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Expecting The Unexpected

RDI programs are customized to meet each families individual needs with the long-term goal in mind to support a growth mindset and long term quality of life. Our goals are dynamic, monitored and updated as individuals are ready to expand their knowledge. 

The list below illustrates aspects of life that we aim to educate others about as things to be expected or what we may call “consensual knowledge” that can bring with it greater social understanding. Without this consensual knowledge, Autistic individuals may experience greater stress and anxiety when things don’t work out as planned or expected.  

Take a look at some of these expectations and consider how they may differ from the types of goals that may typically be taught in other programs.  Consider how someone might react if they did not understand that these things are to be “expected”.  Furthermore, these types of expectations are best taught through real-life experiences within the guiding relationship.  The delivery of these expectations will depend on the individual’s readiness to understand them and with developmental foundations solidly in place to support that knowledge.  

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 When we learn to expect the unexpected, we can meet life with more ease. 

1 – Communication is highly fragile and breaks down all the time.  George Bernard Shaw quote – “The greatest illusion in communication is that it has been achieved”.  When we have this expectation, we learn that we must continually monitor our attempts at communication to make sure that what we have said has been understood and received with interest.  As listeners, we expect that we may not always interpret or comprehend what the speaker intended. Therefore, on-going monitoring to ensure comprehension from the listener is also necessary. 

2 – We need a plan “B”.  Our first laid out plan may not work out.  Therefore, we need to continually monitor and evaluate our progress, update our plans with new information and make modifications or adjustments, as necessary.  

3 – Not everyone will feel the same way we do about the world nor will they understand what we understand.  This expectation allows us to continually learn and grow through our experiences with others.  It also allows us to appreciate each others’ differences and work towards finding middle ground when collaborating with others.  

4 – Two people may have quite different explanations for why something occurred. Neither explanation is right or wrong, rather each person’s views and perceptions are different.  Also, anticipates that not every explanation that they hear will be verbatim because it was said so.  

5 – We may have more control over some things than others or that you cannot do anything about. There are some things in life that you cannot control like other people’s thoughts or actions, conversations or the weather.  When we know this, we resist attempts to micromanage our world and learn to go with the flow.  We also learn that we may have some control over how we respond or what we can do when something unforeseen happens (i.e. car problems).  We develop beliefs about our abilities to manage our emotions and to explore options when faced with problems to find best fit solutions.  

6 – We expect that we probably won’t do things right or really well from the get go!  Improvement takes practice and practice can be considered controlled failure. Expect to fail many times before achieving your ultimate goal.  Norman Doidge quote – if your goal is to lift 100 pounds, you will fail every time until you lift 100 pounds”

7 – Expects that success or failure of joint projects or collaborations is the result of all participants.  Blaming others for collaborative outcomes will not benefit the bigger goal of co-existing and collaborating with others.  

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Expectations about internal feelings vs. their external expression

8 – Expects that a person’s surface expression may be different from their internal feelings. Expects that you cannot know another person’s feelings unless they decide to share them.  Expects that persons can portray feelings that are not accurate reflections of their internal states. Expects to be able to experience a feeling without anyone knowing it.  Expects that everyone has private feelings that they may or may not choose to express.  Expects that sometimes people will pretend to have feelings that they do not really feel. Understands that people can pretend to have feelings that may or may not correspond to their internal states.

9 – Expects that different people may express the same feeling in different ways. Differentiates emotional states, from the different manner that people may express their feelings. (Different-but-same). Identifies the same emotion, though it is produced by different people in somewhat different ways. Notices differences in expression, but realizes they are variants of the same emotion (e.g. different ways people laugh when they are happy).

Expectations about differences between oneself and others

10 – Expects that persons not present at prior events might not possess the same information. Expects that persons provided with mistaken information at an earlier time, will have difficulty with subsequent tasks and problems that depend on that information.

11 – Expects that other persons may have different ideas about the best methods and strategies to use to attain joint goals that, although different, may be equally as good or better than one’s own. 

12 – Expects that explanations about why something happened the way it did are subjective and not necessarily true. Is not surprised when hearing explanations about why something happened that differ from his or her own.  Does not automatically assume that his or her explanation is the correct one.

13 – Expects that when sharing information, recounting stories, or collaborating on work projects you must consider that people may have different bases of experience that will alter their understanding. 

14 – Expects that different people can feel differently about the same thing.  Recognizes that events and emotional responses to those events are not necessarily in a cause-and-effect relationship.  Knows that people can have different feelings about the same event.

15 – Expects that different persons can recollect the same event in different ways with neither being wrong.  

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Expectations about intentions and actions

16 – Expects that observing a person’s actions may not tell you about their intentions or the reasons for their actions. Just knowing what a person is doing does not tell you about their goal (e.g. walking on a specific street).

17 – Expects that sometimes people will tease in a friendly manner, while at other times teasing has a hurtful intention.  Routinely attempts to differentiate the intentions behind teasing prior to responding When teased, references partner’s face and voice to determine if they really mean what they are saying. Differentiates statements based upon facial expressions and voice tones of partner.  Recognizes the need to make distinctions based on appraisal of partner’s exaggeration of voice and facial expressions (e.g. whether partners are pretending to have feelings or are expressing real emotional reactions).

18 – Expects that sometimes a person’s intentions will be more important than their actions in determining how to respond.  Understands that when someone takes an action that feels hurtful to you, you must first learn if it was accidental or deliberate before responding. Understands that people can do things without knowing why they did them. Expects that someone may act without deliberation and also without conscious intention. Reacts differently to incorrect information provided to you with the intent to deceive, or mistakenly.  

19 – Expects that sometimes intentions may not matter. Understands that when you hurt someone, it may not matter to them whether it was accidental or on purpose. Understands that people’s good intentions do not always lead to a positive reaction from others.  Expects that when ones’ actions harm another person, their intentions may or may not influence the other person’s response.

20 – Expects that some people may agree to do things without intending to do them. Realizes that people can deliberately deceive you by acting like you can count on them to take an action they have no intention of taking. Considers prior history with a person, to determine the degree of belief that the person will actually do what they say they are going to do.

21 – Expects that people may fail to tell the truth for different reasons Sometimes people will withhold or modify information out of a desire to not needlessly hurt someone or protecting them. At other times, the motivation is more manipulative. 

22 – Expects that sometimes people exaggerate without meaning to lie. Differentiates deceitful exaggeration, from an emphasis on elements of the episode believed to be important without deceiving or lying.

23 – Expects that the degree of effort exerted by a person reflects their degree of motivation towards a goal.  Assumes that persons who are not actively working towards goals have little desire to reach them.

Expectations about emotional continuity

24 – Expects that emotional reactions towards persons, events and things can change.  Does not expect that someone will necessarily have the same feelings from one interval to the next

25 – Expects that current feelings are related to prior experiences.  Expects that someone’s current feelings must be related to something that happened to them in the past to cause them to feel that way. 

Expectations about interpersonal responsibility

26 – Expects that repair efforts must be based upon the “damaged” person’s subjective appraisal.  Expects that when you damage or break something, you cannot know how to make repairs unless you know the feelings of the person who suffered the damage.

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