was for my family. For him, of course, as my baby, but my other baby who was four, my marriage, and the family. And so it’s frightening. You don’t know what’s going to happen to your family, and I think that’s one of the things that’s so beautiful. And like you just said, when they tell you that my family feels normal, I think that’s what they’re talking about.
Dr. Sheely: And I think that’s the right question to ask, because what is going to happen to my family? And so frequently, we have just keyed in on this child with autism and what’s going to happen to the child with Autism, that we have children, we have siblings falling by the wayside, very resentful because the child with the problem got the attention. The child with the problem got the affection. The child with the problem got the family’s financial resources, and they didn’t have a problem. I even had a boy one time who said, “I get to go talk to Rachelle.” I mean, his idea of equal time was he was able to come see me, and he came in, and he laid down on the sofa. He had been watching a Freud movie I guess. He said, “I had a dream last night,” and of course I got into it, and I said, “What was it?”
Kat Lee: Bless his heart.
Dr. Sheely: Exactly. But it is the right question, because if we don’t care enough about the relationship between the husband and wife, if we don’t care enough about the siblings, then we have families that begin to falter and fall apart.
Kat Lee: Well, and I think the other thing that tends to fall by the wayside, I don’t know how else to say it, for parents, is all concern for themselves. And if you as a parent suddenly become the least important part of your life, then you can scaffold your children. I mean, that’s the hard thing for parents. It’s kind of the process, the pain point, and then the, “Okay, forget about me.” And of course, that’s really the worst thing that can happen because you’re the child’s everything. Guide, yes. Their world. So if you are falling apart and not taking care of yourself because you’re trying to take care of them, and so I just think it’s this cycle that starts pretty quickly.
Dr. Sheely: You know, we talk about parents who have children on the spectrum, but we also have to realize that this happens to people who just have children, where all the sudden you’re doing lots of things for your children and you’re carpooling and you’re going to pottery lessons and French lessons and ice skating lessons, and now you’re in charge of the Boy Scouts, and so you have all of this stuff going on, and somewhere in that mix you are there, but your role and how you see yourself is a procure of services for your children. That happens with typically developing children as well.
Dr. Sheely: So when we talk about … In RDI, we spend so much time helping parents think about, who are you? What’s your dream? What dream did you let go? Let’s find that dream. Let’s not only find the dream for your child, let’s find the dream for you. When was the last time you and your husband went out, or when was the last time you did something that you really enjoy? Not everybody likes to go out. Some people just like to eat popcorn and watch YouTube, which is … That’s good too, but we have to find out, what is it that is going to make you feel you are 100% in this game of life, this game we call life, with your husband, with your other children, and with the child with autism?
Dr. Sheely: We know in the beginning it takes more time because you are re-establishing something that the autism has robbed you of. But you know, it doesn’t take forever to get that process started, and at that point, you need to go get your nails done.
Kat Lee: Oh, that sounds lovely. I was just thinking about it’s … I don’t know if I want to call it a rediscovery of you for parents. I guess, because they probably don’t have it forgotten … Maybe they have, I don’t know … who they were B.A., as I call Before Autism, but it gets hidden.
Dr. Sheely: It gets hidden, and depending on what point in your life you had children, what point in your life you had a child diagnosed, I think you can have a couple of reset buttons that you need to be aware of, and one of those reset buttons might be a result of the panic you’re feeling, and then that gets triggered by the posttraumatic stress disorder, so you’ve got that reset button, and then there’s the reset button about, okay, I’m going to devote my life to making my child okay, which you can’t do if you’re not okay. It’s a very complicated process.
Kat Lee: It is. That’s what I love about RDI. I was telling somebody the other day that it’s what I love about it. It’s about everyone. The child’s life is about everyone in his or her life, and so whatever we’re doing to help them should be about everyone in his or her life, because that’s how they can really get the help they need. And you know, so many things end up just being about the child.
Dr. Sheely: Sorry, I interrupted. You know, Katherine, it’s also about the people who choose to work with families dealing with autism. I remember early on as a very young clinician that I wanted so much to do this, I was becoming obsessed by it. And so just as parents get triggered, I was getting triggered as well, because every child is different, and I was trying to figure it out, and Steve and I were also trying to figure out, what is RDI? What is that going to mean to our families?
Dr. Sheely: I realized that when I’m telling parents they have to take care of themselves, consultants have to take care of themselves too. And a healthy system means that everybody in the system is healthy, including the people who are consulting the people who are guiding and the people who have autism.
Kat Lee: When you first meet a parent with a newly diagnosed child, no matter … I guess I’ll say whatever age that may be, do they communicate to you the thing they’re most fearful of? Is it not having a connection or relationship with their child, or is there any one thing you hear the most?
Dr. Sheely: Yes. The thing that I hear the most is, “I just want him to be happy,” and I mean, who doesn’t want to be happy and who doesn’t want his or her child to be happy? And almost from the very beginning, I reframe that and say, “Well, I would like for your child to be happy too, but I want your child to be independent as an adult. I don’t know what form that will take because I don’t know your child’s potential right now, but I feel like we need to be focused on the quality of life and independence as an adult.” What’s interesting about that, when I say it, it always resonates, and it’s as if it’s the one thing they were afraid to say.
Kat Lee: Huh. So they forward think, so to speak, into the future, and are really not saying it out loud.
Dr. Sheely: Yeah. I think so.
Kat Lee: I wondered if parents are suffering because of the relationship they don’t feel like they have, if that makes senses. And maybe, I guess they have the relationship, but do they talk to you about, “The relationship we have doesn’t feel right to me”? I wonder how much a concern that is.
Dr. Sheely: Yeah. I think it is a concern, and if the child happens to be an only child or a first child, sometimes they don’t realize what isn’t there because they’ve never experienced it. So they’re thinking, “Well, this is the way parenting is. It’s not exactly what I thought it would be, but this is the way it is.” Then they have maybe a second or a third, or in Texas, the seventh or eighth child, and they think, “Well, that’s not the way it is.”
Kat Lee: Right, of course.
Dr. Sheely: So then they go back, and now the concern is, “I feel like my relationship with this child is different from the relationship I have with my other child or my other children,” and giving parents the hope that that guiding relationship can be put into place goes a long way to getting them going down the right path to parent this child.
Kat Lee: A lot of parents talk to me about … I hate to say feeling rejected, or almost like it’s their fault. Might be both, which we can understand that it could feel like a rejection by their child, but also really feeling that somehow they did something or haven’t done something right. And I will even hear that from parents who maybe have gotten a diagnosis before and seeking help, like join a parents’ group, and maybe they’ve seen a few children, and this child’s better off than my child, or what have you, so the fault is even increased. It’s just so not their fault.
Dr. Sheely: It’s not their fault. But to be honest with you, Katherine, we’re both parents, and we know when we see our children struggle, we start saying, “What could I have done differently? What did I do to cause this? What’s going on?” We can reassure people, but I actually say the same thing to every parent I see. If I could tell you right now that everything was going to be okay and you would believe me, I would say it, but you won’t believe me until your child really is doing better, so we have to get started because you have to be able to tell yourself that.
Dr. Sheely: And certainly, we can support each other, and when we volunteer with groups and we meet parents whose child has been diagnosed for the just early on. We do want to encourage them, and we want to tell them it’s not a blind hope we’re offering. It’s not a false hope we’re offering. We’re offering you hope, and we have a track record now, and we can show you people who are doing well, who are no different from your child because I have the whole range of people who are doing better: classically autistic, high functioning, you get the whole spectrum. But the parents have to begin to feel that connection before they will accept, before they have the hope for themselves. And sometimes all they have to hang onto is we say, “Be hopeful.”
Apr 11 2019
Rank #7: Co-Occurring Conditions: Eating Disorders, OCD and More
In this episode, Dr. Gutstein continues his talk on co-occurring conditions by exploring topics such as eating disorders, OCD and more!
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The post Co-Occurring Conditions: Eating Disorders, OCD and More first appeared on RDIconnect.
Oct 28 2016
Rank #8: What About Behavior?
Nov 21 2016
Rank #9: Theory of Mind: Part 2
Theory of Mind is the ability to understand that other people have thoughts, feelings, interests and points of view of their own. In autism, it is a commonly held belief that autistic individuals do not have this ability, along with a difficulty understanding the actions and emotions of others. In part two of his ‘Theory of Mind’ series, Dr. Gutstein talks about where he believes the breakdown in autism happening and what is really missing: the parent/child Guiding Relationship. (to listen to part one of the series go here)
Kat Lee: Welcome back to ASD: A New Perspective, the podcast show where we help you understand what is going on in the mind of your child. We do encourage you that growth for your child is possible. I’m Kat Lee and in this week’s podcast, doctor Gutstein continues his conversation with us about theory of mind.
Dr. Gutstein: So what are we doing? You know, even if you develop this sort of metacognitive ability to at the same moment you’re participating in the now, reserving part of your mind to think about what that person really means and thinks, even if one could do that. All right? Um, there’s all these years before anybody can do that in development. Does that mean they can’t have conversations until they’re teenagers? And in fact, teenage conversation, you have to be able to look beyond that.
Dr. Gutstein: So there’s no friendships before that? There’s no relationship? What are people doing, what are we doing? How do we have interactions? How do we have engagements? How do we have relationships? Well, it’s not by doing that, it’s not by theory of mind, right? And again, it doesn’t mean that, away from that constant stream we can’t consider, we can’t take time to empathize and especially if there’s moments when we see somebody hurting and there’s not a continual stream of things, we can stop and go offline periodically. If we’re there, if the person’s there and empathize, think about how they might be feeling. There’s times when that’s possible, but I’m just having my regular back and forth conversation that keeps flowing. How does that even work?
Dr. Gutstein: How does it not go off the tracks all the time? Well, of course it does go off the tracks all the time and I want to make a plea here to rather than consider. Because see, that comes from a position of you and me as separate. Of course we are separate, but that’s trying to analyze. There’s a you and there’s a me and I’ve got to go back and forth through the analyzing the you and the me and all those different levels and it doesn’t work. It just doesn’t work. But what happens if we still focus on the we? Okay, as the unit that we monitor: the we.
Dr. Gutstein: So when we start to focus on how are we doing and that becomes an automatic, sort of background monitoring when you’re with another person, how are we doing? Anytime we’re in a dynamic, I’m not talking about a scripted thing. I’m not talking about the elevator. I’m talking about a ongoing, cognitive relationship, what happens if we focus on the we? Okay?
Dr. Gutstein: Now what’s interesting is I want you to think about how we can then move, if we focus on the we, we can move from very early on, like in the second year of life, focusing on our actions, our bodies moving in the world, the things we do, our activity, our actions, the flow of our actions, our synchrony, whether we’re coordinated things, things we do in RDI, right, as we start to … and then to gradually add variation. Each of us improvises a little bit more in those and it’s focused on how are we doing and we want children to learn about the we. Is it was a breaking down? Are we in sync? Are we coordinated?
Dr. Gutstein: And we want that to become very much an automatic background process. Now take that prototype, and we see that over years and years gradually evolve, how that eventually evolves. So it evolves from we and our bodies to we in common ground when we’re working with some object or working on some toy or something, right? We as shared focus of attention, right? To pointing and you know, sharing attention that way in the world to things, to very gradually over a period of years to the we becoming internal. To becoming are we in sync? Do we feel like we’re in the same place? And that’s a very basic feeling. It’s not an intellectual, analytical concept. It’s an ongoing feel of being in sync with other people that starts out right after the end of infancy and then continues to evolve and become more complex in the sense of the topic, the area of sync, but also remain something that we feel, an intuitive feeling of being in sync with each other.
Dr. Gutstein: And contrast that. Now, let me just point that out. That if we think of that as the basic monitoring that’s going on in that relationship and that interaction, then there’s a point where we say, oh, the we’s not working and we get that feeling. Then, we might devote some resources to wondering, uh oh, what’s going on. Right? Is there some difference, a breakdown between what I’m feeling, what they’re feeling, how are they feeling? Thinking where we are, the topic, you know, what’s going on and then we can better communicate about that, trying to repair it or just make an adjustment in ourselves, whatever. And that gives us then a place, times, where we can devote those additional resources, go offline temporarily. Even say, wait a minute.
