"My approach to intervention is rooted in respect for child development and focuses on making the mundane meaningful, looking at daily interactions as opportunities for learning and growth while respecting the uniqueness of the individual and family. It’s about setting high expectations for long term quality of life and relationships for individuals on the spectrum and implementing a specific and doable plan to get there one step at a time.”
– Lauren Wilson, LCSW, RDI® Program Certified Consultant

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Toolbox Tuesday: School Introductions

How is it that summer can go from feeling so long and daunting to being almost gone?!  Teacher friends are already heading back to the classroom to begin putting the rooms together- and that means the start of school is just around the corner.

In today's Tool Box Tuesday- a creative way to introduce yourself and your family to your child's new or even re-introduce to an old team.  I wish I could remember who to give credit for for the idea- as it certainly isn't mine, but has been bouncing around in special education circles for as long as I can remember.

We know we all want the very best for our kids- and for the best to start day one, not week three.  One way to start on the best foot possible is to introduce your kiddo to your team... in a fun and creative way.  IEPs are filled with details and information, but no one would mistake them for a good fun read that gives you a personalized flavor of a child and family.

Consider writing a letter to child's team, from your child's point of view.  Depending on the current abilities of your child, they might also participate.  Fill the letter with important details about your child that someone who knew him/her would know and that would make your child feel more comfortable in their class and in their relationship with their new team.  Favorite color, food, memory.  Favorite things to talk about.  Sensory things to avoid or increase.  Signs that he/she is feeling really comfortable or distressed.  Communication strengths. Here is an example-

Dear Miss Smith,

My name is John.  I am really excited, and kind of nervous to be starting 1st grade.  I look forward to getting to know you - here is a little about me.

-My favorite color is green.  When given a choice, it's usually the color I pick and it makes me feel really good.  I color with green a lot.

-You'll know I'm feeling really happy and comfortable when my body is moving slow and my hands are calm.  If you see me start to move fast, it usually means I need a break.  A quick shoulder rub sometimes also helps.

-I really want to make you proud and work hard.  Sometimes I have trouble following when you talk.  If you write it down for me it makes it much easier for me to listen.  I also sometimes need a little extra time to process what you say.

I think this will be a great year and I can't wait to learn new things!

It's a great do no harm strategy in that it can be really helpful, especially at creating a collaborative relationship, and it's also not going to harm anything.  While personalizing the letter about/with your child- do keep it to one page.

Next Tool Box Tuesday we'll chat about similar letters written from you, the parent.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Toolbox Tuesday: Guest Blog

Summer is here - and all the exciting nuttiness that goes along with it.  This week a spotlight on a blog that features a wide variety of autism consultants.

This is a sweet article on the small moments that can become big when we "partner" with our kids.


Have a great week!

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

ToolBox Tuesday: The Always/Never Rule


After a Monday holiday Tuesday never feels quite right.  It dons too much of a Monday mentality.  So for this Toolbox Tuesday I'm bringing back an oldie but a goodie from 2013 that is a bit of an extension of last week's Kids Do Well If They Can.

So without further ado... the Always/Never Rule

"How could he not know it?!  We do it every single day!  It's always the same."

And there in lies the clue.  Always.

"It doesn't seem to matter, he never does it."

Ah, another clue.  Never.

These situations of absolutes- always... never... tell us that we are operating above our child's competence.  Kids (and adults) do well if they can.  So if a child is never or always doing something in a situation... it means they're not there yet to meet our expectation.  And that's ok.  We can change and bring them up to it.

And this is important, because while failure can be a motivator for success... too much failure is a recipe for incompetence and a motivation depressant.  And kids are very perceptive.  They recognize when they are not meeting expectation.

So what can we do?  We can close the gap.

Sometimes closing the gap means nixing what we're asking/expecting... for now.  Sometimes it means changing the environment or how we ask so that your child can experience success.

Here are a few examples-
     Never comes or responds when spoken to from a different room.  

What can we change?  Where we ask from!  No sense in continuing to ask for a response from a different room when he never responds.  Not only can it be very frustrating to the adult, it's also a failed scenario for the child.  Find the distance... and modality that the child can be successful from.  Start there and then begin moving farther away.

   Always has difficulty following his night time routine.

What can we change?  How much responsibility the child has for the routine.  What's needed from us for the child to start having more successes?  A visual check list?  Us to sing a song during the routine? A change of routine?

As the ratio begins to change at the child has more successes you can increase the complexity and expectations and build upon those successes.  It's a win win for everyone.

What are the Always/Never scenarios in your home?  What could be changed so that everyone could have more success?

Got a Question or Topic for Tool Box Tuesday?  Email rdimaui at gmail dot com.

And here's the annoying yet very true disclaimer- each kiddo is unique- take the tools and adjust them for your particular needs. :)

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Toolbox Tuesday: Foundations for Understanding Behavior

I had the great pleasure of chatting with an old colleague of mine yesterday and we spent some time talking about all our oldies but goodies.  The resources, research and perspectives that never go out of style.   The perspectives that provide an overarching guide no matter what your focus.  As you dive into autism interventions you will find such a variety.  No matter the path that works best for your family, the foundational perspectives that guide you have a profound effect on everyone involved.

