The Power of the Guided Participation Relationship

For most of us, just the thought of having to speak in public can send us into a panic. What if I make a mistake and everyone laughs at me?  It’s no wonder that many people actually fear public speaking more than death.

And most of us would have been mortified if we had been in seven-year-old Ethan’s shoes. He did not know what he was in for when his teacher chose him to perform his speech in front of the entire school…

At the time, Ethan was very interested in baseball and, with the help of his parents, wrote his speech about Babe Ruth’s famous called shot. He used a baseball bat to re-enact how this iconic homerun king predicted that he was going to launch the ball into the centre-field bleachers.

For the speech finals, all Ethan had to do was repeat the same performance that he had given in his classroom just a few days prior. Except that now he had to present to a gymnasium packed with students, teachers, parents and grandparents…and use a microphone...

Of course, Ethan was nervous. Who wouldn’t be? His speech started off okay until something went very wrong that he couldn’t have anticipated...Take a look at this video clip to see what happened and how Ethan responded.

Ethan never had the opportunity to practise swinging the bat in front of the microphone. He thought he was a safe distance away before he swung in true Babe Ruth style. His expression was priceless when he unexpectedly hit the microphone right off the stand (time code: 0:46).

Given the circumstances, Ethan would have been justified if he ran off the stage or started to cry, but he didn’t. Once he got over the initial shock of what happened, he shifted his gaze and began to monitor the audience’s reaction. Ethan noticed that everyone was laughing and no one was angry at him. He borrowed the audience’s perspective and started to find humour in the situation. He recovered beautifully and continued with his speech.

Then it was time for Ethan to take his second swing (time code 1:26). I’m sure it crossed everyone’s mind if he was going to hit the microphone again, but no one called out and instructed him on how to avoid this reoccurrence.  Before taking a swing, Ethan moved away from the microphone and swung a lot more slowly than the first time. Phew! No contact. Then, realizing that he was a safe distance away, he brought more power to his third swing (time code 1:41).

Ethan had never been in this situation before and he certainly never anticipated that he would hit the microphone off the stand. So how did he know how to respond so appropriately? And how did he get to be so resilient and carry on as if nothing happened when most of us would have been mortified?

The answer is from being an apprentice in a parent-child Guided Participation Relationship.

Throughout their RDI™ Program, Ethan’s parents created many opportunities for him to learn alongside them and to develop dynamic abilities like monitoring, appraising, problem-solving, hypothetical thinking, evaluating and integrating. They gave him countless experiences to make connections that enabled him to internalize these skills and use them intuitively to respond to the mishap during his speech. He didn’t have to try to consciously access them.

Parents and caregivers are in the best position to help children with autism and other neurodevelopmental disorders learn how to make sense of the world and thrive in it. Through the RDI™ program, they learn to effectively guide their child to make important discoveries and to develop the Dynamic Intelligence needed to respond intuitively to unexpected challenges and achieve a good quality of life.