Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Partner in learning

The parent is the child’s partner in learning all about their world.  An infant or toddler would never be able to sort out all of information they receive on a daily basis, on their own.  Each new object an infant touches, knocks over, explores, or a new person they are held by, or a new voice they hear, are all pieces of information being delivered to an infant.    When a toddler reaches too far for an object and becomes startled as they lose their balance and fall on their belly, information is being delivered.  This information is given as they explore their world and interactions and consequences are experienced.
Now imagine an infant sorting out all of that information without a guide.   The information may be received by the child through sight, touch, sound, smells, or even taste, but then all those experiences would be lost, misread, or “mis-categorized” within their minds.   
An infant uses their guide’s facial expression or gestures, such as reaching out or pointing to something or someone, to encode information.  This information is stored and then used when the infant or toddler finds themselves in the same or similar situation.   This information could not be gained without the help of an infant’s guide or “partner in learning.”  In most cases, their partner, is their parent.
Yoon (2008) studied infants’ abilities to gain information about objects in their environment.  The research suggests that we are all born with an innate ability to learn new things simply by paying attention to the people in their environment.  We are born with a natural ability to pay attention to those in our environment who are giving us information.  An infant’s ability to acquire information and to be guided by a parent to sort through the details of new data and to be able to focus on that one important detail is of the highest level of thinking and learning that they will achieve even in their later academic years.  This is all accomplished simply by observing their learning partner, their parent.
This theory and research can be applied to children with autism.  If we are all born with a natural ability to obtain information from our guides in the environment, then we should pay attention to the information we are delivering to a child.  Facial expression and non-verbal communications such as pointing or gesturing are powerful teaching strategies.  They are all that is necessary to help a child to experience and encode new information given to them by their learning partners. 
Yoon, J., Johnson, M. & Csibra, G. (2008). Communication-induced memory biases in preverbal   infants. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sceinces of the United States of  America.  105 (36)

Stephanie M. Hicks, M. S., BCaBA

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

What is Autism?

Starting with Essential oils

In my own family,  we have found it to be extremely helpful to support the body while supporting the mind and sensory systems...  

The Good News about RDI

The Relationship Development Intervention (RDI®) Program provides families with the tools to re-visit development for their child and to help parents understand how their child's mind works. The RDI Program also provides parents with tools to help their child better understand the world around them and to help them learn. RDI is a very unique intervention program because it is specifically tailored for the individual family.   It follows a very
specific developmental path, but the canvas for the journey is formed from the elements of the individual family situation.
Parents are educated, guided and encouraged to learn about their child's strengths and weaknesses. Throughout the process, parents also learn to understand themselves better.   
It isn't a miracle cure nor is it an easy solution. Unfortunately, causes of autism are not well known, but we know that it affects the "wiring" of our brain and the way children are able to process information. The good news is brains are capable of change at any age given the right interactions. Parents are taught how to provide these interactions in a developmentally appropriate, relationship based way. 
Many families who chose the RDI journey report that they lives are more "normal". They stopped investing their energy in crisis management, but rather work on the continuous growth of their child's mind. They find their child is able to enjoy life more, cope better and actually look forward to small challenges. 

“Our son, who used to walk out the door or into the street, now waits with us and never leaves the house without a parent. Our son, who used to be unable to communicate how he felt, can now convey when he feels sick or unhappy. These changes are not just developmentally appropriate; they are directly related to the activities and objectives we have worked on with him through RDI.”