Dr. Gutstein: We can even say, wait a minute to the person. I think we’re not in sync here. Let me think for a second. I think I’m not getting it. We can stop. We have stopping points. We can pause. People do that all the time. And we can better communicate, we can repair, we can, you know, adjust the framework if you will. The conceptual framework. “I thought we were going to talk about this,” or adapt it or revise it and do all those neat things that we can do.
Dr. Gutstein: But if we don’t maintain that focus on the we, then this other route is impossible. It’s impossible to do. So, what I’m focusing on is that, and then even just focusing on the we is hard enough, right? Even that focus on the we because how much we is sufficient? How in sync or coordinated do you need to be with somebody?
Dr. Gutstein: Well, it depends on the person. Again, all those factors. If it’s again, somebody in an elevator, who cares. If it’s a best friend, it may be much more important. Although it may be less important than somebody you’re just meeting and you want to be friends with or somebody you’re romantically interested in, right? Then it’s got to be really powerful. Right?
Dr. Gutstein: But an old friend, you can go off a little bit and not be as much, how much about three year olds and four year old with four year olds and four year olds and five or they go off a lot of breakdowns in that we and they don’t care. They afford each other a lot of that. Right? It depends, right?
Dr. Gutstein: So that’s hard enough. What I’m submitting is that, we all don’t worry about all that other stuff. Well, there’s two tracks. We make the distinction between the offline and the online.
Dr. Gutstein: So yes, we need to teach children to reflect and you know, that’s so much a part of our program to be able to bookmark something, maybe something that doesn’t work or maybe something that does work. We have a whole lot of work on that. But then later to be able to develop the habit of reflection and saying, well, two things. One is, what do I want to say? What is the sample of my experience that I think might be helpful in the future or what didn’t make sense there? What didn’t work out, what surprised me, what didn’t I like about it and I have to think about? So that reflection is so important. That being able to be offline and use your mind is so important. But to be able to make a distinction between that and when you’re going online and when you’re in the midst of something and the idea that in the midst of that interaction, you can’t do that.
Dr. Gutstein: You have to develop another sense of being in that flow of, is it working? Are we okay? Without even saying those words, right? Just this ongoing feeling of being in sync, that sort of harmonious feeling of being in sync with another person. And then there’s sort of uneasiness that will eventually come to the floor and hopefully quickly when it’s moving, passing some threshold of being not in sync that leads you to then say, okay I gotta stop a second and consider that.
Dr. Gutstein: So you’re not always considering all those things. It’s already enough to do that. So, when I think in RDI, we want to think about that the coordinating our actions as a beginning step that yes, we want our children to work, and we want to also think about online. Think about you as a mind guide because you have those two roles, especially early on in development where you’re acting as a potential preparing that child for peer to peer if you will, engagements, right?
Dr. Gutstein: And then you’re acting as someone who helps them to continually raise the bar on what is we from their actions, starting with very simple coordinated actions with not a lot of variations to you starting to add variations to both of you in a more improvised way doing that, but still retaining actions to per sections to attention and shifting that in a more dynamic way to eventually ideas, right? Co-creating, feelings. Right?
Dr. Gutstein: But remembering that has to take years. That’s not something you’re going do in the lessons of weeks. If in typical development it takes years, you’re not going to make it go faster. Maybe you can take some shortcuts, but it’s still a years long process, and it has to be one step at a time. So there’s that role for the relationship, for the mind guide, right? And then as I said, there’s there’s the offline and the online roles and they’re two different roles.
Dr. Gutstein: One is a facilitator, right? You’re helping them to think about how to reflect in the world, how did become more aware of their feelings, how to use their imagination productively, how to think about futures, how to form knowledge about themselves, how to go out in the world themselves and continue to do that. Ask, and discover and explore.
Dr. Gutstein: And then there’s the second role, which is sort of a partner preparing them for these dynamic online engagements, which is, it continues to happen, but it becomes less and less of your role as they go out into the world.
Kat Lee: And thanks for joining us for ASD: A New Perspective, the podcast show where we help you understand what is going on in the mind of your child. And we encourage you that growth for your child is possible. I’m Kat Lee, see you next time.
Mar 15 2019
Rank #10: The Importance of Self-Communication
In this episode of ASD, A New Perspective, Dr. Steven Gutstein, the founder of the RDI® Model for remediating autism, talks about self communication and the use of gestures with our ASD children.
Kat Lee: Welcome back to ASD, A New Perspective. The podcast show where we help you understand what is going on in the mind of your child and we encourage you that growth for your child is possible. This week, as I visited with Dr. Gutstein, he talked about self communication and the use of gestures with our children, a fascinating discussion.
Dr. Gutstein: So, what we see is that when we develop gesture, we develop facial changes, prosody, in a communicative sense. It has a very strong impact on your own re-experiencing but also it makes you a person who is … other people want to be with, and other people want to communicate with. Whereas if you practice intentionally communicating, like gesturing in some kind of scripted way or some kind of intentional, it really clouds up your system. It makes you very stiff, artificial, overwhelmed. There’s too much you have to think about. And so, to me, in autism, they don’t make that distinction. They keep teaching communicating, you know what I’m saying?
When you talk to somebody, you’re not intentionally … it’s not … I’m using gestures, you’re not intentionally … I mean, I may be intentionally doing it right now but most of the time you’re not doing it … unless you’re a used car salesman or a politician or a psychic. You’re not aware. It doesn’t develop out of your desire to communicate to them.
It doesn’t develop out of this system where you’re pointing or pushing away. It develops out of the sense of trying to make sense to yourself and you notice, when you’re struggling with a thought, you’ll often gesture more.
Kat Lee:: I do that a lot.
Dr. Gutstein: And we assume it’s because we’re communicating. But it’s not. So when you’re communicative, what’s interesting is, if you watch somebody who’s very communicative, even though they’re not intentionally doing it, it’s somebody everybody wants to be with. Why? Because we get the sense of being with them they’re willing to share who they are with you. They’re revealing themselves to you. They’re open with you. They’re honest with you. They’re there. They’re sharing experience with you.
Which is a very different, when you feel like somebody’s communicating. What are they trying to do? What’s their agenda? You know?
And so, in RDI, what’s interesting is we want to emphasize the importance of developing our children, our people, as communicative. That sense of gesture, face, as part of your own personal experience, not as something you think about to influence another person. Yes, you can learn to do that later, but unfortunately in autism, everything’s social skills, right?
Kat Lee: Exactly
Dr. Gutstein: You see? I think that’s an interesting topic. Don’t you think? The difference between communicative and communicating.
Kat Lee: Oh, it’s huge.
Dr. Gutstein: Yeah, you see the distinction?
Kat Lee: Absolutely, yes.
Dr. Gutstein: You find that our kids who do the best, who are the most involved in the interpersonal world, who are most endearing are the ones who haven’t necessarily practiced communicating; they’ve become communicative. Right?
And what’s interesting … so, watch them make their own videos for themselves and you really get to see without that performance to others, without having to worry about monitoring what they’re thinking, what they’re saying. Without having to worry about all that first. That’s later. You can see the synchrony, you can see the gesture, you can see the facial, and you can see the prosody all occurring, even though I’m not communicating to another person. So you see a narrative that’s being done by someone who we’ve worked with in that way?
It’s a different mode. It’s a different style. It’s a different way of thinking about that, using your body, right? It’s being aware of your own body and not being aware … initially, it is. But it’s being able to be embodied, right? Which then also triggers parts of the brain that have to do with emotion, that have to do with significant. When you’re sort of like this and like this in a robotic way, like this, your brain … it’s basically communicating, even with your words, that there’s nothing significant happening.
That’s now how you communicate to yourself. How you message yourself, that there’s something significant to remember or retain or something to feel. We do that with our bodies. We do that through inter reception, becoming aware of our bodies, whether it’s the tension, whether that’s the movement, whether that’s our body, whether that’s our posture. Whatever.
And it’s the way we signal ourselves. It’s the way we communicate with ourselves, right? Again, without consciousness, without being aware of it.
One of the things we’re considering is practicing, having to practice not … It’s great to practice having … Let me put it another way. You know how early on, we had people practice/model non-verbal conversations? Parents don’t understand that a lot of times. But it’s really critical. That’s one track. Let me say it a different way: there’s two tracks. There’s a communicating track, which I think is important.
Kat Lee: Yes.
Dr. Gutstein: There’s a communicative track, which we often overlook.
Kat Lee: Yes.
Dr. Gutstein: While it’s important to be able to practice so that having fun with those and making those a part of what communicating is about, I think not only when we do that and we do it playfully, we’re also influencing our communicative ability, right?
Kat Lee: Yeah, for sure.
Dr. Gutstein: Rather intentionally and we so playfully use our voices and becoming aware of them. But even more so you can practice it when you’re making your own video, when you’re making representation just for you and realize that it’s just a part of you basically … you can say communicating with yourself, but just of experiencing your world and then, if you think about it then, then you become a person who is communicative throughout the whole day, learning to be someone who is … whether you’re with someone or not, right?
You’re experiencing throughout the whole day, your body is showing that you’re having experiences, and it’s distinguishing different experiences and the body is giving you feedback about your own experiences. How else can you know? You can’t stop think about it, but your body starts to provide you with that feedback.
Kat Lee:: Yes.
Dr. Gutstein: Your own gesture and your own face and you become more aware. You become more embodied in that way and we know that people with autism don’t do that. They don’t become embodied in that way.
Think about it, how you would then stop and recognize that something’s important to you. How do you do it? Well, your body recognizes it first. It’s not that you stop and think. You can’t. I mean, something has to trigger, right? You just up and say, “I want to remember that,” well it’s your body doing it first. Your awareness of your body.
And you know, it could be like that or it could be your heart rate or it could be your breathing or it could be your face or it could be something. And then you amplify it with your body first before you even do it with your words, so you might have your gesture like that or before you even are thinking about it, right?
And that also triggers the salience network in the brain, which, it’s interesting, the network in our brain that’s most involved in determining what is significant, what should stand out, whether it’s our thinking, something in our mind, whether it’s something in the world, it’s called the salience network, salience meaning significance.
And the salience network is also the center for interpreting interoceptive or body communication. Isn’t that interesting? It is the main area for that. It also is the main area for sort of processing emotion in terms of meaning, in terms of significance. Not like the amygdala, which is like, ah! Non-meaningful. But when you think of that feeling, feeling is not that. That’s just reaction.
Feeling is when you’re making sense, when you’re appraising something, when it has some significance. So feeling and body awareness are very integrated, right? And significance.
The other thing the salience network does that is interesting is it’s the switching area between focusing on a task in the world and focusing more on your experience or experience in yourself. It’s sort of like this switching junction for that, too.
The idea that you might see something significant and then stop for a second and think about it and feel it and wonder about it. Right? That’s occurring on the salience … the wondering itself occurs on the default network, but the switching from doing something in the world to stopping and pondering it or smelling the roses if you will or thinking that something is pretty, that switch is occurring on the salience network.
And that’s very wrapped up in the way our body is providing information to us in the world, through our … When I say our body, to our voice. It’s what we call the analog information, right? It’s not digital. It’s our voice, through our eyes, our face. Really, not eyes. Our face. Our posture. Our tension we might feel in our body when we’re relaxing. And very much in our gesture, too.
Gesture is very powerful, we’ve thought. Right? Gesture is an abbreviation of what young children do with their whole bodies. As we get older, we start to more with just our gesture.
Kat Lee: That’s so interesting. I was thinking about how … I may be meeting with somebody on the phone if we can’t meet online and how I’ll tell them, I’ll laugh. I’ll say, “I hear gesturing wildly!”
You really connected to why I’m doing that. You know? Even though they’re not there, I’m still-
Dr. Gutstein: And that’s why the video becomes so important too. You can’t see gesture. In fact, you can probably infer facial expressions through voice tone and such … but, although you get more confusion, but you can’t do anything with gesture. And gesture’s funny because gesture, as I say, it’s not necessarily communicating, but it’s very communicative.
