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Have you ever examined the communication style that you use with your autistic child? Sometimes parents fall into a trap of trying to ask a TON of questions and they don’t even realize it! The underlying motivator is likely rooted in a desire to have a meaningful conversation with your kiddo. It is the kind of communication where a lot of rote static questions are asked of your child such as “how old are you, what colour is this, how many is this, what is your name?”. We call that kind of communication “imperatives”. If this sounds at all familiar, you may even realize that this question asking falls short. It’s a pseudo conversation that lacks meaning and connection. That was me before I learned a more respectful way of communicating with my child with RDI. I’ve been there!

RDI teaches us that in order to help kids develop meaningful spontaneous reciprocal conversation, parents and educators should speak to children in a way that models meaningful thoughts and experiences, NOT with repeated closed end question asking, where only one response – the right response – is acceptable. Only the “right” response is reinforced. This style of communication is a deviant form of communication. It teaches Autistics that human relationships are a demand and response situation. It certainly does not reinforce someone’s intrinsic motivators to engage in conversation with others. Simply put, it can be counter productive!

It also robs Autistic’s with the opportunity to learn about other people’s thoughts, feelings, ideas, hopes, dreams, personal experiences, stories and their personalities.

 Isn’t that what communication is all about?   

Therefore, doesn’t it make sense to adjust our communication style to be more motivating, inviting, and open ended so they can freely share themselves?  Considering the season, I wanted to give you some ideas of declarative comments or what we also refer to as experience sharing communication you can use while doing a classic fall activity like carving pumpkins!     

Sharing emotional reactions
• That one is my favourite (smile)
• Oh! that is one is scary! (amplify scared face)
• This feels yucky to me!  (amplify yucky face) but you like squishing it!

Comparing/contrasting attributes
• That pumpkin has more warts than the other!
• This is pumpkin is huge, and here is a tiny pumpkin
• These are about the same size or shape
• Let’s find pumpkins with long stems

Exploring ideas and trying one or more (experimenting)
• Let me think about how we can carve the pumpkin (demonstrate your thinking about a few ideas, leave space for your child to initiate their own ideas)
• Let’s try this scooper to see if it works better than this one (let your child try out both scoopers to see which one they like)
• Let’s see what side to draw the design on the pumpkin – this side or this side (pause wait and see if your child chooses a side)

Planning future experiences
• Tonight, we can light it up with a candle
• I can’t wait to see other people’s pumpkins
• I wonder where we should put this outside?
Joint Reminiscing
• Remember our pumpkins from last year…
• I liked the design you picked out yesterday
• Last year you wouldn’t even touch the slimy stuff!
• I like making things with you, like that craft last week

Increasing coordination
• 1,2,3…  scoop and plop, 1,2,3… scoop and plop, 1,2,3… scoop and plop (removing seeds together at same time or turn taking sequentially)
• Uh Oh, too fast! … go slower ……. (Carrying heavy pumpkins together)

Good enough thinking / best fit decisions
• Oops, that didn’t turn out as great as the picture, but it is good enough! I like it!
• I think we took out enough of the gooey stuff – that is good enough
• This pumpkin might not be perfect, but I think it’s a good shape and size

Communication modifications can be relatively simple to make. Mindful communication including spoken and non-verbal communication is covered in the 3rd module of my online autism parent training program.

This Autism training is also covered by autism funding in many provinces and is available now at a special rate of $100.00 CAD.

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