Thursday, July 26, 2007


I found this quote and thought that it was appropriate for what we do each and every day in RDI.

"Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be done without hope and confidence." Helen Keller

I feel that each of the families we work with come to have their own sense of optimism. Some come to us with optimism and some gain it through their time with us.

This quote just makes so much sense to me when I think of it in terms of optimism versus pessimism. If we are pessimistic then we have little hope and no confidence which makes it very difficult to accomplish anything and certainly makes it difficult to instill these virtues in our children. Hope and confidence that we can make a difference are what keeps us going especially when it is difficult.

Are you an optimist or a pessimist? If you find yourself thinking that you are a pessimist it might be time to make some changes.

RDI is my optimism it gives me hope and confidence for a quality of life for all of our families and their children!

Talk to you soon,

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Good Job!

I was just rereading this article: "Five Reasons to Stop Saying "Good Job!" By: Alfie Kohn. Makes you think a bit. Take some time to read it through - it's a quick read. I like how the phrases he uses at the end of the article are nice declarative statements. Good fit for what we do with RDI.

What are your thoughts?

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

If I Knew

This poem recently came to me via a friend and I wanted to share it with all of you. I think it really speaks to the need to prioritize and focus on what is important in life, especially when everything seems to be going wrong or when life feels really difficult.

If I Knew - by Tricia Youngson

If I knew it would be the last time that I'd see you fall asleep,
I would tuck you in more tightly and pray the Lord, your soul to keep.
If I knew it would be the last time that I see you walk out the door,
I would give you a hug and kiss and call you back for one more.
If I knew it would be the last time I'd hear your voice lifted up in praise,
I would video tape each action and word, so I could play them day after day.
If I knew it would be the last time, I could spare and extra minute or two,
To stop and say, "I love you", instead of assuming you would KNOW I do.
If I knew it would be the last time I would be there to share your day,
Well I'm sure you'll have many more so I can let just this one slip away.
For surely there's always tomorrow to make up for an oversight,
And we always get a second chance to make everything all right.
There will always be another day to say our "I love you's",
And certainly there's another chance to say our "Anything I can do's".
But just in case I might be wrong, and today is all I get,
I'd like to say how much I love you and hope we never forget,
Tomorrow is not promised to anyone, young or old alike,
And today may be the last chance you get to hold your loved one tight...
So if you're waiting for tomorrow, why not do it today?
For if tomorrow never comes, you'll surely regret the day,
That you didn't take that extra time for a smile, a hug, or a kiss,
And surely you were too busy to grant someone their last wish.
So hold your loved ones close today, whisper in their ear, Tell them how
much you love them and that you'll always hold them dear.
Take the time to say "I'm sorry," "Thank You," or "It's okay."
And if tomorrow never comes you'll have not regrets about today.

Friday, July 20, 2007


Yeah - we're done!!!!!!

We were approved for occupancy on Monday and eagerly started using our new space. Things are going up on walls, spaces are getting organized, and we finally have a parking lot! We have a sidewalk out front that goes to no where and 2 huge new trees out front. Now it's just time to get some grass out front, but that will come. Enjoy your weekly update. This might be the last blog on our construction process and I hope you enjoyed following us along.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Slowing Down

Last night my mom, sister and I went to see the musical "Wicked." On the way home we were reminiscing about past family vacations.

When I was growing up we only took "road trip" vacations in fact my first time on an airplane was only a few years ago. Anyway I was thinking back to all of those summer vacations where it would be very warm outside, but my mom, sister and I would have to wear sweat suits and cover up with blankets in the car because my dad loved having the air conditioning on full blast. We also talked about the trip we took out west one summer where I refused to get out of the car at a few places (I was in my early teens and thought I wasn't interested in all that history stuff). We then talked about the summer we rented a motor home to go to Florida. Boy was that an adventure.

As we were talking my sister mentioned that she didn't like taking road trips anymore. She said that she gets so bored riding in the car for a long time. We talked a bit about that and I told her how sad it was that we couldn't slow down long enough to enjoy riding in the car. I think it is a product of our society at this time that we are all so busy and our lives so fast paced that we get "bored" riding in the car. It made me reflect on my own need to "slow down."

It may just be time for another "road trip" to help us all appreciate the need to slow down.

Talk to you soon,

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

More Success Stories

It is amazing some of the stories I hear from the families who are diligently working on remediating their child's autism. The other day I had a family tell me that their son went to see his doctor just to see how medications and such were going for him. At this appointment their doctor told them that their son has made more progress in the past year than he normally sees in a neuro-typical child in a year. This child still has a ways to go to reach the neuro-typical pathway, but what encouraging news to have their doctor notice the wonderful improvements he is making.

I had another dad tell me a story of their son joining a cannon ball contest from the high dive. Their son had never been off a high dive before, but that day he decided to take the plunge. When the contest was over he did not win, but was able to blow it off by saying, "It's ok, the boy who won was bigger than me and it was my first time off the high dive." Wow, what wonderful progress to be able to compare and contrast the difference between him and the other boy and also to be ok with being just good enough at the activity.

On the same day this same boy joined a group of boys to make a raft to race across the pool. He worked and colaborated with the other boys to make the raft and then raced it across the pool. His team did not win, they got second. He was fine with not winning and enjoyed just being a part of the event. The really great part about this is that he noticed that the 3rd place team boys were upset thinking that they tied them. He then told them, "you know, I thought we tied too". The ruling was changed on the race and he then was not only 2nd, but tied for second. How awesome that he was aware of the other boys disappointment and did something to make it better for them.

These are the stories that just make this remediation process so exciting. This is from a boy that was not ok with just being good enough or not being the best. He was competetive, he wanted to win. He wouldn't participate if he wasn't going to be the best or be good at it. Now he's seeing the focus as the togetherness, as the team work. Awesome!

Have a wonderful week! Michelle

P.S. Yesterday Nicole asked for some advice on what to cover at the teacher workshops. If you have any thoughts on what you'd like coverd at these workshops, please see her post below.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Input Wanted - Training for School Personnel

Every year we provide school training opportunities for school staff members interested in learning more about autism / related impairments and remediation strategies. The “introductory” workshop we have offered over this past year has been extremely popular (so popular that we have had to add another date in August to accommodate everyone)! We recognize that there is a huge need and desire for additional training. To better meet those needs, our staff is planning to hold a variety of workshops during the 2007-2008 school year. People who attend our workshops include special education teachers, general education teachers, paraprofessionals, speech pathologists, occupational therapists, administrators, and many more. This year we are planning to offer an advanced workshop for those who have attended a previous introductory workshop. We also plan to do some topic-specific workshops throughout the year. There are so many school staff members who want to learn more about applying remediation strategies in their settings – and we want to help them do that!

I’d like to get input from parents, community members, school professionals, and anyone else with something to contribute on the issue of training school staff. What topics do you think are important? If you could plan a training for school staff working with students with autism and other developmental / neurological disabilities what would you include? Let us know what you think the needs are, as well as your ideas, and we will do our best to incorporate them into future training opportunities. You can provide your input by adding a comment to this post, or by emailing us at We look forward to hearing from you! By the way...if you are interested in signing up for our August workshop we have some spaces available for August 22nd. See our website for more information

Until next week,

Friday, July 13, 2007

AGH - we're still in craziness!

Ok - most likely by next Friday, everyone will be moved into their new space. We're having the inspector come Monday to obtain our occupancy permit. We can't wait! Our driveway is a mess, but we're dealing with it. The girls are having so much fun decorating and finding new spaces for everything. Enjoy your weekly pictures - I took a lot so enjoy!

Our front yard and driveway - ok - we have a little bit of dirt.

Sarah's new OT room - it's super huge!

This is the staircase you used to all go up and down - it's not there anymore - it's a closet!

We had to rearrange the upstairs living room because of the addition.

Michelle's office

Courtney's office

Erin's office

Nicole's office (well part of it - it's so big I couldn't get it all in one picture!)

Thursday, July 12, 2007


I am going to piggyback off of Nicole and Michelle's posts today.

I have to say that I completely agree with Nicole and think that all college students in training as a speech/language pathologist should read the Tomasello book. It really makes you think about language and how it really develops. With each new book we read my thinking changes just a little bit. I find that how I view language and remediation of language has changed a great deal in the past year. Instead of trying to just fix the immediately obvious problems what I should have been doing all of these years and really looking for the root and going way back to the beginning. Teaching children to find the intent behind the communication, taking some of the pressure off by using more non-verbal communication and increasing my experience sharing communication instead of just questioning or being imperative in my correction.

I have watched several videos this week from my families and each of them is working on using increased non-verbal communication. It is amazing to me the communication that takes place when the parents are quiet. I also love that these children have reduced their static scripting of language at least during these times when parents are not talking much or are only using experience sharing communication. I have one child I am working with that has really embraced the use of experience sharing communication and can often times be heard to start his own sentences now with things like, "I wonder... or I'm thinking..." The whole process is great!

Going along with Michelle's post from yesterday it is readily apparent that we all need to be aware of what we are saying in front of children. Even if you don't think they are listening I can guarantee that they are. I just had this conversation with a parent this week about how they used to talk about things in front of their son all the time and recently he has started making comments about their conversations even from other rooms. Just goes to show that you need to be careful what you say.

Communication is a powerful tool that can be used in so many ways. Try experimenting with some non-verbal communication of your own this week.

Talk to you soon,

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

You are what you eat

Have you ever paid attention to the things that you say in front of your children? It's amazing how many people I've observed talking about their child in front of their child. Have you ever heard the phrase "you are what you eat". I think the phrase "you are what you are told you are" to be quite similar. Imagine going through life hearing other people describe you as "he doesn't like that" or "she just can't do it", "you'll never get her to do that", "she is just so naughty", "he won't try anything new", or "she just won't sit still". If you heard these kinds of things being said about you wouldn't you begin to believe it yourself or begin to identify yourself in this way because you just begin to believe this is who you are.

The other day a little boy was born to my husband's brother and his wife. This of course generated a lot of discussion with my husband and I. "Is 2 kids enough?", "Do we want another child?", "I just don't think we need another kid." The conversation continued the entire way home from the hospital and into our home, where my children were running around and playing - really not paying attention, right? This wasn't even a conversation I could see as being a problem if my children were listening to it. What's wrong with a harmless discussion like this with our kids around? To my surprise I laid my 4 year old down for bed that night and she looks right at me and said, "Mom, did you want me?". Ugh, my heart sank. I'm so glad she asked that question so I could reassure her that we wanted her more than anything.

Keep in mind how everthing you talk about with and around your child can and will impact your child in some way. Even if to you it doesn't seem harmful, it could be tearing your child apart. My daughter was able to process the information she was hearing and clear things up by asking me that question. What if she hadn't and kept internalizing that, believing she wasn't wanted. I can't imagine the impact that could have had on her long term.

On that note:

  • watch what you say
  • encourage your children
  • talk about them positively
  • let the catch you saying something good about them to some one else
  • don't be afraid to apologize if you said something you shouldn't have

Words are powerful, use them wisely!

Until next week and hopefully from the desk of my new office, Michelle

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

The Building Blocks of Language

One of the books that is required reading for RDI® consultants is "Constructing a Language" by Michael Tomasello. It’s a bit complicated to read, but filled with important research and theory in the area of language development. Tomasello spends a good portion of the book discussing the need to look outside of the domain of language in order to understand communication development. It is through the development of social cognition that language develops. Social engagement and the thinking that grows out of it form the foundations for understanding and using language. Children begin to learn from a very early age to understand the intentions of others. This “intention-reading” is critical for language to develop. We learn to understand what is in the minds of others, and language is a tool that we develop to share what is going on in our minds – to connect our minds with the minds of those around us.

For the past 2 years I have had the wonderful privilege of watching two young clients with autism get on the path of typical language development. Both started treatment with a small vocabulary, but their words were very stereotypical, repetitive, and not used in the context of meaningful engagement with others. We focused on building the foundations for meaningful communication through limiting verbal communication and focusing heavily on nonverbal communication. An emphasis was also placed on active engagement between these children and their parents – including them learning to be apprentices to their parents. Their parents have learned to guide them in ways that facilitate their development. The result has been a slow but steady process of these children forming the social and cognitive foundations for language development. Both are now proficient nonverbal communicators and are beginning to use sounds and words in contextually appropriate, socially connected ways. Their gaze, gestures, and vocalizations are directed toward others for the purpose of sharing meaning and sharing experiences. What an amazing difference from where they started, and what an amazing difference from the path that language development typically takes in autism!

If you would like to check out Tomasello’s book you can find it on Amazon. I feel it should be required reading for all speech and language pathologists, as well as anyone who works with children with communication impairments of any kind. We need to rethink how we approach language development and look to typical child development as our guide.

Until next week,

Friday, July 6, 2007

Finishing Touches

Wow - we're into the home stretch. Our bathroom is completely in along with a new drinking fountain! Boy - won't the kids be excited about that!!! Carpet installation was started today and will be finished up next week, our painter will come back next week to finish up the painting, and our parking lot will be tore up next week and a new one put in next Friday. That should make for a fun week! We're all really ready for everything to be finished so that we can clean everything up and put everything back in place. Here are your pictures for the week - enjoy!

Erin's office - painted and carpet in!

The drinking fountain - I wonder if the water is any good?!?

Our new bathroom!

Thursday, July 5, 2007

The BEST job!

As I sit here in my "temporary" office working on paperwork I can hear the older CAMPS kids outside the window working on their adventure course. I am even getting up from time to time to look out the window at the project. I can't believe what these three boys have been able to accomplish so far under the guidance of Bill, Courtney and Becky. Today Nicole is outside working with them.

Last Friday I came to work after not being here on Thursday and went out on the playground with one of my clients only to discover a climbing wall had been erected the day before. On Tuesday the boys built balance beams and today they are putting in a chain bridge. This has been such a wonderful project for them.

Of course they leave here dirty and completely exhausted, but think of all the life lessons and episodic memories they are building each day along with learning to work together and how to use new tools.

This has got to be the best job in the whole world. Where else can you move from room to room and see so many different and amazing things happening all under the same roof. In one room I might observe children doing an art project, in another they might be doing some sensory or motor work with Sarah, in another there might be feeding clients working on increasing their variety of foods and yet still Nicole, Michelle, Courtney or I might be phone conferencing or meeting with parents. I could look outside and see the boys hard at work on their adventure course or some of the other CAMPS kids watering the flowers. It is just the best and it brings a smile to my face everyday.

How blessed am I?

Talk to you next week,