There’s been a piece in the news this week (BBC News) about how ‘super-parenting improves children’s autism’ and this is cheering news for those of us who have been working with our kids in an RDI-manner for a while (RDI Explained). Of course it isn’t ‘super’ parenting at all, it’s about learning the skills to guide your child, and of course how to spark an interest so that they are willing to be guided in the first place!
We’ve been on holiday in Norfolk this week, just the three of us. This has given us the perfect opportunity to have an Ellen and RDI-focused time, and we had a list of ideas from our RDI consultant of how to use this time to the full; lots of guiding, experience sharing language and slowing everything down.
RDI isn’t difficult, but finding the time in a busy week to plan activities, let alone carry them out can be a problem, so having a whole week with no distractions has been a luxury. Don’t get me wrong, we haven’t been ‘on-it’ 24/7, there’s been plenty of time for relaxation for us too – I even bought a candle to increase our evening ‘hyggeligt’ (for those of you who have missed it in the news recently, this is a somewhat elusive Danish concept which roughly translates as cosiness).
As usual, Ellen has surprised me. For someone who is a confirmed couch-potato she has undertaken long dog walks every day without complaint. For the first few days she insisted on carrying her Toy Story and Lion King box sets around with her, but latterly she has agreed to leave them in the car – progress. Rich and I have have plenty of time for experience sharing conversations about acorns, odd-shaped trees and the beautiful autumnal colours. Nature has helped out too; Ellen loved it when I had two money-spiders in my hair and didn’t love it quite so much when a ladybird landed on her nose and refused to shift, but it gave us plenty to talk about.
We have learned how much Ellen loves eating out at pubs and cafes, particularly if they serve sausages or chips. When given the choice of having breakfast at home or at the cafe – she chose the cafe – a surprising choice! North Norfolk also appears to be a McDonalds-free zone (yay), and Ellen has coped well with this unwelcome news (although we are on a promise to stop at the golden arches on the way home). Another unexpected bonus is that a lot of the fish and chip shops around here will also cook with a gluten free batter if it’s requested,
Ellen also seems to enjoy looking around ruined castles and stately homes, which is lucky as it’s also one of my favourite things to do. While I’m looking up at the portraits and the ceilings though, Ellen’s focus is on the chairs. For those of you who’ve not visited stately homes recently, they either put pinecones or a sign saying ‘Too fragile to be sat on’ on the majority of chairs, but there’s usually the odd modern chair dotted around which can be sat on. Ellen checks every chair, flings aside anything which might be covering the important signs and sits with great delight on every chair that she can.
It seems that everywhere we’ve been, we spotted others on the spectrum, also getting out and about and enjoying themselves (a group of young men with Aspergers were having the time of their life trying to work out the maze at Priory Maze and Gardens).
It hasn’t all been plain sailing. Ellen was very upset on day one as she’d left her Toy Story box set at home, so our first morning of the holiday was spent ninja – raiding HMV in Norwich for another copy. Once she had this though, it seemed she could cope much better with the dynamism of a holiday.
This has been one of the most relaxing and enjoyable holidays we’ve ever had with Ellen and I don’t think it’s a coincidence that as her feelings of competence have grown, so her anxiety about the world has decreased along with her stress levels. This has a knock-on effect on what we are able to do and enjoy with her, which means she and other people with autism are more visible in society and hopefully more accepted.
Now the challenge is to keep the vibe going when we’re back to work and college next week!