It has been my honor and privelege to work with Viji Srinivas and her son, Vishal for the past 12 years.
Vishal was enrolled in our ABA program for 7 years.
I interacted closely with Viji too, as she started off as a teacher and then went on to become the Lead Teacher for the 12-18 year group students.
This story is about ‘Transformation,’ of both mother and child.
I would like you to read it in Viji’s words
Our RDI journey so far.
22nd November, 2013… we began our RDI( Relationship Development Intervention) journey (me) with a lot of apprehensions and self-doubt.
I wasn’t sure if I could handle the technological aspects involved in RDI- the online platform, video shooting, uploading etc. besides, the ‘lifestyle change’ that all on the Program talked about, ‘could I do it?’
I blindly trusted Kamini Ma’am(having closely worked with her for 7 years then) and took the plunge. I remember her words clearly- ‘take it up Viji, Vishal will blossom.’
Today we are a month short of completing 5 years on the RDI Program and as I retrace my steps I realize we have come a long way. I decided to write about it not to prove anything to anybody but to just share my experiences.
The documentation-videos and assignments- really helped. I could actually compare and see where ‘we’ have reached. RDI is not just about the child/individual on the Autism Spectrum, its also about the Parents-the Guides.
About 2 months into the Program just after 2 or 3 Video assignments I was emboldened (over enthusiastic maybe) to try something different( which I later realized we weren’t ready for then). Vishal already was into cooking at SAI (ABA Program) since 2011. He could cook potato bhaji/sabzi “on his own”(or so I thought).so I decided to test it based on the few RDI principles I was just learning to incorporate in our lifestyle- no direct instructions, just declarative language.
It was a huge revelation . I have shared this on many platforms with people who have asked me about RDI – Vishal, who I thought knew how to make his favorite ‘potato bhaji’, didn’t realize he had to take ‘potato’ to make the bhaji
That’s when I understood and realized the importance of “Experience-based’ learning.
We continued working on the different Objectives assigned to us-regularly attending the RDI Lite class, doing frameworks at home, sending video and written assignments when in November 2015 I decided one day to ask Vishal to cook ‘Potato bhaji’ –INDEPENDENTLY.
The video is self-explanatory. A huge change-by the way, I didn’t “teach” him to make potato bhaji as in doing it everyday, practicing etc- nothing of that sort happened. We just did different frameworks based on the Objectives assigned to us- regularly.
Cut to 2018-present day.
Today Vishal can make a sabzi(not necessarily potato)on his own- without me being around. In fact, he can create his own recipes- on the spot- when given an ingredient and asked to cook.
Its not about just cooking the ‘sabzi’. As you can see from the videos, the transformation of Vishal- from one who just followed instructions and learnt by rote- to one who could think dynamically, problem solve and take decisions on his own.
Yes, Vishal had the skills but skills alone did not help. It’s the experience –based learning that led to development of the inner motivation and growth seeking.
Today Vishal enjoys cooking.
Watch him cooking at the pilot project Cookery Diploma Course conducted by Verushchka Foundation.
As you can see this change has happened over a period of 5 years- 5 years of systematic work- following the RDI Program, with my Consultant guiding me at every step. Yes it’s a lot of hard work and efforts . But its worth it. I feel empowered as a Parent. I can understand, guide and connect with my son.
Whenever people talk about a Program/therapy, they want to know if it is research-based and backed by evidence. What better documentation than this systematic progress – the videos and written assignments- week by week to show the progress made by the apprentice( the child) recorded by their best Guides- their Parents.
I hope you’ve enjoyed and assimilated this heart warming story narrated by Viji.
Over the years, I have talked at length with many adults on the autism spectrum about their lives and dreams. They recount their desire to have an opportunity for the same quality of life you and I take for granted. They are not so different from us, just human beings who have gone through life in a state of perpectual confusion. They constantly experience feeling as if at any moment they might be swallowed up by stepping into a chasm. They feel discouraged and hopeless of attaining many of the things we take for granted: true friendship, a comfortable work environment and a loving intimate relationship. If you can, imagine trying to navigate this world all day, every day, then you will understand why even the most successful person on the spectrum feels like he or she is always at the edge of the precipice.
Dr Steve Gutstein, The RDI Book
Vishal’s story is extremely encouraging, as it speaks to hope and transformation.
It highlights the effort and dedication of a mother, who worked day in and out and still continues to do so.
Viji didn’t give up.
What a transformation to be able to cook in a dynamic group class, where the teacher gives common instructions to the students.
Also note how the teacher gave instructions in Hindi. Vishal is conversant in English and Tamil.
But he still followed every instruction.
Today, Viji and Vishal are the pillars who run the SAI Canteen.
We provide hot tiffins in the BKC area during week days.
If you are struggling with your autistic child or adult, DO NOT GIVE UP HOPE.