|Autism's 5 Core Deficits Defined - Page 2|
Regulating (or coregulation) means "dancing" with someone else in an interaction. Babies have many early experiences with coregulation, for example when they play peek-a-boo with a parent. They learn that they have a role, and the other person has a role, too. To keep the interaction going, which of course they want to do, they need to fulfill their role. This ability is compromised with ASD children, for whom the back-and-forth of a shared experience is confusing and overwhelming. A solo, static world, which helps them manage these feelings of incompetence, becomes preferable to them. Helping Brian become a more competent coregulating partner is so rewarding. He's now able to tease, play tag (a surprisingly dynamic game of coregulation!), and help around the house.
Episodic memory is frequently impaired in ASD children. When we use episodic memory, we remember how a situation affected us in the past and we use that memory to guide our current reactions. Steven Gutstein believes that the behavior problems of ASD children are really memory problems. Because of his impaired episodic memory, a couple of years ago, Brian seemed destined to repeat endlessly the pattern of becoming anxious and overwhelmed and then pushing other children on the playground. He couldn't use his episodic memory to tell himself, "last time this happened, Mom and I took a break, and I felt better" or "last time this happened, I got in trouble for pushing, so I'm going to make a different choice this time." His impaired episodic memory prevented him from making choices in the present guided by a sense of the past. RDI is helping him tremendously with this core deficit, as indicated by a dramatic decrease in "negative behaviors" and a dramatically increased ability to use us (or other trusted adults) to support him when he begins to become anxious, confused, or angry.
Flexible thinking allows us to cope adaptively with changes to our plans and recognize the many shades of gray between black and white. Children with ASDs are famous for their rigidity and need for sameness. We try to give Brian lots of opportunities to explore the idea that there's usually more than one right answer and that playing with multiple truths can be fun. We also know that when we create a routine and implement it the same way each time so as not to upset him, we're probably feeding or reinforcing Brian's autism. We try to be mindful about spotlighting changes to the schedule and celebrating his ability to go with the flow.