Right? It’s very powerful in a way that’s communicating. And if becomes a part of your embodiment, a part of how you go through the day and you’re gesturing for you, right? Then it has a powerful interpersonal impact. Right? I can’t even imagine how you would learn to do it as part of what you’re thinking in a conversation. It’s just too much. It’s overwhelming.
So you learn to gesture, you learn to use your body throughout the day. It’s just part of how you experience the world, how you give yourself feedback, how you make sense of your world. And it comes across in communication. It’s communicative. Right?
Same thing with your face. Right? Same thing with your face. So the idea of doing it conversation is interesting. But to me, I think that’s a starting point and that you want to move from there to learn to do it for yourself. Much more.
Kat Lee: Yeah.
Dr. Gutstein: And we might do it together first just because it’s new, right? But the application isn’t to necessarily do it in conversation. That’s what’s so interesting, is to learn to do it with yourself, which then will occur … it comes automatic when you’re doing it all the time, of course it’ll occur in conversation, too. And you won’t have to think about it.
And the other person won’t feel manipulated by you. It’ll just be there. It’ll be an openness. Like you see when you’re gesturing, too, on your face, and you’re with another person, it’s like you’re opening a door to your internal world to them. Because with our language we learn to be deceptive. We learn to-
Kat Lee: Sure.
Dr. Gutstein: Right? We learn to hide our intentions. Now, certain people are able to do with that their body, CIA agents and such, but for most of us, it’s more the window to our soul. So when you’re with somebody who is that, doing that, you feel more of a shared sense of being with them. They’re more endearing. They’re more engaging. You want to be with them.
Not because they-
Kat Lee: Versus if somebody’s like this-
Dr. Gutstein: Or nothing at all, yeah. Same thing with voice and the same thing with face. But again, think about all those as feedback systems for yourself. And that’s something new for me. Rather than intentional ways we practice communicating to others. I think it’s impossible to do it in a natural way if you do it that way.
People in autism are doing it all wrong. All wrong.
Kat Lee: Absolutely.
Dr. Gutstein: That’s a very highly-sophisticated, you know, thing that you need if you’re in certain … like espionage and things. It doesn’t make you an endearing person. It doesn’t … it makes it worse. It makes you more detached. You view the feedback and think about that, you do it, you’re with the other person, you’re getting the feedback of feeling connected with them, because they’re doing it. You’re doing it. Right?
It’s not so much you’re doing the same thing but by sharing in that way, you’re also feeling. You’re feeling. It’s amplifying your own feelings. And because I’m having feelings, then you have the feelings towards them. Feeling something. You’re not just worried, “What should I say? What should I do? What’s the right thing?” You’re feeling it and you’re feeling it.
That was my lesson today, was being communicative. Communicative, versus communicating.
Kat Lee: Well, and it makes me think about that parallel process and how much parent guides may not be … ever communicating that way.
Dr. Gutstein: That’s right. That’s right.
Kat Lee: You know? Because when I do this with you, it’s like you said, right? It’s-
Dr. Gutstein: You become aware of it, right?
Kat Lee: Right, but I have to say, I’m thinking that parent guides aren’t … and you know, are not doing that with their children.
Dr. Gutstein: Well, they’re not mindful of it. And again, there’s actually emphasis on language and directiveness. This is not … I mean, yes, you can use gesture to directive, but not talking of that gesture. We’re talking about the gesture of our communicativeness is not directive and it’s a way that we feel, we experience. It’s about developing the experience system, not a performance system, right?
Kat Lee: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Dr. Gutstein: No, they’re not aware of their own, and I think we want parents to be mindful of that. We want our consultants to be mindful of it. We want our children to learn to make that … their bodies, to give themselves that embodied feedback as they go through the day and then if they’re not getting that, then how do they know what’s meaningful? How do they know what’s significant?
How do they know what to remember? How do they know what they’re feeling?
Kat Lee: Yeah.
Dr. Gutstein: This helps you feel. If you’re feeling tense, you know? Or if you’re stimming, if you’re stimming, that’s not giving you any feedback. That’s just cutting out feedback, in fact. Those those types of things keep you from having any feedback about what’s going on in the world. They shut it out when you’re feeling overwhelmed.
But this is amplifying it, this is making it easier for your … you’re thinking about your salience network to make sense of what’s going on moment to moment in your life when you’re embodied, when you’re using your body in this way.
That was, I thought, very interesting. And we focus on gesture because as I said, as we get older, rather than communicating so much, if you think about conversations with people, it becomes an abbreviation of all the movement that young children do and all the full-body stuff they do. It becomes a representation or an embodiment, an abbreviation of all that other stuff in what we do with our hands.
We still do it with other parts of our body, but even though we start maybe controlling that a little bit more, we still can use gesture. It’s interesting to see some people who are just not using it at all, who are just sort of stuck. And that’s gesture, too.
Think about that. That’s gesture. That’s hiding. But it’s also hiding from yourself. And see, that’s the key. It’s not just hiding from others-
Kat Lee: Interesting. Yes.
Dr. Gutstein: You know? And that’s what some psychologists would have said, “You’re defensive.” But it’s not just … it’s that you’re not giving yourself information.
Kat Lee: Huh.
Dr. Gutstein: Right?
Kat Lee: Wow.
Dr. Gutstein: Think about that. You’re defensive, you’ve cut off your own feedback system.
Kat Lee: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Of course.
Dr. Gutstein: Whereas if you’re gesturing, right, or you’re active with your body, it’s for you. It’s for you, because you’re doing it. And that’s why it’s so interesting to do it, if you’re doing it when no one’s around.
Some people do. Some people more do that. It’s sorta like talking to yourself when no one’s around.
Kat Lee: Exactly.
Dr. Gutstein: Or singing when no one’s around or whatever. But there’s something very special we find about moving your body when no one’s around that is different and seems to be more powerful for the human brain. Isn’t that interesting?
Kat Lee: It is fascinating and it reminds me of what I’ve always said of how you provide the missing pieces and this is another missing piece, when your unconscious sees a person not doing these things, the effect it has without you not really knowing what it is sometimes.
You don’t necessarily realize what it is.
Dr. Gutstein: If you think about it, there are several issues inviting it. I mean, certainly, initially, we work on synchrony, and there’s moving together and that’s very important. We move together, right? And that’s different. That is establishing a physiologic sense of synchrony, attunement, we call … whatever you want to call it, but it’s a very universal, intrinsic motivation to move together and building on that is very important as we’re establishing the foundations for growing a relationship, right?
And then of course, there’s when we do co-regulation with movement, which is a little bit later, and we’re learning to do sort of the basics of improvisation, where we can add variations within frameworks through our actions and our movements, through that. That’s not necessarily communicative but it really is providing us with … and we talk about keeping that away from tasks, right?
Because it builds that creative, imaginative and also more natural social types of co-regulatory encounters that we have where we co-vary around a framework together and that’s why we get together.
So there’s that type of movement, and then you get to movement like we talk about gesture, and children start to point. And that’s very important, too. And that they use … they do that before they’re speaking and we know how important it is that they learn to use their bodies to lead us to co-experience something with them.
And that keeps developing, that communicating gesture. Keep away, you silly person. No, no, no. Whatever.
Kat Lee: Absolutely.
Dr. Gutstein: And then there’s this other track of gesturing for oneself, you using your body for oneself, that doesn’t get talked about much at all. Right?
Never in autism. Never. Which has to do with providing yourself an ongoing sense of feedback. Interestingly enough, why do we think that to 60% to 70% of people with autism have alexithymia? Alexithymia being unable to be aware of your own feelings. Isn’t that interesting?
Why is that? Think about it. If you’re not giving yourself that information, that ongoing feedback through your body, what you’re experiencing, right? You’re not gonna be aware of your own feelings.
The goal here is not to become self-conscious about your body. That’s not at all what we’re talking about. It’s learning to free your body, right, to give you feedback on an ongoing basis. And there’s an improvisational quality to it. I realize, too, whether you’re talking about gesturing for yourself.
Because when you’re gesturing for yourself, it’s not random. It’s not stimming. It’s not random like that. It’s like, “Oh, that’s interesting.” Everybody’s a little bit different. We’re not all the same, but there is sort of a framework. There is a structure. Like a little bit of a repertoire of different representations, so if I am communicating with you, even though I’m talking to you, I’m not trying to do this intentionally, and I’ll say, “We can do this. We can do this,” or adapt this. That was hard. Or I think I can.
Or I don’t know if I can … whatever. We’re a bit different. We don’t have to use the same vocabulary, same symbols, but there is a framework that we can learn. And then improvise around it, right? For yourself. So we can teach that. We can say, “Here are some ways that you can use your gesture in the day,” you know? I’m thinking about something … let’s see, what is that? What is that? Right?
Kat Lee: Yes. Absolutely. Absolutely!
Dr. Gutstein: Or, whatever. Right?
Kat Lee: Yeah.
Dr. Gutstein: Ah, I got it. You know? And do it as a piece of information for you. And supporting that development in the child rather than everything being outward towards the other person. Now again, that’s a transition we make in the program, because initially, we are developing their relationship. But once we have that started and that’s the key is knowing that, okay, we’ve got that firm intrinsic motivation, growth-seeking tied into the guide, right?
Then the guide’s job becomes then developing the self. Developing the person. Developing that child’s experience of the world. Right? And that’s when you can start to see that. When I call it ‘mind guides,’ we become mind guides, right? That’s when you start to see that … we should start to see that change.
Rather than communication training, we’re better calling it … it’s self-communicative training, right?
Kat Lee: I love that.
Dr. Gutstein: It’s a transition, right? I mean, I think that’s the key. And it’s not that you neglect communication, but what’s amazing is when you do that, how much it improves your communication. Right?
Kat Lee: I think-
Dr. Gutstein: And that’s what we see in the kids, when we have more communication training but maybe we haven’t intentionally done that, but we have. They have become self-communicative in that way? They’re the ones who are the most attractive to others, the most desired by others. Even though they haven’t practiced all this communication training. We haven’t given them any. But they are the most. Interesting.
They’re genuine and authentic and sharing who they are with you.
Kat Lee: Which is what it’s all about.
Kat Lee: And thanks for joining us for ASD: A New Perspective, the podcast show where we help you understand what is going on in the mind of your child and we encourage you that growth for your child is possible. I’m Kat Lee. See you next time.
Jun 15 2018
Rank #11: We’re NOT Teaching Skills
In the latest episode of RDI’s podcast series, ASD: A New Perspective, Dr. Steven Gutstein continues his discussion on his newest research into the field of autism and the RDI Model of remediation. Listen in as he explains how the RDI Model is NOT a therapy model that focuses on teaching skills to children (and adults!) with autism–but instead is something better–and explains the research behind it.
Kat Lee: Welcome back to ASD: A New Perspective. The podcast show where we help you understand what is going on in the mind of your child, and we encourage you that growth for your child is possible. I’m Kat Lee and indeed it is a new perspective. I visited with Dr. Gutstein and he reminded me that in RDI, we are not teaching skills.
Dr. Gutstein: This is a distinction we could make here between a compensation model, where you say this is all they can do, the stuff on the right, so we’ll just develop everything on right-hand side; so, you know, social skills, and academic skills. Everything based on what we already know that people with autism are gonna do, regardless of what we do…Regardless of their brain. This is the way their brain’s going to develop, so this is what we’re going to do. So, we overcompensate. If we work on a remediation model, we’re saying, “No. These are the areas that need to be developed.” And they’re not born … By the way, people with autism are not born out of default network. Because nobody has this at birth. These are integrated structures that evolve through experienced based … through having the right experiences. Thousands and thousands of experiences.
Dr. Gutstein: The brain starts to configure in different ways. They become more dynamic, more integrated, but it takes years. This is a years long process. The prefrontal cortex functions to move between those different networks to integrate them at times, to segregate them at times. We’re just doing lower level, higher level things. And again, that takes years and years and years to do. So, the key point here is that there’s no reason to think you couldn’t do a remediation. Just because people aren’t doing it.
Dr. Gutstein: But, there’s been no attempt to do remediation. And even when people acknowledge these deficit areas they try to teach them their street skills. Like, you would teach somebody on using the right hand side. So, you function on semantic memory, deducted reasoning, concept learning, all these things, information, procedural accumulation. That’s what they’re teaching these things. But you can’t teach these at skills, because they’re not skills. They’re complex neuro network integration. That takes years to do. And that’s the key, it’s that you’re not teaching skills, you’re remediating, or you’re providing the means for these people for their brains to develop in a more neuro typical manner. To have access to this entire experience management network, which otherwise, they’re going to be cut off from.
