Monday, September 25, 2006

spirituality and RDI

I just returned a few days ago from a four day conference in Houston. It was on Relationship Development Intervention (RDI), an approach for helping remediate the effects of autism. Within the RDI model, there is a big emphasis on repairing something called the "intersubjective relationship" (IR) between the autistic child and their parents.

In essence, the IR is a relationship wherein the parent and child share subjective states with each other -- common points of reference, ways of understanding, etc. This state is fairly natural for typically developing children, but often breaks down with autistic children because the children don't provide the normal social feedback to parents.

Anyway, within RDI, there's this big emphasis on re-establishing the IR, and on creating a "Master-Apprentice" relationship with the child, where the child is willing to give up behaviors they use to stay in control -- in order to be an apprentice to the parents so they can learn mastery of some area.

So all of this got me thinking about spirituality, about what it means to have an authentic relationship with the divine. It is difficult, it seems to me, to sustain an "intersubjective relationship" with a being beyond all comprehension. For one thing, I don't think this kind of relationship can be established simply by reading the Bible. It requires something more experiential than that. The demands, then, become ones of real listening, of quiet contemplation, of seeking guidance. Trying to catch those moments of connection, of inspiration, that cause us to grow in love, compassion, and understanding.

I also began thinking about the importance of giving up the notion that we have all the answers (a sort of false competence) -- so that we can assume an "apprentice" role, a learning role. There's a certain humility that becomes involved, it seems to me. But in assuming an apprentice role, we gain the capacity to learn, to grow, to love more authentically and deeply.

I'd love to hear any thoughts.


Becky Papp said...

I have found that pretending (or really believing) I have all the answers is just a way to put up a wall--a wall between me and God, me and other people, me and my own spirituality. Recently, an old friend accused me of being a cynic. I took it as a compliment. And then I thought, wow-when did that happen?? Have I always been a cynic? Am I REALLY a cynic-believing only the worst about people and the world? I hope not. But I am keeping it in my mind in the hope I will discover what prompted my friend to say that....and what prompted me to so readily agree. I am striving to rediscover the apprentice state you talk about. Thanks for the great blog entry.

steve westby said...


It's interesting to me that people have called you a cynic. I have never experienced you as hardened in that kind of way.

As we grow, I think our eyes become opened to much that is dark, whether that is in the world around us or in our own motives. To fail to do so is to keep blinders on, to ignore certain aspects of reality.

Yet recognizing what is dark does not make a cynic. What makes a cynic is another, dangerous step -- of assuming that everything (or almost everything) is dark. It is putting on a different set of blinders, if you will.

From what I have seen, you seem to be holding on to a sense of goodness and decency. You recognize it in your friends, your child, your colleagues. I even recall times when you pointed it out in me.