What is the Family Consultation Program?
The RDI® Family Consultation Program (FCP) was designed to help families restore the natural Guiding Relationship (GPR) when it has been disrupted or has failed to develop. Parents work with Lisa to harness the immense potential residing within each family. The goal is to provide parents with tools and the knowledge of how best to use these tools to function as a ‘guide’ and facilitate their child’s mental growth. The program has provided a second chance for thousands of families worldwide to resume the critical functions that are the universal basis of family life and their children’s success in the 21st century world.

Lisa’s program mission can be condensed into two statements:

  1. Teaching parents to guide their children in a manner that builds the child’s competent enactment of their role as mentally active dynamic learning Apprentices.
  2. Teaching parents to guide their children in a manner that builds the Students’ essential motivation, responsibility and neural foundations for Dynamic Intelligence.
What is the problem? Why is this program necessary?
Most of us are fortunate to have grown up and raised our children in circumstances where things largely go as they should. We may think that parenting is difficult, but in reality we take our good fortune for granted.

If we were fortunate, we could remain blissfully unaware of this behind-the-scenes brain and mind building process we call the Guiding Relationship. That is, if nothing went wrong. But what if it did? What if a child was born with neural vulnerabilities so great that they disrupted the natural guiding process?

The most talented guides cannot succeed when they are unable to obtain reliable feedback from the child to determine the edge of their child’s competence. Without this feedback, guides can no longer safely present productive challenges causing the guiding process to quickly break down or never develop in the first place. Some children, such as those with Autism Spectrum Disorders, are born with such significant neurological problems that even the most capable parent is unable to function as a guide. Until our program was initiated in 2001 an initial failure to form a Guiding Relationship meant that opportunities for children’s dynamic mental and neural development were irrevocably lost. There were no courses in guiding. There were no books or manuals.

What is the value of the guiding relationship?
Children who learn to actively engage with the support of their parents in safe but challenging learning opportunities–problems and situations that are just beyond their level of competence–develop a strong motivation to explore and expand their world, as well as develop competence and trust in themselves and their guides.

By the end of the first year of life, infants who have experienced success in the Guiding Relationship respond to the experience of uncertainty by entering a state of mind scientists refer to as “studying.” When children are in a state of studying, their heart rate slows, their movement decreases and their attention clarifies. Once they decide to engage with new situations, children’s brains release powerful and highly pleasurable neuro-chemicals that sustain their engagement. Their brains also begin exploring new neural connections, determining which best provide the new integration needed to solve the problem.

What happens if the GPR does not develop?
Children who do not receive the benefits of a functional Guiding Relationship go through life perceiving their world as pervasively threatening. Their innate drive for curiosity and understanding is buried and they perceive themselves as incompetent and fragile. New problems and settings are experienced as too difficult, and new information as too discrepant. Their strategy is to pervasively avoid and withdraw from problems and situations they perceive as new or different, as well as those persons associated with them.

Without the Guiding Relationship, the child’s brain fails to develop in a neurally integrated manner. Children’s minds fail to develop critical abilities needed to understand change, to perceive the world from different perspectives, and to perceive shades of “grey” rather than viewing problems as either “black or white.” The child grows up unable to speculate, wonder, or improvise. When problems do not work out as planned they have no way to adapt and then do not develop feelings of competence. The parents lose their sense of empowerment.

How do you measure success?
The Family Consultation Program assumes that relationships (consultant-parent relationship, the supportive partnership of parents and the student “apprentice,”) are the primary vehicles for progress and eventual success.

The program is considered successful once the Guiding Relationship between parents and the vulnerable child becomes solidly established and provides a learning environment for the child’s development of Dynamic Intelligence. Success is also determined by the students’ ability to transfer their apprentice role to other safe, consistent adult guides.

In the final analysis, success cannot be measured by checking mastered objectives off a list. Rather, it must be based on the ability of the family to construct and maintain an environment for the vulnerable child that provides lifelong opportunities for mental growth and that eventually leads to the child’s self-management and personal ownership of development.

Who participates in the Family Consultation Program?
Program participants include parents and concerned family members, along with a vulnerable “student” of any age. Children may have been born with or acquire neurologically based vulnerabilities that obstruct the development of the natural Guiding Relationship. Parents often enter the program possessing very good parenting abilities. Frequently, they successfully guide or have guided the vulnerable child’s siblings. However, when deprived of active participation and accurate feedback, even the most masterful guides cannot be successful. Here are some examples of conditions and modern stresses that can lead to a disruption in the guiding relationship:

  • Families who face neurological challenges including Autism Spectrum Disorder, Reactive Attachment Disorder, ADHD, Tourette Syndrome, etc
  • A divorce or fallout that leads to disruption in children’s lives. Sometimes this can even lead to separation or relocation. These are times when it is difficult to sustain a relationship.
  • A traumatic adoption or foster care process, a separation or geographic distancing can also contribute to a disruption of the GPR.
How is the program structured?
The Family Consultation Program is centered around seven core goals:

  1. Beginnings
  2. Student Assessment, Planning & Obstacle Management
  3. Personal Assessment, Planning & Support
  4. Set the stage for Guiding
  5. Guiding Methods
  6. Knowledge Management
  7. Applied Guiding

Under each goal is a series of objectives that you will master by working on assignments.

The Family Consultation Program provides parents with the basic tools needed to guide. Lisa breaks down each step for parents, creating an exact picture of their specific role. Once this information is digested, parents focus on how to modify the family communication environment to reinforce thoughtful, respectful communication in two parts. The first focuses on the guide helping the child gradually become a responsible co-collaborator. The second teaches guides to observe and analyze themselves, their apprentice and the state of the guided participation process, as well as learning when and how to insert new cognitive challenges into activities.

Do I have to work with a consultant?
The FCP relies on the use of a third-party consultant who works as a competent guide to the parents as they learn to be good guides themselves. Lisa brings a level of expertise into the assessment process that the parents would not be able to replicate. The third party perspective that Lisa  provides is crucial, especially in the area of assessing obstacles that the parents face. There is more opportunity for parents to work independently as they progress out of the FCP and into the Dynamic Intelligence Phase.
What is the RDI Learning Community?
Parents participate in the RDI Learning Community, a tool set for designing personalized learner-centered experiences. Parents can learn through a variety of methods including online courses (e-learning), webinars, forums, blogs as well as other resources that can be accessed while working directly with their own consultant. The community provides a highly effective means for parents to participate in peer community networks and ties families with common needs together.
How long does a family participate in the program?
The Family Consultation Program has no defined program length. The program is designed to accommodate parents and children with a wide range of obstacles and handicapping conditions. Therefore participation may range anywhere from months to years.