Dr. Gutstein: And I think that gives you a whole different issue. That we’re not teaching skills. Right? It’s not about skills. It’s about the ability of the brain to function in a way that’s going to allow you to be successful in life. And then if we don’t remediate early, as early as we can obviously, we assumed the brain has elasticity, then we see what we see. By the time that we become teenagers and adults, we see this incredible over compensation where “high functioning” people may do well academically, because strangely enough, academics in our day and age only can be done with stuff on the right hand side. I don’t know if it’s task control. Task management network.
Dr. Gutstein: But fail to develop at all, on that left hand side, the default network standing against network experience control area of the prefrontal cortex, each of those areas specifically don’t develop. Then they don’t develop any integration with one another. And so, neurologically then that person’s going to be cut off from all these different areas of function. Time travel, global processing, just functioning, empathy, motion processing, mental state awareness, contextual shifting, intrinsic motivation, which has to do with your experiencing. All of these things fail to develop.
Dr. Gutstein: And the research bears that out. Those are critical impairments that we see in high functioning people with Autism. They’re universal. And what’s interesting is they’re universal on both levels. The research demonstrates that they’re universal on both the neurological level and on a mental function level. And of course, the other interesting thing for me, is that of those that have been studied through … How do we develop these things? The mind body relationship has been the primary means for development.
Dr. Gutstein: Now, some of these things, no one studied out how to mention learning these things. So, we don’t have one to one correspondence. But we talk about mental time travel, we talk about mental state awareness, self reflection. We talk about empathy, emotion processing, even contextual shifting. We have very good research that shows how that is a product of the mind body relationship. Okay. So, the areas we don’t have it have just never been studied. But, there’s a clear issue here, which is that this is a serious neurological problem. And to me, this explains what it’s about. That if you look at this neurologically, right? What we see is that to be able to function in the real world you have to have both. You have to the integration. What I call the experience control area. Not what I call it. Researchers are calling it.
Dr. Gutstein: And the task control area. They have to be able to work together. We have to be able to separate them at times when you’re being more creative. When we’re being just sort of thinking about yourself or the case of just how you’re feeling. You know? At times, you do separate them and you’re not always involved on tasks. You’re playful sometimes, you’re what we call in flow sometimes. But other times, when you’re working on planning and preparing and learning from your experience and adapting, if you don’t have the ability to integrate those two areas, you know, using procedures at times and rules at times and using information that you’ve accumulated, but also using the products of your experience in a managed way, then you’re going to fail.
Dr. Gutstein: And what interesting about the research is it demonstrates that there are two things that are really interesting. One is that they show that the neuroscientists have shown that as tasks become more complex and more dynamic…that the brain attempts to activate both of those areas. That’s where you’ll see the integration. But often, in simple tasks, they’re, what we call, anti-correlated. In other words, when task control areas are activated, usually the experience control areas deactivate. So, for simple kinds of simple tasks. Tying your shoes, whatever, whatever. Filling out forms, right? Because it gets in the way, right?
Dr. Gutstein: Similarly, if you just sort of imagining things in your head, daydreaming, if you’re just wondering about things in your mind, sort of inside your head doing stuff without a goal or being playful the task areas shut off. Deactivates. The experience management area network becomes activated, dominates. Only when both are needed do you see them. The brain dead lines up trying attempting to integrate them. So, that’s what we see not happening in people with Autism. And that’s a pretty universal thing to undervalue that ability. And that’s what dynamic intelligence is. That’s a neuro equivalent of intelligence. Is the ability of a dynamic basis to be able to, first of all, have each of these areas developing, right? Because each of these are networks. They’re not little structures in the brain. The default network is made up of a bunch of different parts of the brain as is the [inaudible 00:08:19] network, the dorsal attention network. One I didn’t put it on the right hand side of a lot great specialized processing areas.
Dr. Gutstein: You know, if you want to put in so much in the graphic. And to be able to have that access, to be able to develop that integration, and also be able to move from more integrated to more segregated states … In other words, different brain states. There’s a number of brain states and people who don’t have a unique intelligence have a larger number of brain states that they can move between and shift between, and can do that dynamically based on the needs at that moment. Right? They can shift between those different brain states.
Dr. Gutstein: That’s what modern neuroscience is telling us. And then it makes autism very clear. High function autism, because if you have high functioning autism means that you’re not developing experience management network. Right? And we see that neurally, very clearly from the Autism neuro research and we see it from the psychological research. Is these are the products. If you look at the experience management you can see not all of them, it’s not complete, but look at the different products of that experience management network, right?
Dr. Gutstein: And I can only imagine trying to make it in the world without these things. You know? It’s unbelievable. But, what’s underneath that is not that these are not skills, these are products of that neuro development. Yes, they’re skills, too. But, you can’t do them without having those years of gradually developing the brain in this manner. So, anybody who thinks you got to teach these bunch of skills is out of their mind. You can’t teach. You can fake it. You can teach pseudo empathy. You can teach pseudo emotion processing. You can use that right hand side and that’s what people are trying to do to sort of overcompensate and to teach something that on this very surface looks like it.
Dr. Gutstein: But, the neuro function isn’t there. So, it can’t happen. You can have the bright right. It can’t happen without the neurology of it. You can have it without the brain being able to do it. So, it breaks down any kind of real world environment. So, to me, that’s the basis of what we’re trying to do.
May 18 2018
Rank #13: HOPE: A Case Study
In the latest episode of RDIconnect’s podcast series, ASD: A New Perspective, Dr. Rachelle Sheely, co-founder of the RDI Model talks about HOPE for your children with autism using examples of children who have gone through the RDI program.
Dr. Sheely: I had an experience last Saturday and I’ve been thinking about it a lot and I thought it might be something we could talk about today. So I thought I’d throw it out too. Anyway, last Saturday I was meeting with a young man I’ve been meeting with, actually for two years, I meet with his parents and I meet with him because he’s an older teenager. The first thing that he ever said to me when he came in was, “You know I fired my last therapist and you could be next.” So he was not happy about being there.
Kat Lee: Okay, there you go.
Dr. Sheely: And I felt like saying, “Well I hope so,” But anyway a very, very involved kid, a lot going on, a lot of things to manage. But this last Saturday, he’s going into high school with no support, he’s really doing well and he came up on his own with six things he’s accomplished. What I liked about the conversation was that these six things show a self-reflection, they show the hard work he’s done, they actually kind of document the guiding relationship he had with his parents. So, anyway, I didn’t know if that was something you’d be interested in talking about today.
Kat Lee: Oh, of course, yes, I know we’ll all love to hear, yes.
Dr. Sheely: So how should we get started?
Kat Lee: I think just talking about him and his experiences and what he shared with you and kind of how you looked at those experiences and then how other people can think of about those vis-a-vis their own children or themselves in case of other students in his situation.
Dr. Sheely: Well Katherine one of the things that I wanted to talk to you about today was a young man where I’m feeling the work that he’s been doing with himself and what the parents have been doing with him have led to some really incredible insights. He’s 15 years old, when I started seeing him he was just 13, or almost 13, and he was a very involved young man. Involved not only with things that were going on the spectrum but with some seizures and some other indicators of incredible anxiety. So the work that we did was a combination of work with both the parent and with this young man. Where he used to have meltdowns over throwing flowers away because he couldn’t stand the change, the meltdown would last for 20 minutes or longer and he would be thinking about it a week later. Or the soccer ball got kicked over the fence and what if the neighbor’s dog slobbered on it. He just couldn’t get past it, literally these meltdowns that went on and on. He just couldn’t rectify them, so when I think about someone who is really successful I think about this family because the parents did the hard work every single day. In the beginning, the work was really hard. He did the hard work too, he wanted to do it. He didn’t have much hope but I think he wanted to do it.
Dr. Sheely: So he went from a small private school with just a few children when I met him to a pretty big middle school. The parents did go to school, they did support him and he had some teachers that he could talk to. He never had help in the classroom but he did have some support from various staff members at the school. A lot of bullying, a lot of things like that. Every day when he got out of the car, his dad said to him, “Who’s my favorite, son?,” and he would say, “I am.” And his dad would say, “Who loves you more than anybody in the world? “You do dad.” And then his dad would say, “And who always has your back?” He’d say, “You have my back.” Every day, there was this conversation he had every day. So you can see that this family put into play everything they could put into play to help this young man.
Dr. Sheely: So, he’s going to high school and he’s very excited about going to high school, excited about driving a car come January, I guess. This last Saturday or last week when he came in, I said, “You know you’re going into high school, you’re ready for it, you’re excited about it. It’s going to be a good year.” “But I was wondering if you remembered when we first started meeting and when your parents and I first started meeting?” He said, “Yeah”. And he remembered actually a lot of things. He remembered some very painful things, he remembered hurtful things, and I said, “I wonder if you can describe for me the changes that have occurred over the past two years?” It’s a hard question, think about it because you’re thinking about two years, you’re dredging up things that you would prefer not to think about and you also have to have the ability to kind of step outside yourself and look back at yourself and say, this is what I think went on.
Dr. Sheely: So he came up with things and the first thing that he came up with was I am okay with change. He said, “In fact, I like change.”
Kat Lee: Wow.
Dr. Sheely: And “I’m excited about going to high school. I like that it’s a brand new high school.” “I like that I’m going to be taking subjects I’ve never taken before.” Then he said, “Do you remember how I hated change?” I really remember because he really did hate change. I said “Yeah.” And he said, “Remember I couldn’t even stand it when dead flowers got thrown out.” I remember that. I said, “Well what else, what else are you thinking about in going into high school?” “Well, I am very responsible for my homework now.” He said, “And in fact, I’m a responsible person. My parents don’t have to tell me to do things because I’m responsible and I go ahead and do them on my own.” He said, “This summer I took an online course in science because when I grow up I know what I want to be and I knew this was going to be a hard course for me in high school. So I took an online course to get caught up on it. I did that on my own.”
Dr. Sheely: Okay, so far I’m thinking, wow, this is great. Then he said something that I think went to the heart of everything that his family has done with him and he said, “I feel like I’m a person with a good heart now.” Well, I think you have a good heart. He said, “Do you remember when I used to be really mean to somebody in my family because we were on vacation and they couldn’t walk as fast as I could walk and we had to wait for them?” I said, “I do remember that.” He said, “Well that person lives with me now and I fix tea for her every night and I take her for walks.” He said, “And because she speaks another language, I’ve learned that language, and I talk to her in that language.”
Kat Lee: Wow, wow.
Dr. Sheely: Anyway, so we’re to number three and I’m sitting there really in tears, in tears because it’s all true and it’s an every day experience with him. He said, “Well let’s keep going.” He said, “Well a really important thing about me that is my character.” I love the word the character, “I never give up.” And I said, “Well I think that’s true but what do you mean by that?” So he told me a story about he and somebody in his family wanting to bicycle the MS 150 which means you ride from Houston to Austin, which is 150 miles, and you raise money for charity. So the first year he did it, I don’t remember how far he got but I’m thinking it was maybe 30 miles, and then the second year he made it halfway. He said, “But you know, I kept working.” I said, “Yes you did.” And the third year he made it the whole 150 miles.
Kat Lee: Wow.
Dr. Sheely: “I never give up.” I said, “I know you don’t give up.” Then he said, “Another thing that I’ve been working on and I think I’m pretty good at now is a sense of humor.” He gave me a couple of examples where things have been a little bit upsetting to him and he’s used humor to counter them. Then he told me what I think is the best story ever. On Father’s Day, I said to my father, “It’s Fathers Day, shouldn’t you be talking to your own mother instead of playing with these kids that are at the house?” His dad said, “Well you know I’ve devoted my whole life to children, and so I have taken on the way my father was with children when I deal with these children, so that’s how I honor him.” He said, and I thought about that, and I thought wow, I need to do that too. So I went to my grandmother and I honored her on Father’s Day he said, “Because my dad is my role model.”
Kat Lee: Wow.
Dr. Sheely: So I wanted to share that because sometimes we get hung up on the minutia of the problems that our children deal with and how to help them move forward. But when I look at this young man entering high school, everything in me says, he’s good to go.
Kat Lee: I just imagine the hope you’re giving people you know just citing the examples you gave me where he came from and where he was even at his teenage years and look where he is. So many parents feel guilty about where their children are at 12 or 13 and the loss of hope at that point, and look at two years.
Dr. Sheely: In two years so that’s where he was when he came in he was fairly old to be getting started, I mean, I don’t think it’s too old but he was fairly old and older than most kids and this is where he is now.
Kat Lee: So as a clinician, and this is a hotbed question, you don’t have to answer.
Dr. Sheely: Okay.
Kat Lee: Did you picture that inside two years?
Dr. Sheely: No, I didn’t actually because we weren’t able to clear the smoke enough to see what was there. We didn’t know his potential because the meltdowns and the anxiety were just sucking all of the energy out of the room. It was only when we were able to begin to clear the air in some ways that we began to see the potential. What we know about RDI is it’s a remedial program and we don’t always know your potential in the beginning but we know that whatever your potential is we can help you get there. That’s the way I view him and I viewed him that way in the beginning but I had no idea what the potential was or the potential of the family because the family did this work. So I didn’t know because he was just so involved.
Kat Lee: I think about and you said at the beginning, you called it hard work of the family, and I think about how old he was and how they had to, of course, they love him, but they had to make a change in their life. Which is harder and harder as your kids get older, all kids, change becomes more difficult. They had to, this change took really hard work. I think that’s a struggle for people. Not that they don’t love their children but it seems daunting sometimes.
Dr. Sheely: I think it can be daunting and I think it’s especially daunting when you consider that you’re not just going to sit down for five minutes a day and do something. You really are changing your perspective, you’re changing your interaction, you’re changing the environment of the house in which you live. You’re not the only people in that house. But you are changing it and it has to be done if you’re going to make this kind of progress.
Kat Lee: It has to be done and he had to have them do it. He couldn’t do it on his own, he had to have them.
Dr. Sheely: He could never have done this on his own and I think with his father saying to him every day, “Who’s got your back?,” and going through those three statements every day, it was in his mind. You know you could say, oh that’s just a rote thing, but his dad meant it, and he knew his father meant it, and so by saying that every day, it was amazing. It was a set up for what happened.
Kat Lee: I think it was, it may have been a daily thing but it was a daily true thing and he knew it. And I know my daughter, my husband never talked to her without saying I love you, and just because they always make sure they say it doesn’t mean they don’t mean it, you know what I’m saying. They make sure they say it. So I feel guilty if I don’t. Hindsight. Because it’s a thing for both of them and my husband’s always been like that, to say that to people quite close to him, and she picked that up from him. But she means it and I think that had to, you know how they talk about empty and full cups, that helped keep his cup full even when other people…
Dr. Sheely: Because yes it does, doesn’t it?
Kat Lee: Yeah.
Dr. Sheely: I didn’t know that story but it’s a wonderful story to hear.
Kat Lee: So, I mean I can only imagine, I know how this impacts his family but I think it impacts you too. I mean you’re a part of that outcome. How does that make you feel?
Dr. Sheely: What it says to me is that you never give up. You keep moving forward, and if you do it in a sequential straightforward way, and you keep going at the core of what you need to address, and for me the core is always where’s your child going to be at age 21, you keep going toward that and you keep your feet in that pathway, you’re going to get there. You may not know exactly what that is when you start but you’re certainly going to be able to remediate the child’s potential.
Oct 05 2018
Rank #14: Why Dynamic Intelligence: Part 1
The reason that autism has become so associated with social interactions is that interpersonal engagements, or simple conversations, are complex dynamic events and the difficulties that people with autism have in employing dynamic intelligence are most apparent in those types of situations. The biggest problem is that the intervention programs that continue to be promoted are ones that promote static intelligence; the thing that they’re already able to do! But in order to successfully treat autism you can’t make an intervention all about learning the facts, it’s about learning the processes that make up dynamic intelligence.
Kat Lee: Welcome back to ASD: A New Perspective, a podcast show where we help you understand what is going on in the mind of your child, and we always encourage you that growth for your child is possible. I’m Kat Lee, and in today’s podcast, Dr. Gutstein discusses with us the importance of dynamic intelligence in a child’s life all the way through adulthood. Let’s listen.
Dr. Gutstein: Our premise, of course, is that traditional static intelligence is necessary, but it’s not sufficient to function in our modern world, which is complex and dynamic in nature. And that static intelligence is really good for situations or for the parts of those situations that are very predictable, linear, sequential, and such, that can be solved with analysis and not with intuition or intuitive thinking, but not sufficient and not going to be helpful.
Dr. Gutstein: And I think the reason that autism has become so associated with social interactions, or interpersonal engagement is a better way of saying it, is that interpersonal engagements, simple conversations, are, by nature, complex dynamic events. And so, therefore, the difficulties that people with autism have in employing dynamic intelligence, in this case, that would be what we call online dynamic intelligence, are most apparent in those types of situations.
Dr. Gutstein: But as we know from research, that they become apparent when we look at certain other situations as well, as we move away from controlled environments, if you will. This other form of intelligence is based on learning how to manage your personal experience and your shared experience, so that you can use those experiences to benefit you when you’re involved in complex, dynamic environments.
Dr. Gutstein: You can use them to reflect, to make sense of things that happen, create meaning, to anticipate, plan, and to prepare and to adapt and improvise as you’re functioning in current, what we call online, environments, where you don’t have the time or attention available to reflect or plan or prepare. You have to adapt, you have to improvise a lot of your actions.
Dr. Gutstein: So, dynamic intelligence involves learning how to manage your personal and your shared experiences. To learn from them, to retrieve them, to store them effectively, to capture them and store them. We talk about experience, we have to talk about present, our current experience of now, as it moves along. We talk about our past and our ability to function in the past and to step away from the present when we start moving offline.
Dr. Gutstein: And to reflect on the future, and re-experience it, and wonder about it, and try to make sense of it. And then to move into the future, where we can use our past experience to try to extrapolate or simulate what we believe we’re going to be encountering in future situations. We can make future plans, prepare ourselves, set goals for the future.
Dr. Gutstein: Think of ourselves as moving into the future, as well, to motivate ourselves and to sort of intrinsically drive ourselves towards what we want to be in the future, morally, and instrumentally, and every other way. And then we talk about alternate experiences, where they’re not, say, present, past, future, but they’re our ability to imagine, and create different realities, and to imagine different things that might happen or might never happen. Right? And to use that imagination to create alternative ways that things might look.
Dr. Gutstein: Go back to a past that didn’t work out, for instance, and wonder, “Well, what if I had functioned differently? What if I had done X instead of Y?” Just sort of simulate that, and create a movie in your head, and consider alternate routes, and things that you might want to do differently in the future.
Dr. Gutstein: Those are all different ways that we, as human beings, uniquely, are able to have experiences, and hopefully, to manage them. And of course, we have shared experiences. We have the ability to co-create our experiences with others, to have shared moments, and shared memories with others, and construct shared futures, plans and dreams with other people.
Dr. Gutstein: And, of course, any meaningful relationship is going to be based on that. So, there are many facets to human experience, and it’s a unique quality that other species don’t have. It really is what makes us unique, the ability to use what we call our experience management, develop an experience management system and make it more and more sophisticated.
Dr. Gutstein: Neurally, on a neural level, we see that there is, in development, there is an increase in organization neurally to support our unique ability for experience that is different than our ability to use, or sort of analysis, or to use sequential thinking, or to associate a certain solution with a certain task. That’s important as well. That’s sort of what I call the task management network. It’s very, very important, and it functions around certain tasks.
Dr. Gutstein: But all of our imaginative ability, our creative ability, our flexibility, our mental agility, our ability to project into the future, our ability to capture important experiences in the past, our ability to understand ourselves, our relationships, all of that is a product of our experience management network. And neuroscientists are very clear about that, right?
Dr. Gutstein: So what we do is, human beings develop, if they’re functioning, if they’re developing optimally, they develop the ability to, or the neural organization and flexibility, which is called dynamic functional connectivity, that supports that type of agile, flexible experience management. The ability to move between past and present, and present and future, and be online, right now, we have to adapt and improvise, and then be able to go offline, take a step back, reflect, anticipate, imagine, create, and go between all those things.
Dr. Gutstein: That’s what dynamic intelligence is about, right? It’s about developing the mental resources, which are the mental tools, the mental skills, knowledge, the habits, the mindset, motivation, intrinsic motivation, to be able to develop and employ, apply, that experience management system, experience management network, which is essential in managing, in succeeding in the modern world.
Dr. Gutstein: Whether it has been in the past or not is an interesting debate, and probably less so when daily life was more static, and you could work on an assembly line and routines were more important, not that they’re not now, but they’re not enough, and again, that’s what I’m talking about, necessary but not sufficient. Because we have to answer the questions, why do people have IQs over 100, good language, and can do well in certain academic settings. Why do they have such terrible outcomes? Why can’t they function? Right?
Dr. Gutstein: And of course, the answer is because it’s necessary but not sufficient. And in the world, we continue to … The intervention programs that continue to be promoted are ones that promote their static intelligence, even more so. The thing that they’re already able to do, right? And so, right, so again, dynamic intelligence is composed of mental resources that are needed to aid us in managing our personal and shared experience in the world.
Dr. Gutstein: Right, so it’s not about learning facts, it’s not about learning content, right? It’s about learning information. It’s about learning these processes. It’s learning how to, how and when, right, to be able to reexperience, to reflect on that experience. It’s how to capture how, as we’re moving through the day, to notice that there’s something worth saving for the future, some experience, some event, some happening in our lives.
Dr. Gutstein: It’s the ability to track our online, it’s to track our feelings. Our emotions, right, as important information. Our bodily states, as important information, to tell us whether something is significant, or whether we need to adapt, or whether it’s time to take a break, whether we’re involved in something that’s important for us or anticipating something that might be happening. Right?
Dr. Gutstein: It involves all those things. It’s involved in just the concept of being intuitive. Most of your day, you’re not sitting and analyzing things. You’re making judgements, right, is this enough? Have I hung that painting straight enough? Have I done enough work to satisfy this person, or to prepare for an exam? Is this an equivalent to something else?
Dr. Gutstein: We’re making these judgements, we’re making these based on what we call intuition. Right? But intuition is based on experience. It’s not based on analysis. It’s based on experience, and then understanding the context that you’re in. It’s based on that integration of both. Because what you have to do is you have to say, “Here’s the context that I’m in now, what experience fits that, and what’s unique about this context that I’m in, the environment that I’m in so that I can’t count too much on that?”
Dr. Gutstein: And we do that instantly, we make those judgements just like that. And we’re used to that, we call that being intuitive, and we know that without that intuitive ability, we’re at sea. We’re lost, we can’t function. That’s especially apparent when we’re in an interpersonal engagement, where things are moving along back and forth, and we can’t operate through analysis, we can’t say, “Well, gee, what was that person really trying to say to us right now, and what should I say, what’s my thinking, what?” You can’t operate that way. You have to operate not only intuitively but in a very rapid, intuitive way.
Dr. Gutstein: Sometimes we can be intuitive in a slower way, making judgements about things. But I think it becomes clear when you’re in a sort of online situation like that. So, dynamic intelligence involves both that online, offline, internal experience, our ability to sample on an ongoing basis what’s going on within us, our mental state, and be able to adapt that, our feelings, our body states, what we call our intuitive experience.
Dr. Gutstein: And to employ that in our daily lives, both for application, for instrumental application, to solve problems, make decisions, manage challenging situations, and for ongoing growth and development, and for managing relationships, improving relationships, for understanding ourselves more, to gain more influence in our world. That’s what we need.
Dr. Gutstein: To me, it’s very clear, whether we look at the research, or we look at your own experience, living with people with autism, living with them, that that really answered the question of why IQ is not enough, of why the prognosis is so poor for people who are quote unquote, “High functioning.” Once you think about dynamic intelligence, it’s no longer an enigma. It’s no longer a puzzle about why.
