How Do You Measure Success?


Scenario 1


Doctor: “I see massive changes in your son. He’s talking so much more. Last time you visited, he wasn’t talking so much. “


Parent; “Yes Doctor. When we visited 6 months ago, he was speaking 100 words. Now the total vocabulary has increased to 350 words.
He’s now stringing sentences together, with prompts.


Doctor: Very good. Continue to do what you’re doing. This is great improvement.


What you don’t see


The meltdowns the child has. He doesn’t interact or play with his peers.
He eats only the same foods, while watching the same video on his I pad.


He doesn’t use the words he’s learned in conversation or to express his thoughts.


Scenario 2


*Congratulatory calls and wishes pouring in from everywhere


Well wisher: “Wow! Your son got 70% on his board exam!” “What an achievement! “


What you don’t see


The anxiety this young man displays-by repetitively talking about the same thing.


He does not wish to interact with people of his age. He has no friends. He is house bound and does not step out with his friends.


His mother and tuition teacher worked hard to help him learn what he needed to for his exams.

No, he did not study on his own.


We often measure success in our children by their vocabulary or marks at school.


I invite you to look at other forms of success.
Yes the marks, speaking vocabulary are fantastic.
I certainly don’t mean to take away from the efforts made by these youngsters and their families.


Here’s a question I ask myself, frequently.

“How much responsibility is my child willing to take for his own life?’


I’m going to further break down the ‘responsibility’ aspect.


1. Responsibility to maintain interaction


In an interaction- are you doing all the prompting by asking your child questions and telling her what to say?


Is your child responding by sharing something of her own?


If you’re doing an activity together, does your child take responsibility for her role in the interaction?


In the following video, Ishaan gathers books from all over the room to put them away.



He maintains his role, while his mother watches and encourages him.


2. Responsibility to initiate


Does your child approach you to initiate some form of play or interaction?


Try this. If you’re dribbling a ball or engaging in an art project, does your child join you and take a role?


Believe me, you’ll feel a lot lighter when your child initiates and puts in effort, as opposed to doing all the work of getting your child to interact.


3. Responsibility for self


Viji Srinivas, recently recounted an incident regarding her son, Vishal.


Our family has been facing some unexpected happenings since November,2018 which resulted in many unplanned, sudden changes in our regular routine.


First Srinivas, my husband, had a medical emergency for which I had to rush him to the hospital. That was the first time ever I left Vishal at home without telling him anything. In fact I just rushed out with the door left open ( though his granny was at home then) but he managed beautifully.


Then in a couple of months granny had to be hospitalized. She was in the hospital for about 45 days. We – Srinivas and me- had to take turns going to the hospital. Our whole schedule was changed, as also our mental and emotional state. Each day would be different as my mother in law’s condition would keep fluctuating.


We had to leave him home alone often , sometimes telling him in advance and somedays without telling him – as he would be asleep, when we would get a SOS call from the ICU.


In all these situations Vishal managed very well and adjusted beautifully.


The years of working on RDI objectives helped him accept the changes, understand the situation n adjust himself accordingly. Of course we kept him in the loop, explaining to him the situations. He on his part trusted us and we had confidence in his ability to manage himself.


4. Responsiblilty for making decisions


Life consists of a series of decision making.


If we can take those small decisions, we’ll be able to take the big ones too.


This is what Dr Renuka Nambiar shared about her son, Sanjeev.
A little interesting anecdote at his work! He takes his bottle of water to work. He keeps the water bottle in his backpack along with his log book which needs to be filled daily by his manager, to submit it to college. It seems the bottle leaked, and got his log book all wet. He announced this as soon as he reached my clinic. He told me, “throw the bottle”.
When I checked, he had actually thrown the bottle away. I liked his line of thought. It was a small act, but tells me in a profound way, he made the connection of a wet log book with the leaking bottle, and made a decision of throwing the bottle away.
5. Responsibility for spending time meaningfully


If you don’t set up something for your child- does she take the responsibility of finding something to do?


Does she paint, play a computer game or help you around the house?


Each of these things takes a burden away from you. Your child is entertaining herself or keeping herself busy.


5. Responsibility for his own learning


Once intrinsic motivation kicks in, your child will take responsibility for his own learning.


For all parents out there, shaking your heads in disbelief- I’m not kidding you.


Hear it from a veteran parent on the RDI program since 10 years.


Important enough is to keep yourself free of performance and performance measurement pressures. The former is directed towards the protégé and the latter is applicable to the guide. These pressures don’t help either of them. Devoid of pressures, the child starts enjoying the tasks and wants to come back to the framework again and again (no different from a corporate world citizen). He is not judged by the ‘cleanliness’ of the outcome. This leads to elevated morale and a sense of assuming higher responsibility.


My own experience with Prasad has shown that he is more than happy to take ownership on several of the domestic chores and is an equal member in the house. He lays bed for himself and me, the bed-sheet is seldom a perfect rectangle but does it matter; he fills in the ice-trays – ice cubes are rarely identical but who cares; hands over the clothes to the ístri-wala’ many times the washed clothes are not tied firmly and the tea that he makes doesn’t always have the same consistency of sugar, does anyone realise it. I can go on and on with examples of painting, bathing, drying clothes, keeping aside washed vessels etc. etc.


What this does to his confidence – 56 inch ki chest. And what it does to me as his guide – a satisfaction that he is taking responsibility in the frameworks that he is expected to do. He doesn’t require to be told. And I am pretty confident that something that is expected of him will certainly be done, if not already done. Doesn’t that relieve us of a lot of things that we have to do or supervise him doing it. Very happy that these obsession to do things in a particular manner is giving way to a more pragmatic approach.


– S. Ranganathan about his son, Prasad.


Dr. Steven Gutstein’s quote, wraps it up for me.


Most people believe that #autism is a disorder that only affects social development. And, although this may seem the case because it is the easiest issue to see on the outside, what is really affected is the autistic individuals sense of self. In the #RDI program, as a parent Guide, your goal is not to develop social partnerships with your child, but to develop their sense of self; their empowerment, their competence, their mind, their thinking and their decision making.


– Dr Steven Gutstein, RDI Connect.


We live in new age.
It’s time for a paradigm shift.
Why should the measures traditionally used, measure success today?


Your child/ adolescent/young adult, need not be subjected to the old paradigm.
After all, he/she is the harbinger to a new age.


It’s also time for you to lead a happy, meaningful life.
Not a stressful, anxious one.


Start today.
Get in touch with us about our programs.



Kamini Lakhani

Kamini Lakhani is the founder and director of SAI Connections. She has been providing services in the field of autism for more than 25 years and is the authorized director of Professional Training for RDI in India and the Middle East. She is also the mother of a young adult with autism.


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