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10th RDI E-Learning: Theoretical Points

June 14, 2008

<strong>Research-based theoretical model for RDI </strong>Dr. G. spent a lot of time explaining that the development of autism is a <strong>process</strong>. You aren’t just “born autistic” per se. You have certain neurological vulnerabilities which lead to the development of autism.

I. <strong>Threshold of neurological vulnerability</strong> — here we get into etiology which is something I don’t want to talk about. It reminds me of all my angst thinking I had done something to harm S. and her difficulties were my fault. Won’t go there. Suffice it to say there are MANY factors in autism.

II. <strong>Breakdown of the dynamic feedback system </strong>

A. There is a breakdown of the referencing process the way it’s supposed to happen (a disruption of dynamic communication.) The child does not look at the caregiver’s reactions to see whether things are safe. To explain this, Gutstein referred to a “visual cliff” study described <a href=”http://www.talaris.org/pdf/spotlights/tal_spot_mommyisthisok.pdf”>here</a&gt;.

B. Breakdown of trust and resilience — The baby needs that referencing relationship to develop courage to try new things and to build trust with the parent. Without the referencing, trust and resilience don’t fully develop.

What happens when resilience is lost? Gutstein referred to the work of Dr. Edward Tronick, who was not specifically referring to autism.

1. Because of neurological vulnerability (for instance, a baby gets sensory overload very easily) he learns to disconnect from his environment.

2. He becomes fearful, and avoiding bad feelings (such as sensory overload) becomes his primary goal.

3. He loses trust in himself and his caregiver.

4. He develops indiscriminate defenses. Because he is fearful of uncertainty, and uncertainty is always there, he uses these defenses all the time. In autism, these defenses include perseveration, rigidity, and “stimming.”

C. The child reaches a neurological tipping point

III. <strong>Loss of guided participation and loss of opportunities for dynamic development</strong>

IV. <strong>Failure to develop dynamic intelligence</strong>

V. <strong>Neural Underconnectivity</strong>

<em><strong>**RDI is about restoring opportunities for guided participation. </strong></em>

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