Dr. Gutstein: What’s puzzling, of course, is why this … No intervention efforts that are oriented towards improving that situation, and, as I’ve said many times here before, the problem, I think, is because, implicitly, both experts and laypeople have come to believe that it can’t be improved. That there’s no way, that they’re sort of born that way, and that’s the way they are, and so we have to accept that.
Dr. Gutstein: And of course, what we know about the brain these days, and neuroplasticity, and our ability to remediate and rehabilitate neurally, doesn’t fit that at all. And in fact, when you think about the experience management network, and you think about the ability for high level integration, and flexibility that’s needed to function in a way that we refer to as dynamic intelligence, we know that’s probably one of the latest areas of development, it’s one of the last areas of development, and also one of the areas of the brain, or aspects of our brain, that’s probably most amenable to change and influence and plasticity.
Dr. Gutstein: It’s not like we’re dealing with people who don’t have those organs in the brain, or don’t have those areas of the brain. It’s the ability to use them and to develop them in an integrative, flexible manner that seems to be the problem. So, the prospects for remediation, rehabilitation, whichever word you want to use, and I don’t use rehabilitation because it’s usually … I’ve learned it ought to be like you have had an accident, and then you rehabilitate.
Dr. Gutstein: You once had it, and then you’re trying to get it back, whereas we don’t believe that people with autism had it and lost it and are trying to get it back. So I use the word remediation, even though you don’t see it very much. And those words get used poorly in all over literature.
Dr. Gutstein: But the prospects for remediation should be very high, given what we know about the brain. But what we also know is that, if we’re going to be learning to develop our experience management system, we’re not going to do it through instruction, we’re not going to do it through 40 hours of prompting and developing content. We’re not going to do it through traditional educational methods, right?
Dr. Gutstein: We have to learn, through experience, how to manage experience. It seems self-evident, right? And also, we have to learn through gradually increasing the degree of challenge that your brain, your mind is experiencing, helping you engage with things that are just one step ahead of your current ability, and continuing to move developmentally in that direction.
Dr. Gutstein: Dynamic intelligence is the ability to benefit from the unique human ability for personal and shared experience, and to manage that. Not just to have experiences, but to learn to manage those different forms of experience that we have in a way that is most effective, right, and productive, in your life. Right?
Dr. Gutstein: That’s dynamic intelligence. It’s the resources, it’s skills, and knowledge, and habits, and motivations, that support that experience management system, and, of course, developing in neurology, which goes hand in hand with it, that also supports dynamic intelligence, too. So developing the integrated functioning of the default network, the salience network, and executive control network, and the dynamic functional connectivity of different aspects of those networks to be able to form different brain states at different times so that you can be maximally efficient and effective, depending on the situation you’re dealing with.
Dr. Gutstein: So that’s using your brain in the most flexible way possible. You’ll develop a variety of different brain states that are associated with situations, and the ability to flexibly move between brain states so that you can apply your brain most effectively depending on the situation that you’re in. That’s another way of thinking about dynamic intelligence. Right?
Dr. Gutstein: And it’s a lifelong process. And the other thing about it is, it’s not like when we talk about IQ, people think of it as fixed, or maybe it’s changed five or six points of it, or whatever. But dynamic intelligence, we assume everybody can continue growing throughout life. It’s not something that you’re just born with, nobody’s born with it. It has to be developed. It has to be formed. You have to learn through your guides, right, what we call mind guides, how to use your mind, how to use your experience, how to organize it, how to save it, how to move between the past and the future and the present.
Dr. Gutstein: Those are all things that have to be learned over years and years and years. And of course, the unfortunate thing for people with autism is that they, through no fault of their own, right, they and their parents are not able to form what I call a MindGuiding relationship, which is the format by which, typically, developing children learn to manage their experience.
Kat Lee: Thanks Dr. Gutstein, and thank you for joining us for ASD: A New Perspective, the podcast show where we help you understand what is going on in the mind of your child. And we encourage you that growth for your child is possible. I’m Kat Lee, see you next time.
May 10 2019
Rank #15: Redefining Autism
When we talk about autism we hear a lot about universal impairments and core deficit areas.
When you take a closer look at the research and what autism really is, you realize that a lot of what are called ‘impairments’ are really just missed opportunities for development.
There’s only one universal impairment of autism: the loss of dynamic developmental opportunities through a MindGuiding relationship.
Kat Lee: Welcome back to ASD, A New Perspective, the podcast show that helps you understand what is going on in the mind of your child. We always encourage you that growth for your child is possible. In this very important podcast, Dr. Gutstein talks about the need to redefine autism. Let’s listen.
Dr. Gutstein: We talk about a lot of the problems or impairments of people with autism, especially when you start to talk about older children and adolescents and adults. The researchers don’t talk about this at all, but what I think is very, very important to talk about is when you look at the opportunities in typical development through the guiding relationship and later the MindGuiding relationship that typical children have and also the affordances that they’re given to make mistakes and to look … And the low expectations of a young child and the thousands of opportunities they get to practice and get better at things.
Dr. Gutstein: In simpler environments and in guided environments, you realize that a lot of the things that are called ‘impairments’ are missed opportunities for development. But the problem is then when we try to … In the autism literature, when they try to teach these children or adults, whatever these things, they make no allowances for this need for the gradual development and to increasingly add complexity, to have increasing speed after lots and lots and lots of practice where you, one step ahead, increase the difficulty, increase the rapidity, the complexity, whatever.
Dr. Gutstein: They make no allowances for that, right? It’s like a skill, a discreet skill that you’re supposed to learn. Not something, not a process of shifting like that, that you have to … It takes a long time to develop the type of automaticity you need to even engage in a regular conversation or a lot of other things that require that type of what we call ‘updating’ or sampling your own feelings and then going back into the world and then sampling your own thoughts and going back and sampling somebody else’s.
Dr. Gutstein: All that shifting and all that fluidity. Now, that’s just one example and there are a host of examples, whether we’re talking about constructing narratives about what your experience has been or considering multiple futures. All of these things are the product of complex processes that are built from the bottom up over a period of many years.
Dr. Gutstein: For the person to be able to engage in them autonomously, requires years and years and practice and practice, first in very simple environments. First as a mental apprentice, where you’re getting to see how. ‘See’ is a funny word, but you get to experience how the more experienced person thinks about and makes judgments and then you’re given a small part of that to do, a small part of the mental work to do. Then a larger and larger part in more complex situations.
Dr. Gutstein: Anyway, it’s a process that goes on and on and on, little by little over years and years and years. That’s the reality of it. It’s not a theory. That’s just the way it is. Instead of thinking about these as impairments, we have to rethink about this. We have to start talking about these as missed developmental opportunities. I think that’s a very important distinction to make.
Dr. Gutstein: Because an impairment in the way it’s being used in the literature implies the person is incapable of doing something. Basically says, “Don’t bother doing this process of long-term developmental process. This is what defines people with autism. They can’t do this, they can’t do this, they can’t do this. They don’t do this, they don’t do this.” Whatever.
Dr. Gutstein: It misses the point that autism is … The common feature of autism is the host of missed developmental opportunities due to the inability to form the guiding and then later, MindGuiding, which turns into a MindGuiding relationship. Then being able to take that and start to internalize it and become self guided because if change is only occurring … If growth is only occurring within that engagement with a parent or somebody, it’s never going to be fast enough.
Dr. Gutstein: One of the critical goals of any kind of MindGuiding relationship is for the mental apprentice to gradually take on more and more of the responsibility and excitement and motivation for their own development away from those guiding engagements and to start to use their mind guides more and more as people to announce a lot of reference points, bringing in things that they’re troubled with and trying to make sense of, right?
Dr. Gutstein: But to have those experiences outside of the actual engagement with someone and that of course creates an exponential leap in growth and development. When we read any of the intervention literature on autism or treatment literature, there’s absolutely no discussion or no inference at all of the need for a long-term developmental process and giving people the opportunities to develop complex mental processes in the way that everyone needs to do it over the period of years, over a period.
Dr. Gutstein: By the way, we can shorten it because we can do it in a more mindful way. We don’t have to do it the same way it happens in natural situations. But still, there has to be a very gradual step-by-step process of building upon building, of building components onto other components, of building more sophistication, of extending their utility and of gradually building in the complexity, the elements of complexity. Being able to apply things in more complex, more unpredictable, and more stress producing situation, but doing that in a very gradual … Adding those variables in a very gradual basis, just like we would in typical development.
Dr. Gutstein: We wouldn’t assume that a young child can handle all the things that an adult can handle in a conversation or in a situation, a challenging situation, or difficult situation. I just wanted to make that point because I think everyone, all of us, should be aware of that. All of us should be talking about that and redefining autism as, autism is a condition whose unifying principle is that it robs people, it robs children of the most important developmental opportunities they need for dynamic mental development through experience based development.
Dr. Gutstein: To learn how to manage their past, future, current experience, on how to manage their shared experience, on how to manage their imagined experience, the ultimate experience, their multiple experiences. Because they’re robbed of those opportunities for development, they look quite impaired in those areas, but those impairments are not due to autism itself.
Dr. Gutstein: Anybody who talks about, these are the impairments of autism, these are the universal impairments of autism, is really missing the point. There’s only one universal impairment. People with autism have other problems just like anyone else. They can have sensory problems and motor problems. Nobody is saying that’s not true. But the universal impairment, which has nothing to do with the sensory issues or the motor issues or any of those issues, is the loss of dynamic developmental opportunities through a MindGuiding relationship.
Kat Lee: Thanks for joining us for ASD, A New Perspective, a podcast show where we help you understand the mind of your child and we always encourage you that growth for your child is possible. I’m Kat Lee. See you next time.
Dec 13 2019
Rank #16: Parents, You’ve Done Nothing Wrong!
Parents, there can be an overwhleming sense of grief when you first receive an autism diagnosis for your child. It can be hard to know what to do next; how do you move forward with a life of growth with your family and step out of the crisis that often comes with autism. Dr. Sheely, the co-founder of the RDI model for remediating autism, talks about how you can not let your dreams of your child go just because of a diagnosis. your child is still your child and you still have the ability to be a parent! Listen now.
Dr. Sheely: It’s been interesting to me to talk to parents at every level of the diagnosis, pre-diagnosis, diagnosis, and post-diagnosis, and what I have found over the years is that nobody wants to hear the word autism. It’s not as if they can’t wait to hear it. There is relief for some people when they hear it because at least they have a name for it, but one of the major problems that parents face when they get the diagnosis of autism is what do I do now. There’s a lot of information out there, a lot of people telling them what they should do, and it may or may not apply to their children.
By and large, I would say that most parents have had an experience where, because their child wasn’t a good apprentice to them, wasn’t a good apprentice in the guiding relationship, that they didn’t know what to do, and they kept trying and trying, and no matter what they did, it wasn’t working. It was not only a trauma. It was a crisis, and that just seems to envelope everything that happens from that point on with the parents unless there’s a way to get out of the crisis, and one way we know to get out of the crisis is to restore that guiding relationship so the child is bringing more to the table. It sounds like such a simple thing to say, although it seems glib when I say it, but the truth is that you can’t guide a child who’s not a good apprentice to you.
Kat: I think it’s the most important thing, what you say, and it’s interesting you said, “It sounded glib,” because I agree when I say it. I feel like it sounds that way, and, yet, sometimes, what are the simplest things to say are the most important things, and the parents will report to me that their children are going to school or to a clinic, and, yet, they have no peace in their home, either literally or in their minds. They, in their home, have not a sense of family or feel like they’ve almost lost a family member with how everyone’s interacting with their child, and how could that … Dr. Sheely, how could that not be a crisis?
Dr. Sheely: I think it is a crisis, and we watch parents doing all the right things, but because their child is not growth seeking, but stages maintaining, as we know from the literature, that’s what happens, because that’s happening with the child, then the parents are stuck trying to get the child to do things. Finally, so exciting, they figured out something to connect with the child. Maybe they’re tickling the child. Maybe they’re throwing the child in the air. Maybe they’re just doing any kind of thing that works so they can see that smile, and because, for most of our parents, they have a background of tantrums, they don’t want to rock the boat, and, unfortunately, what happens at that point is that they’re ready to get out crisis.
