Declarative language is experience-sharing language, which offers an invitation to connect. It differs from imperative language, which is directive. Children with ASDs are less likely to use declarative language and struggle to respond to others' declarative language (for example, "It's raining!").
When we began the RDI program, we were encouraged to use 80 percent declarative language and only 20 percent imperative language when engaging with Brian. For example, instead of saying "Brian, put on your shoes," we practiced making a declarative statement like, "I see your shoes on the floor." The second statement invites a moment of intersubjectivity or shared perception and the opportunity for Brian to dynamically appraise the situation and make a choice of how to respond.
Referencing refers to the ability to borrow someone else's perspective in order, for example, to resolve an uncertain situation or enhance one's own experience. Neurotypical children frequently check in with their parents to make sure the parents find an experience as cool as they do. ASD children frequently don't.
Early on in our RDI work, I remember spotting a ladybug crawling on our kitchen floor. Brian, Courtney, and I gathered around the insect. Brian stared at the ladybug, making statements like, "the ladybug is red and black . . . the ladybug is crawling . . . the ladybug has wings." Courtney looked back and forth from the ladybug to me with a…