An Interview with Julie Meyerowitz, MS, CCC-SLP
An Interview with Julie Meyerowitz, MS, CCC-SLP
1) How long have you been working with children on the Autism Spectrum, and how did you become a Relationship Development Intervention (RDI) consultant?
I have been working with children with a broad range of communication challenges, ages 2-21, since becoming a speech-language pathologist in 2008. However, over time I was becoming more and more aware that the children on the Autism Spectrum were becoming my favorite children to work with, and my greatest successes were with these children. In my work as a speech-language pathologist, there were certain questions that began to guide my decisions: “Is this goal/ activity meaningful and functional?”; “Are these skills generalizing to the client’s life outside of treatment sessions?”; “Where will this child be at the age of 21 and beyond?”; “Is my treatment doing all it can to prepare my clients to reach their full potential?” Back in 2015, I was working with a child not yet diagnosed with ASD. I was collaborating with the child’s ABA therapist one session. She saw my approach and said it reminded her of RDI. I was excited to find that RDI provided a research-based approach for answering the same clinical questions I’d been asking all along! I have chosen to become a certified RDI Consultant and am now accepting new clients to begin December, 2017.
2) Who are your “best fit” clients?
My approach fits with with families who place priority on the value of the parent’s role as the child’s most important guide.
In my clinical work, I found that the children who made the most progress were the ones whose parents made their progress a top priority. With a little focused practice every day, children who were found to have “Severe” communication disorders were ready to be released from my caseload by the middle of the following year. As RDI is a parent-training model, it is important that my clients commit to spending focused time with their children every day. It’s also vital that we openly communicate with one another to ensure that our efforts are always moving in the right direction.
3) What happens if you haven’t yet worked with people with our (my) cultural background or with our child’s (my) specific challenges?
While each family and child is unique, I have worked with clients from around the world with a large range of communication disorders. In fact, I myself have worked in cultures very different from my own and have specialized in inter-cultural communication and communication disorders in diverse and bilingual populations, in addition to leading inter-cultural dialogues.
Additionally, one of the benefits of working with a certified RDI Consultant is that Consultants are part of an incredibly active and supportive international network. This network of consultants consists of trained and experienced speech-language pathologists, occupational therapists, psychologists, ABA therapists, educators, and parents of children with ASD. We regularly seek out and provide each other with support to guide our clients to the best possible outcomes.
Equally important is the community of support provided to parents participating in RDI training. All RDI participants, including the families of children with ASD receiving consultation services, are part of this very active network of support that includes ongoing educational opportunities in addition to the personalized training you receive.
4) How are you different from other speech-language pathologists and other professionals in your approach to the treatment of Autism?
Rather than focusing on finite goals, such as the number of words in my clients’ vocabularies or the average length of their sentences, I am focused on addressing the underlying processes that have led to my clients’ communication breakdowns in the first place. By addressing Dynamic Intelligence, the ability to engage in problem solving and flexible thought, we are addressing your child’s ability to connect with others and to connect ideas. These are the skills that are essential for meaningful social connection and independent thought. We are taking a step back to address the Autism itself, to promote a sense of self and genuine independence.
** Notably, current research is finding that when compared with a more “immediate results” driven approach, RDI achieved similar outcomes in terms of achieving improved language output. However, these results were more sustainable over time.
5) What type of personality do you work best with and what is expected of me?
I work best with people who are good communicators and good collaborators. I work well with people who are passionate in pursuing their goals, especially goals to help someone they care about, and themselves. I enjoy working with people who are process oriented. Because when you connect with the process, you get better results.
6) For what type family/ individual is this program NOT going to work?
Some families are too overwhelmed to make the space in their lives for RDI at this point. Feel free to become a part of the Hear My Words exclusive Facebook Group, to benefit from the supportive community and tips I share. However, if you’re looking for a simple technique that will yield quick, finite results, other approaches might be a better fit for you.
7) What exactly is RDI and what does it include?