Excuse me. Sorry. They’re ready to get out of crisis, and they’re ready to move on, but they are so afraid of rocking the boat and incurring those tantrums again that they get stuck, and so the trauma and the crisis follow them even when intellectually they’re saying, “I wanna move forward. This is what I wanna do.”
Kat: I think the whole eggshell walking in the home, which can happen really fast when you, as a Mommy or Daddy, you start seeing what causes those eggshells to start exploding. Life just becomes like that. Don’t cough or don’t laugh or don’t set that object in that place or don’t move that object from that place. We could list hundreds of examples, but that creates a series of eggshells, and I ask folks to just take some eggs and set them around the living room and then have to go to the … or between your bed and the bathroom, and have to go through that eggshell mine at night or something, and you’ll feel how parents are living.
Dr. Sheely: That visual, to me, is really important. I hadn’t thought about that, but I know how important it is to know, to really recognize that, yes, you want to do it, but you’ve been traumatized, and so that trauma gets triggered every time you think about upsetting the applecart or moving forward or when we talk about adjust noticeable difference, which we know works with our children because they, “I can’t do that.”
Another thing that occurs quite frequently is we ask parents to dream. “What is it you want for your child?” It’s very hard for parents to go there because when they were expecting the child, they had a dream for that child, and when they heard the word autism, that dream disappeared, and in RDI, what we say to parents is, “Dream again. What’s your dream? Where do you wanna go?” That, in and of itself, having a goal again triggers that feeling of crisis and the trauma that was experienced very early on.
Kat: A goal is like with any child, means you’re not going to reach goals. I always use the phrase, “The children arise to the lowest expectation and also rise to no goals.” I think that’s all children. That’s just parenting, and when that’s cut off from parents, even the hope of having goals or having a dream, and I love that you use the word dream, not being able to do that, I think they go into a crisis they don’t even realize they’re in. That’s one of the interesting things to me when I talk to parents about crisis. They actually haven’t had that identified for them, that that’s what’s going on.
Dr. Sheely: They haven’t had it identified, and they haven’t maybe even thought about it, but one of the things that I have noticed, Catherine, and I don’t know if you’ve noticed it, as well, is that we can see children who are doing well, and I’ll have a parent say, “No, my life feels normal.” It’s my favorite thing to hear. “My life feels normal.” Then something happens, and when that something happens, all of a sudden, it’s autism. Oh, it’s autism, when actually maybe it’s just typical development.
For example, if your child tells you he’s not taking out the garbage because he wants to play golf with his friends, that’s not autism. That’s a mouthy teenage boy, but it’s interesting how fragile we all are when we’ve struggled with children who have developmental differences.
Kat: Well, everything becomes seen through those lenses, and it’s interesting that that can happen to people who are working with the children, too, that things start being seen through those lenses, and then those comments come back around to the parents, and so then they start seeing, and it’s a circular … Meanwhile, there’s a child who’s actually acting typically, but the feedback they’re getting is that that’s not “normal”.
Dr. Sheely: I think it’s really important, as consultants who are working with parents who have experienced a crisis, that none of us would ever want to experience or want to know about, but yet our parents are experiencing this. I think it’s really important for us to realize that there is a parallel process that helps us all get out of that crisis, and the way I see it is that we have children who are very vulnerable, but we have parents who are very vulnerable, too, and if we push the parents to do things with their children too quickly, we can increase the feeling of crisis that that parent has. However, if we can think about the just noticeable differences that are important in our work with children and we can actually apply that to the parents, just noticeable differences, we’re going to start with you where you are, we know you’re capable, and we’re going to help you feel the competence as you move along, we’ll see that when the challenges come, the parents are ready to take those challenges on, and the crisis become, I think, inversely proportionate to the normalcy.
Kat: I love that you talk about just noticeable differences, and one of the things as a parent that strikes me is those just noticeable differences we think about our children and that just noticeable difference may not seem like a just noticeable difference, but actually it’s like that for parents, too. They need just noticeable differences.
Dr.Dr. Sheely: They do need just noticeable differences, and they also need help with their memories. We know we talk a lot about our children and the importance of developing the kind of memories that help them think about the future. If I’m seeing a child who’s competent in one area and I help that child think about the future and what that future looks like and how that memory can be used, we know that that child is in a better position to be independent at some age, but it’s the same thing with parents. If we can help the parents see these same steps in their work with their child, we’ll see that they also are ready for the independence.
Kat: When parents are going through not having this wonderful information that you and I are talking about and I first talk to them about crisis, a lot of times, I will see parents be like, “Well, it’s not about me. It’s about my child, so even if I’m suffering, I don’t really need to talk about that,” and I think what you talk about, about that parallel process, that the state that they are in as mommies and daddies is affecting your children is so important.
Dr. Sheely: It’s very important. It’s very important for the same reason. Just because as we develop those memories with children and they become independent, the parents begin to catalog their own memories, and their own memories lead them to this feeling of I’m going to be able to do this. I won’t always need a consultant.
Kat: I think that’s big because I think parents hear a lot from the very beginning, whether the diagnosis is two, five, ten, fifteen, that they can’t do, that they need someone else, that that’s not a skillset they have, and I have been known to say, and hopefully don’t sound too snarky when I say it, “So the parents don’t have a skillset to be mommies and daddies? Because I think they do.” I think they do.
Dr. Sheely: Yeah, I think they do, too. It’s such an important point that you make because our parents are parents, and I see children so many times who are just ready to take off, and I often think, “Where would this child be if this parent hadn’t figured out what she has figured, what he has figured out?” It’s a pretty amazing process, when you think about how long it’s taken us to figure out how to help parents and how many parents already come to the table with some well designed, well thought out ideas.
Kat: They do, and how we remind them of something … I always say, “You know …” I always say, “You know this is true if you think about it, that no one knows your child like you do. No one. No one,” and they’ll be like, “Well, that’s right. I try to tell people this and such about little so and so, but then they say this,” and I’m like, “You know. You do.”
Dr. Sheely: Katherine, I’m reminded about my own thoughts early on, 20 years ago, and, remember, I started working with autism when the diagnosis was 1 in 10,000. I remember talking to parents and believing that, from the very beginning, something was different, and a lot of parents actually said that. I think probably because their more recent memory was speaking to them, but when I know and what we know from the research now is that it really isn’t different before six months of age, and so parents are feeling like everything’s okay. They’re getting the smiles. They’re getting the attention, and then all of a sudden, something happens at six months, which I think reinforces for them, “I’ve done something wrong. What should I do?” They start grasping at straws because they don’t have a diagnosis. They don’t know what’s going on, and it just increases that crisis for them.
Apr 06 2018
Rank #17: Gestures and Communication: Part 1
Welcome back to RDIconnect’s podcast show all about raising your child with autism. In this week’s episode, Dr Gutstein talks all about the importance of gestures in communicating with others.
Kat Lee: Welcome back to ASD, A New Perspective. The podcast show where we help you understand what is going on in the mind of your child. We do encourage you that growth for your child is possible. I’m Kat Lee and in this week’s podcast, Dr. Gutstein talks about the importance of gesture in communicating with others.
Dr. Gutstein: What we’re finding, and I think it’s true of all human beings. For people with processing vulnerabilities, the more that we can make learning as part of your body, the more effective it is and the more that you’re going to be able to re-experience and form really good episodic memory. There’s a whole literature on gesture. What we like to do is consider gesture… There’s two thoughts of gesture. One is communicative gesture. It’s not just pointing. There’s been a fascination with pointing in the Autism literature. We don’t do a lot of pointing.
Kat Lee: We don’t. It’d be odd if we did.
Dr. Gutstein: In the second year of life there’s pointing but after that, we don’t do a lot of pointing. I don’t wanna talk about that right now. That’s a little bit of a different topic and to develop experience sharing and [inaudible 00:01:54] is one of the first ways that we actually can share a common experience. By gesturing, what I’m doing now. But there’s two types of gesturing. One is gesturing as a communication. What we find is that it’s very important to include gesture as part of working with communication and developing communication. Remember, it’s not this type of gesture but it’s also a way of pacing oneself in communication, too. It’s also a way of increasing the sense of relatedness between yourself and others.
Dr. Gutstein: What we wanna think about is gesture not as something you’re gonna teach. Think about it this way… First of all, culturally we use gesture in very different ways. Also, it’s improvisational. It’s not something you would teach this, this, and this. You can start it out that way. In other words, communicationally you can start out gesturing there, gesturing like this. Faster. Slower. Pacing. Eventually though, it’s not so much that as it becomes improvisational. You certainly can begin that way. You can use it for emphasis. You can use it for surprise. One of the great ways of using it is engaging with people.
Dr. Gutstein: It’s nice because it’s something that is very powerful but we’re not very conscious of it either when we’re using it or when we’re involved in somebody else’s gesture. It’s also very emotionally powerful. What we find is the more that we move communication. Let’s go back. Communication gesture and then we’ll talk about self gesture.
Dr. Gutstein: The more we move communication gesture away from words into more of an embodied level, the more that it becomes experience both by person and by the other person as more authentic, as more involving feelings, more just a bunch words there. The more it is felt sort of distant, detached as well. I think one of the things we’ve been doing with our kids in terms of developing more authentic communication is to start to practice gesture. You can start in simple frameworks like this. Then you can move to more complexity after a while. It’s also a lot of fun and it makes you more aware. You can also use it, there’s a hybrid form, where you can use it not just to communicate to another person, bridging the gap, but also as a way of pacing your own communication.
Dr. Gutstein: Again, you can use it as a pace to slow yourself down. You can also use it as a way to stop and think. What we find is that it becomes a very powerful tool. In Autism, there is such a focus on the eyes which is really spooky. We don’t worry about eye contact. What we do, because we get more than enough stuff but what we don’t get is the special dynamic quality of communication.
Dr. Gutstein: Now the key here is not to teach someone to interpret other people’s gestures. It’s known as an online dynamic process. You’re not gonna sit there and interpret a gesture. It’s more of a flow. A gesture is something that’s flowing. You can teach people to use gesture in initially a more mindful. The mindful part has to fade out. One of the problems of all these social interventions is they wind up using up all of your neuro-potential so consciously trying to figure things out or do things. The problem is that inter-personal encounters are not occurring on that conscious level. Partially, in terms of thinking about what you want to say. But what happens with people with Autism is they are taught to interpret cues, determine what they are going to think, what they’re going to say, how they are going to say it. It uses up everything in this sort of artificial scripted procedural level. The person just went out. It’s what is not being called camouflaging. Sort of faking it and using up all the other energy in this sort of procedural, task related…
Dr. Gutstein: There’s no enjoyment, no motivation. Women with Autism tend to do that a lot more than men and they wind up with severe depression because they get nothing out of these relationships. They are just basically surviving and they are gonna screw it up because you can’t function that way. When you add gesture in this way is not so much to worry about conscious interpretation but it becomes a way of moving away from sort of digital words to more of an analog sense of flow. Experience the flow. When you’re using it, your body. You tend to move more into an experiential state. When we’re using our body, we tend to use that part of the brain that manages experiences. Many people with Autism have been taught to use language as a task. As a performance based measure. They wind up losing the sense of experience. The sense of flow with other people.
Dr. Gutstein: It’s really a fun thing to do. You don’t wanna do it initially. You do it later, after a bit more sophisticated. You can watch people. You might wanna watch people with Autism and see people who work and how much are they using gesture.
Dr. Gutstein: And there’s a cultural issue but every culture uses gesture in different ways. You adapt it to the culture you are working with. There are universal things. There’s a sense of connection. One of the things that’s neat about gestures, look how you can use it to build a bridge between people. You can use it for emphasis, you can use it to sort of “wait a minute.” That’s a very nice, powerful impact but it’s not off putting. Pointing might be but it’s not off putting. It’s not odd or weird. In fact, what we find if you think about people who are very good at influence – speakers, politicians – they know how to use gesture, they use it more deliberately or consciously. It becomes automatic for them too because we find that it’s an enormous amplifier.
