• Kristine Mastronardi

My Message To Parents: Challenging But Worth It

Watchung Reservation

Jake came home the other day visibly upset after a friendly hike with friends went wrong. Apparently Jake and his friends got lost and they spent hours trying to get back on the right path. Jake was okay with it and they did eventually find their way but his friend, understandably, panicked and got very angry, cursing and carrying on and hasn’t talked to Jake since the incident.

Of course, Jake feels terrible and doesn’t want to lose the friendship even though his friend is difficult to deal with sometimes. As Jake’s ability to reflect on his own experiences and actions has increased he is also increasingly noticing his friend's difficulty in handling dynamic situations as well as regulating his behavior, in some instances.

Jake is a good friend and he will continue to reach out to Steve (not his real name) to make the repair to this friendship. The experience has led Jake to the realization of how important it is for parents of kids with autism to have the opportunity to learn the tools he has learned, so they can guide their child as early in life as possible.

Jake knows the value of friendship, he knows how to make a repair when something goes wrong. Jake has worked on managing his anger and has strategies to deal with issues as they come up. Yes, he even knows he is not perfect and that’s okay.

Jake has a big heart and he wants to help Steve as well. He told me Steve has narrow interests and often says “______ does not interest me.” I suggested Jake spotlight a fun moment for Steve, as they share one, to help Steve encode the memory of the good time. Of course, that doesn’t take the place of years of shared experience with a trusted guide but it can’t hurt.

I was struck by Jake’s insight into the importance of the guiding relationship for kids with autism and his strong desire to share what he learned to help others. Jake has heard the grim statistics on "quality of life" for those with autism and he wants to educate parents so they can make informed decisions on their child’s treatment. He has lived with autism firsthand and knows how the RDI program has helped him and he wants others to learn about RDI so they can help the ones they love.

Thank you Jake for your insight and courage to spread RDI awareness. You are forever my hero. ❤️

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