The Autism Society Philippines (ASP) is a national, non-profit organization dedicated to the well-being of persons with autism spectrum disorder. The ASP has been in the forefront of providing services and training to families living with autism.

08 November 2010

Dealing with Social Shutdown

Do you know how it feels to be socially-disconnected, much like children with autism?

MANILA, Philippines – The Autism Society Philippines (ASP) participated in a recent global fundraiser called Communication Shutdown which called social network users to give up their Facebook and Twitter habits for one day to know how it feels like to be socially-disconnected as children or adults with autism do.

For those who took the challenge, it was doable, but difficult. A great deal of personal restraint had to be used for most of these people. It was agonizing for some, not being able to take a peek at their minute social world.

Social interaction is one of the core deficits of autism. Children with autism have a hard time dealing with changes and controlling distressing emotions. The latter can be very stressful for parents, particularly in public places.

Our angel talker this week is ASP’s board trustee and techie mom Cris Estampador. Cris’ background in IT allows ASP to progressively venture into internet communications, including overseeing the society’s participation in Communication Shutdown. Cris has two children in the autism spectrum, Henry, 12, and Derek, 10.

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Social shutdown happens to children, youth and adults across the autism spectrum. They encounter this almost every day and it confuses them. Sometimes they exhibit socially unacceptable behaviors such as tantrums, which can lead parents baffled and powerless to help.

“Parents do not need to feel powerless. There is help for them to be able to develop relationships with their kids with autism, pass this empowerment to their children, and allow them to feel good about themselves,” says educational psychologist, Bimal Rai.

Neural underconnectivity can bring a rigid and static view of the world. This is the underlying reason why people with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) do not develop dynamic intelligence, which is essential for relations, independence, and quality of life. Due to their social difficulties, ASD children emotionally break down in seemingly simple social situations.

RELATIONSHIP DEVELOPMENT INTERVENTION FOR AUTISM

Relationship Development Intervention or RDI is based on the belief that the dynamic development of intelligence is essential to improve the quality of life for people with autism. The goal of the treatment is to systematically strengthen the motivation and tools to interact effectively in social relationships, to correct the deficit in this area, which would be common to all people with autism.

RDI provides families the needed support to rebuild, a slow and reflective response to changes and social situations. Children need to learn to refer to their parents, sharing feelings, and using language for the exchange of experiences. This will build a close and trusting relationship from which they can learn and cope with the uncertainties of life.

Parents cannot and should not depend on their children’s teachers and therapists. The foundation of social skills is more effectively taught in the home setting. This is where their empowerment can be harnessed. If parents feel empowered, so will their children.

RDI focuses on cultivating the building blocks of social ties - the feelings of sharing, co-regulation and the sharing of experiences - which usually develop in childhood and early childhood.

The treatment begins with parent education, followed by an objective evaluation of the relationship between parents and their children. Subsequently, the consultant provides a series of specific objectives to build and strengthen a parent-child relationship in everyday life. These are developmentally staged objectives which are designed to restore optimal neural connectivity through a series of “discoveries” and “elaborations”.

RDI’S HISTORY AND CURRENT TRENDS

The RDI program is based on a model of dynamic intelligence developed by Dr. Steven Gutstein who studied how the typical children become competent in the world of emotional relationships.

RDIConnect’s training program offers Guided Family Participation program, as well as a Dynamic Education Program for students with autism. RDIConnect has trained consultants in the United States, Great Britain, Australia, Canada, China, Japan, Singapore, India, Italy, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand and Switzerland.

MR. SMILEY

In Singapore, there are only 6 RDI trained professionals and one of them is Bimal Rai. Bimal Rai a.k.a. “Mr. Smiley” has over 15 years of experience and is trained to evaluate and diagnose children with autism and developmental disabilities.

He has extensive experience in planning individualized programs for children with special needs. Having graduated from Monash University with an honors degree in psychology, Bimal began his career as a special education teacher with great optimism.

Bimal Rai at work.

Bimal’s genuine smile can be seen a mile away making one very comfortable that it feels like you’re old friends. He gives the ASD child the same smile and receptiveness he gives his own two children.

With his sincere love for children and his mission of empowering them, he decided to pursue further education and training. With a master’s degree in hand, he joined the Child Development Unit of KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital (KKH) in Singapore as a child psychologist. Here, he played a key role in developing programs and training. He now pursues private practice at Reach Therapy Center in Singapore.

Currently, most of his work focuses on the RDI ® program. In 2007, Bimal became one of the first RDI ® Certification Program Consultants in Asia. He started practicing RDI ® in 2006 as a training consultant. RDI ® enabled him to educate families about autism from a developmental approach. It was important for him to see family and child to develop a closer relationship while remediating other issues in autism.

He is a keen advocate for public education and has been a keynote speaker at regional conferences. He also lectures for the School of Linguistics (Singapore) on Autism, ADHD, Child Psychology and the various intervention strategies available.

Bimal Rai will provide an introductory lecture on RDI on Nov. 27, at 1:30 p.m., at the Asian Social Institute corner L. Guinto and Escoda streets in Metro Manila. This event is organized by ASP as part of its efforts to empower families in helping them cope with autism

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Source: Manila Bulletin, Dealing with Social Shutdown

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