Dr. Gutstein: Autism is so focused on words. The Autism community is obsessed with different things. It’s austically obsessed with different things. This is one of the great things that I think you can do. You can play with it. YOU can have them playing with gesture in different ways and develop it and make it more of an automatic habit. You can use it logically, you can show – we’re not talking about sign language here. Although it is, in a sense. It’s an emphasis. It’s an amplification. You can use it again for connecting or we can just use it in anyway we want to.
Dr. Gutstein: To be aware that you have that freedom and how powerful it is is something that everyone should know about. The people who are spending their lives like this and are not using it are really in a handicapped position.
Dr. Gutstein: What happens in the brain is it doesn’t add more complexity to the brain. It actually relieves it because we’re using different areas of the brain. We’re really emphasizing. We’re actuating more of the experienced part of the brain which is what we wanna do. Rather than adding more complexity, it actually takes burden off the brain. We don’t have to do it all in words and it creates more of a flow between yourself and another person. You’ll find that they’ll be more accepting and enthusiastic to be with you.
Dr. Gutstein: Some of the things when you think about gestures and when you think about differently from pointing in the second year but as a lifelong way of operating and communicating, I think it’s something that everybody should be much more aware of.
Kat Lee: Thanks for joining us for ASD – A New Perspective. The podcast show where we help you understand what is going on in the mind of your child. We encourage you that growth for your child is possible. I’m Kat Lee, see you next time.
Sep 21 2018
Rank #18: The Road to Independence
One of the things that we think about as parents is, “where is my child going to be as an adult?” When you have a child with autism, these thoughts about our children’s future become greater: “What will happen to her when I’m gone?” “Will he be a burden on the community?” Sometimes, we worry about our child’s independence so much that we even avoid thinking about it because it is just too much. But what if we could set goals now that would put our children on a road towards independence; no matter their age?
Kat Lee: So I was thinking today we would talk about the road to independence. You have been mentioning that on and off and other discussions, but we haven’t actually had a podcast about that. And it’s been really speaking to me that that needs to be a major theme … You know what I’m saying … of everyone who’s involved with work with the children. So you’ve got me really excited about that topic, the road to independence.
Dr. Sheely: I’m excited about it too. And honestly, I don’t know if we need a discussion about anything else ever. I mean I think about my own children. I know you have a couple of children and one of the things that we actually think about very early on, even though it gets translated into are they reading yet or things like that, where are they going to be as adults? Are they going to go to college or they’re not going to go to college? Are they going to do something different?
Dr. Sheely: So that is one of the themes that all parents think about. And I know parents think about it worldwide because I’ve had the opportunity to meet a lot of parents in Kenya a couple of months ago. And in talking to those parents, one of the things that kept coming up is what’s going to happen to him? What if I’m not here, is he going to have a job? Is he going to be able to take care of himself? Is he going to be a burden on the community?
Dr. Sheely: Some of the people came from more rural communities, somewhere from Nairobi. So this idea of independence is one that we sometimes skirt because we get caught up in the daily routine of the things that we’re teaching or the things that we’re doing, or I think we get caught up in avoiding it because we worry about it so much. We’re afraid to face it.
Kat Lee: I think those things you were talking about just kind of the daily things or maybe the way our eyes are being pointed keeps us from thinking about that. I mean when you use the phrase the road to independence, you’re talking about a journey. And I think parents need to reflect on, are you on that road? Are you on a road somewhere else? You know?
Dr. Sheely: Yeah. What’s the road you’re on, and are you mindful of the road you’re on? It’s a hard road. I don’t mean to minimize how hard it is. I would also say that it’s very satisfying. And once you began to see that that road is getting you closer to the goal that you’ve set for yourself, that goal of independence, whatever your child’s potential is for independence, then it has its own momentum.
Dr. Sheely: It doesn’t really matter if I say, “You’re doing great,” which I say a lot, but it doesn’t matter if I’m saying it or you’re saying it because the parent begins to feel it. The person with autism begins to feel it, and that’s enough of a motivation to get going. I think that our internal motivations are much stronger than the motivations that are external.
Kat Lee: I think sometimes when we talk about this kind of a topic, people think, well you’re talking about getting on that road when the children are young. But what I’m trying to tell people is it doesn’t matter when you get on the road, you’re on the road. So age is not as much a component. I don’t want people thinking, “Well, my child is older, so too late to get on the road,” too late to take the trip.
Dr. Sheely: Yeah. The poor man that I saw years ago who was 62, I keep talking about him. Anyway, he got on the road very late. He was 62. What we can overlook when people get on the road is that we’re not thinking about their age, but we are thinking about where they are developmentally. And some of the things we work with, with very young children are things we need to work with, with people no matter their age.
Dr. Sheely: He’s just had a lifetime of being confused. The truth is a two-year-old has had a lifetime of being confused, but if you’re 62 you’ve had more of a lifetime of being confused.
Kat Lee: Yes. I think that’s so important. I have worked with older, young adults, et cetera, and they are somehow stuttering through life without those early developmental steps. They have had other steps that kind of compensated, but the fact is without those, their road to independence is full of self-compensations, other people compensating for them, but not real independence for them and a lot of anxiety, which is not complete freedom, right?
Dr. Sheely: The anxiety, I think, has to do when we venture out from our zone of self-competence. Where do we feel competent and we know we need to venture out. But if we set that up early on, you don’t know how to do this but there’s a first step. And I’m going to help you start making those steps.
Dr. Sheely: The kids do really well and in fact, it’s one of the things that makes me proudest of the young people I see right now who have been in RDI for years and are now at a point where they are independent and how hard that is for them. I know I mentioned it last time, but I just have a couple more examples of people who got out of college and one who didn’t get out of college but looking for a job and they didn’t get the job. They didn’t get it.
Dr. Sheely: And nobody said to them, “Don’t worry about it. I’ll get the job for you.” They just didn’t get the job, and they kept going back over and over and over again. I think some of them went back 11, 12, 13 times to different places. To me, I want to tell you something, Katherine, that is a better sign of success and someone who graduates walks into a place and gets the first job that they apply for, or someone who finds that job for them.
Dr. Sheely: I want to see that resilience and we build up that resilience in the very young children and that young teenagers and the adults that we’re working with by giving them that sense, this is different, but I know what to do or this is different and I don’t know what to do, but I have the information I know to figure out what to do. And that leads to the independence, I believe.
Kat Lee: And I think back to how as a parent you have to get to there, you have to be on that road with your child because if you are overcompensating for them, and when I say that, I mean, no judgment at all. It’s being mindful of even little things along the way that you can pull back from and allow them to experience that independence that all people must experience to build that resilience to that ultimate conclusion.
Kat Lee: That can be very hard for children or parents really who have children with not just autism, but any disability that parents can be very fragile in this area to even remove themselves or even have habits that they’re comfortable with.
Dr. Sheely: It’s understandable, isn’t it? If you have a child that’s been difficult to comfort or a child who has not been a good apprentice to you, you figure out how to have a relationship with that child. And once you figured it out and the child is calmer, you don’t want to let that go because you’ve been walking on eggshells and now you’re really good at walking on eggshells. So you don’t want to break that egg. And it’s a very scary thing to do.
Dr. Sheely: The trauma that our parents and our children go through can be a very dramatic trauma. And it can slip back in at unexpected times. So you have a child who’s not particularly comfortable with change, but you also have the guides who are not that comfortable with change.
Dr. Sheely: By the way, I’m not just talking about teachers, I’m talking about myself as a consultant. Sometimes when I figured something out with the parent, I’m not sure I want to venture off into that tantrum again. And for teachers in a classroom where a classroom needs to be organized if the teacher’s going to teach, they don’t want to set that child off. And so they will stay with what works. And even if it’s an overcompensation, they will hesitate to pull it back.
Kat Lee: That’s really good. And I kind of think of it as management, which we understand again, either in the home or in the classroom can take precedence over moving toward that independence because of the busy-ness of the day, which is real. It’s not just a cliché. So mindful, it’s why I love RDI because it makes us as guides mindful of the need to not get in a management mode, which is very common in the home.
Kat Lee: I mean really, you’re managing since the day you have children, aren’t we? But to be in that mindful mindset, whether you’re a teacher or a parent or another guide, whoever you are. But I always tell people, don’t beat yourself up if staying mindful can be difficult when you’re talking about independence.
Dr. Sheely: Well, listen, staying mindful is hard for all of us. We have fast paced lives. We find ourselves stretched in so many directions and none of us is very good at multitasking. And in fact, everything you read about multitasking says it doesn’t exist. We just shift back and forth.
Dr. Sheely: Well, the more you find yourself shifting back and forth, the more difficult it is to focus on one thing and be mindful of it. But this area of compensation is one which I think is probably one of the largest hurdles when it comes to a person’s independence, no matter the age.
Kat Lee: Well, and there are, I know through our life with our children, there are habits and things you don’t mind doing for them, that you really almost need somebody else to point out to you like, “I don’t mind doing that.” Yeah, but that’s on the road to independence if they, yeah, you know they could do that for themselves.
Kat Lee: And by the way, this is where I say RDI is just good parenting, period-
Dr. Sheely: It is.
Kat Lee: … because if these happened to any parent, but why would you not transfer that responsibility? Well, have you ever heard a parent say sometimes it’s easier just to do it myself? I think that’s not uncommon amongst my friends with typically developing children to say. So, we get it, I guess is what we’re saying. But for children who are compromised, that can be really important even the little things.
Dr. Sheely: The little things and I just mentioned that we have a fast paced lifestyle, and the faster it gets, the more quickly we want to overcompensate it and just get out the door. This morning, I was trying to get my grandson out the door to go to his LEGO camp, and he’s learning to put on his shoes and socks. But I was in a hurry and I said, “I’ll do it, come here.” He said, “Mama, I’m learning to do it myself.”
Dr. Sheely: So we were later, but in that moment of trying to get out the door, I wanted to take it over. And we find ourselves doing that all the time. And when we have so many areas of independence, whether it’s putting on the shoes or getting your lunch ready or getting out the door or forgetting your homework or not forgetting your homework, some of those things are going to be compensated for by the person who’s trying to get the child out the door.
Dr. Sheely: Maybe not all of them, but every time you overcompensate in one area, now you’re overcompensating in that area. And it’s hard to get the routine together and the organization together so that the child feels good about themselves, feels competent about himself, and is on that road to independence, which is where we’re headed. I mean, we’re not headed out the door to the grocery store. We’re headed out the door toward independence. And sometimes I have to remind myself of that.
Kat Lee: It’s a continual process of self-evaluation, whether you’re a grandmother or a parent or a teacher. And one of the things I tell parents is some children, if you just let … Your example is great. If you just say, “Get on over here, I’ll put your shoes up.” They’ll be like, “Okay.” And they’ll be like, “Okay,” for their lives.
Kat Lee: And so you have to think about you don’t want that to be your habit. And that can be challenging. But it can be challenging too … I just kind of go back to, if you’re okay with it too, it’s very challenging. It’s difficult. I think, I love our example, the shoes because maybe for folks listening going, “So those little things lead to independence?” And our answer is yes because they add up.
Dr. Sheely: They do add up and the stakes are high.
Kat Lee: Yeah, they are. But I love to think about your grandson and the feeling of achievement he had to have by giving the time to do that. And so much about what we’ve talked about today and the road to independence also has to do with time, which is another beautiful thing about our RDI program which follows everything.
Dr. Sheely: And just like you, Katherine, I think it’s important that we don’t beat ourselves up, that we don’t let those times when we’ve been less than successful be the things that determine how we feel about ourselves. Negativity, whether it’s about ourselves or somebody else, carries a lot of weight.
Dr. Sheely: And I feel it’s important that while we’re bringing our memories to the forefront, that we concentrate on those memories where we’ve done it well, where our children have done it well, and that we use those as the memories that help us move forward.
Aug 09 2019
Rank #19: I Don’t Know What to DO with My Child
Jan 20 2017
Rank #20: Hope for Individuals with Autism
Every person with autism is a human being.
That statement may be obvious on the surface, but too many treatments methods don’t start there, and often treat individuals with autism as somehow not like others. Regardless of the vulnerabilities that might be present, all children can become co-participants in their growth and not just ‘objects’ of our interventions. In this episode, Dr Gutstein encourages parents with a hopeful message about the potential for growth for their child.
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Jul 09 2016