Over the next few Tool Box Tuesdays, I will be spotlighting the foundational perspectives that my work is rooted in.  When I pause to consider what the theme is that runs through them all I see a theme of respect of the individual.  And one might think, well gosh, that must be a theme that runs through all foundations.  But in my experience consulting with a wide variety of teams, this is not always the case.  Respect for the individual begins always with the social work motto of "starting where the person is" and grows from there with learning who the person is, who the person wants to be.  Recognizing their strengths and recognizing their right to a developmentally based approach tailored to their unique needs.

And so I've digressed from what I consider one of the foundations to understanding behavior:  Kids do well if they can- a motto - and then entire philosophy coined by Dr. Ross Greene.  Give the clip a look see below, then we'll discuss a little bit more how this plays out as a foundation.

Alright, "Kids do well if they can" fundamentally different from the foundation of "Kids do well if they wanna".  Let's first consider the extremely different roles these two philosophies put us, the adults in.  As he says, from a Kids do well if they wanna perspective I'm left with the increased motivation role and explaining the behaviors from a "testing limits", oppositional standpoint.  Let's take a moment to consider how this makes us feel.  As parents, we've all fallen into the kids do well if they wanna perspective and been left feeling like, "wooo, they are just trying to push my buttons today!".  Chances are with that narrative our own level of stress is going to rise and in turn this will impact our response repertoire by limiting it.  No matter your parenting philosophy we can never do our best when we feel stressed and targeted.

Kids do well if they can changes the narrative to exploring- what's going wrong here?  What skill is missing?  What problem is unsolved?  Checking in with how well the child slept last night, when the last time they ate was and if they are sick or sensorily dysregulated.  It shifts the focus from the personal to the environment and things you can actually do something about.  Stress lowers and your repertoire of responses broadens.

Richard Lavoie's FAT City dovetails so nicely with this approach.  If you haven't seen it, although the hairstyles are a bit dated, I can't recommend it enough.  I wrote a bit about it here:  http://guidingfamilies.blogspot.com/2013/03/tuesday-tool-box-support.html

Until next week,

Have a topic you'd like me to cover?  Just ask. :)

*Dr. Greene has many other wonderful clips that more fully flesh out these ideas, and the Collaborative Problem Solving Approach which I highly recommend http://www.livesinthebalance.org/walking-tour-parents.  
His list of "Lagging Skills and Unsolved Problems" can be quite eye opening as well http://www.livesinthebalance.org/paperwork*

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Tool Box Tuesday: Communication in Context

I'm sure you've seen this video clip before.  It's been viewed over 134 million times on youtube since it was posted a few years ago.  I imagine many of those are from fellow professionals who work with children with social communication disorders and their parents.  We watch in awe because when you're in the thick of working through a social communication disorder it can be easy to forget or misunderstand, misremember what typical communication looks like and so important the order in which is grows.

In this clip we do not hear a single word.  Not one.  And yet a two minute shared conversation is taking place with no script.  We see clearly the foundations of communication with words - and without the foundations solidly in place, the words mean little.  Words without this foundation are out of context.

Consider the word, just the word, stop.  What does it mean?  Our first thought might be "cease something".  But is this always the case?  Grab a partner and say the word 'stop' in different ways, with different facial expressions.  Each time you do - you are providing context.  How does this shape the meaning of the word?

The first word any neurotypical child may say varies - however somewhere in that first 5-10 is often the word "uh-oh".  After all as parents we're saying it constantly as things go flying off the highchair tray and items are dumped out and dropped.  We're always saying it in context and with meaning to connect as well as explain.  Without any direct instruction infants/early toddlers begin using it in context, using it with prosody, and using it for the same reason - with meaning and to connect as well as explain to a communication partner.

This week consider how much shared communication is in the context of communication foundations that provide the stage for the meaning and use of words.  Add context by putting words in the background and bringing context - facial expressions, prosody, body language to the forefront.

Until next week,

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Happy Mother's Day!

Happy Mother's Day to all the amazing moms I have had the pleasure of knowing.  
I have learned so many valuable lessons from each of you!

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Tool Box Tuesday: Dusting this ole' blog off!


I always aspire to write more frequently as families ask so many wonderful questions and although it sometimes feels like you're walking alone - often so many of the same questions.  Lots of questions revolve around communication and speech.  I recently came across this video clip of some recent research on how the brain processes and organizes words and it re-reminded me of how important it is to know, recognize and be humbled by how humans learn to communicate.

What this clip and their research remind us is that we learn words... speech... communication in context.  In dynamic situations that are flexible in their understanding of words.  Words are not learned in isolation.  In fact, can you imagine the time it would take to learn all the different ways to map and connect the word house?  brother?  It's almost impossible to imagine.  And as time was given to discretely learning every word - what other experiences would be missed?

As we get ready to fill lots of space during the summer weeks - find times to embed words in the contexts of their experiences.  I will be writing on that topic next Tuesday.  Have a topic you'd like covered?  Let me know.


Monday, February 1, 2016

Redefining Autism Summit

The week of February 8th, there will be many free webinars hosted by the RDI Community.  While some will be live, many will be open for you to watch at your convenience.  Huge given how many webinars with the time change wind up being 3am HST.

Learn more and sign up here: