What is Autism?
Are There Earlier Differences?

“Understanding each child’s individual differences helps us tailor our relationship and therapeutic approaches.”

Formal Description of Autism

There is a general description of autism that guides the people who diagnose autism spectrum disorder.  It includes difficulties with social communication and social interaction as well as restricted, repetitive patterns of behaviour, interests, or activities.
These will be seen early in development, will cause significant impairment in the functioning of the individual’s life, and will not be related to intellectual ability.  These diagnostic criteria do not necessarily tell the whole story.

Recent Research

Recent research has shown that, at present, just as we can’t distinguish those who will have asthma or dyslexia, there is no detectable difference between babies who will be neurotypical and those who will be autistic.

The Beginning

Children who develop autism show noticeable differences in their second year of life, but the differences begin to develop when the child is six or seven months old. Babies begin to show what researchers have seen as ‘Growth Seeking’.  This drive has been called various names e.g. intrinsic motivation, productive mindset, personal agency, or mastery motivation.  In RDI, we like to call it the ‘Growth Seeking Drive’.  Research is showing that children who develop ASD also have this drive, but for some yet unknown reason, it does not awaken or isn’t strong enough.

Seeking Sameness

Typically children with autism continue to grow physically, however they want much of their world to stay the same. Initially, the child will just passively resist the ‘encouragement’ from their parents but by the end of the second year, they begin to actively avoid.  A child with autism tries to maintain stability, whereas neurotypical children explore, discover and share.

Continued Progression of Autism

From here the child will develop their ‘autistic symptoms’.  An autistic child
will miss important milestones in their development, they may disconnect
and share resistance and emerging repetitive behaviour patterns and
challenges become threatening. A child may try to control surroundings
and they can meltdown if things don’t go as expected. They work hard to
support their search for the maintenance of sameness.

Guiding towards Competence and Confidence

What can the parent of a child with ASD do to assist their child to develop? With RDI, the parent can help the child gradually awaken their Growth Seeking Drive.  The parent learns to guide the child in a step by step, achievable way using their shared daily life experiences.  The parent adjusts their communication and their demands and the child begins to trust that they won’t be overly challenged. The parent will carefully stimulate that Growth Seeking Drive.  As they travel on this path together within their new found relationship, the child will not only learn to develop life skills but will also be guided to develop thinking which is much more dynamic, taking them away from the rigid thinking they once clung to.
“A relationship with the one you are trying to teach, lead, or love is where all the power lies.”