RDI is a parent-focused program for Autism that treats the core deficits of Autism. Current research tells us that despite variation in cause and presentation, the common factor across cases of Autism is the breakdown in the parent-to-child guiding relationship, resulting from abnormalities in the child’s development. RDI works to repair this relationship and get it back on track and up to speed by strengthening students’ skills in the following areas:
- “Emotional referencing: The ability to learn from the emotional and subjective experiences of others
- Social coordination: The ability to observe and control behavior to successfully participate in social relationships
- Declarative language: The ability to use language and non-verbal communication to express curiosity, invite interactions, share perceptions and feelings and coordinate with others
- Flexible thinking: The ability to adapt and alter plans as circumstances change
- Relational information processing: The ability to put things into context and solve problems that lack clear cut solutions
- Foresight and hindsight: The ability to anticipate future possibilities based on past experiences”*
8) Does RDI really work?
What evidence exists backing the efficacy of RDI? If a family is found to be a good fit for RDI, and the program is followed faithfully, the parents will master the skills they need to guide their child to achieving their full potential. Please see the “Evidence” page of the website to see a compilation of research.
9) What results can I expect?
- Your child will grow in the ability to solve unique problems creatively and flexibly, with increasing levels of independence.
- Your child's communication skills will improve. Communication initiated by your child will be increasingly meaningful.
- Your child will become more self-aware and able to control his own behavior.
- Your child's "theory of mind" (aka, the ability to appreciate the thoughts and feelings of others) will improve.
- Your child will have an increased sense of self and others, leading to greater self-confidence and improved relationships.
- Your child will be more able to navigate her world independently as she becomes more able to anticipate and plan for potential problems, and respond more appropriately when unexpected problems arise.
10) May I connect with some of your former clients to see what it’s like to work with you?
Of course! I have several families who have agreed to speak with potential clients. Send me an email telling me a little about yourself and your child so I can reach out to the family that would best be able to answer your questions.
11) When can I expect to see results?
Small changes may be noted as early as the final portion of the initial assessment, when I use the analysis of the beginning of the assessment to test hypotheses for our Guiding Relationship Starting Edge. However, to master the concepts and integrate the new skills introduced in the early stages of training, at least 6 months of consultation are recommended.
12) How is the RDI program structured? What will our work together look like?
RDI is structured on the guide-apprentice relationship on many levels. I, as an RDI Consultant-In-Training, am an apprentice to the Originators of RDI, my personal mentors, and the international community of consultants. In turn, I will serve as your guide, as you will guide your child. Initially, and at the first 6 month mark, I will conduct the Relationship Development Assessment the “edge of competence” for you and your child, and then to measure progress toward your long-term goals. For the first 3 months we will meet weekly—either in person or via video chat-- to discuss progress and choose our next activity. In between sessions, you will send me a short video clip to analyze in preparation for the coming session. Around 3 months, as you become more confident in the process we will meet every other week. At six months, you may choose to sign up for another 6 month, or a 12 month package to continue our work together.
13) How long is the program?
A colleague of mine said it best, “We are here to work ourselves out of a job.” I am successful as your guide when are confident in your own ability to guide your child toward his or her full potential. If this is accomplished by the end of your first 6 month package, that's great! If you need more time, I'm here to support you.
14) Do people ever choose to continue after completing the initial program?
When RDI is a good fit for a family, families often choose to continue with RDI until they have achieved mastery. While the amount of training required to reach that point varies based on the family’s dynamics and the child’s needs, this will often take more than the initial 6 month period.
15) Do you accept credit cards? Yes
16) If I’m not sure I’m ready to get started, how can I sample your work to see if it’s the right solution for me?
I welcome you to join the free, exclusive Hear My Words Community on Facebook. This will be a safe place to connect with other families affected by ASD and professionals dedicated to treating ASD; to hear interviews on topics that are important to you; to learn more about RDI; and to get up-to-the-minute information about upcoming workshops!
17) Ok, I’m ready to get started with RDI, but I have a few more questions. How do I arrange a time to speak with you directly?
Click on the CONTACT page to schedule an introductory, “Getting to know you,” call. I look forward to speaking with you soon!
• Obtained from https://www.autismspeaks.org/what-autism/treatment/relationship-development-intervention-rdi on 10/26/17