I’m Sharon, a parent to three children (now adults). My eldest has a diagnosis of autism, speech and language disorder and learning disorder. It was through my trying to help my daughter that I found Relationship Development Intervention (RDI), a US based programme, back in 2004. The changes in my daughter’s ability to communicate and her motivation to interact with us, her family, in such a short space of time after implementing RDI spurred me on to begin to train as an RDI Consultant in early 2005, so that I could help other families within the UK. The positive impact on both the child/young person/adult independence, motivation to interact and communicate, flexibility, understanding of social reciprocity and resilience have led to the improved quality of life for both the autistic individual and the family as a whole. It is these changes that continue to drive me to want to help families make a difference.
A few years ago, I also trained in Paediatric Autism Communication Therapy (PACT) which is a UK based research programme. I have had the pleasure of seeing young non-verbal or pre-verbal children, who were often frustrated as they found it difficult to interact, start to bond, communicate verbally and/or non-verbally and initiate shared attention.
I have worked closely with Zoe Thompson of Bright Futures School in Oldham to train her staff to use RDI and more recently PACT within the school setting. However, for the students to gain the full benefit we knew that their parents needed to be trained in how to implement either RDI or PACT within their homes too. We spent many years fighting for local authorities in Manchester to fund these programmes and in 2020 that fight paid off for one case study family. In 2021 a further 7 home and school programmes were funded. Zoe and I have an underpinning aim to continue to work together to keep the number of funded home RDI/PACT programmes growing across LA’s.
I spent many years with the founder of RDI, Dr Gutstein, developing and testing his more advanced curriculum focused on helping children/young people/adults on the autistic spectrum to build ‘Dynamic Intelligence’. Dynamic Intelligence is the ability to recognise how a situation or scenario impacts you emotionally, as an individual, and make choices according to the outcome or goal that you want to happen.
In the more recent years, I have taken on supervising RDI Consultants in training for RDIConnect which has been great for helping me to consolidate and expand my own RDI knowledge further.
On a personal note, my daughter went from being totally dependent, only communicating to get her needs met, lacking in social motivation to a young lady who has friends, her own home, a husband, achieved an apprenticeship resulting in an office job where she is appreciated and continues to be trained in different areas, and has dreams of her own to fulfil. We have RDI to thank for her growth.
I have co-authored the book ‘Women Who Will Not Settle’ which will be released 26 January 2022. My chapter is ‘Autism – A Story of Empowerment’ which depicts my family’s journey.