If you are an RDI consultant or a family doing RDI with your child you know these three words very well. You may even know them as the GPR. Regardless the concept is very important to the methodology of a good Relationship Development Intevention (RDI) program. As a matter of fact it is a very important concept to all of us. Those of us who are parents use it without knowing and our parents used it when we were children. You might even use it at work or someone might use it with you at work. The truth is that the GPR is a Univeral Concept meaning that you can find it in any culture from the most modern to the most primative.
The Guided Participation Relationship can be found in many books on developmental processes and how learning takes place. It pulls together the concept that for learning to take place there needs to be a teacher or a guide and an apprentice or a student. That is not all you need however. The student must trust that the guide will not make things to difficult for him/her. The guide must get feedback from the student so that they know how to adjust their teaching. From there the guide has to be skilled in transferring information to the student so that the student can take ownership of the new skills. It all really sounds complicated and you are correct to think that. The interesting thing is that as complicated as it is; we as humans take it for granted.
To make it easier paint the picture of teaching a child how to walk. If you are a parent or grandparent even you can remember a few things about teaching your children to walk. You did not sit your child in the middle of the room and tell them to walk. Your child did not go from laying flat to walking. There were things that you examined without even knowing it. There were pre-requisite skills your child needed before you would trust them with this task. For you as a parent it was simply a rush of endorphins as you held on tight while the first little step was attempted and sink or swim you were there to assure your little one that they were doing a good job and that they could keep going. From that first tight grasp you watched like a hawk and what you were really doing was waiting for that feedback to know how to adjust your support until one day you were letting go of that last little finger and your child took over the skill and ability to walk as you cheered them on.
If it is possible for something to be simple and complex at the same time this process known as Guided Participation is just that. Now moving into the field of Autism Spectrum Disorders and being a parent you know all too well that at some point along the way this system broke down between you and your child. You have lost the process of learning that you once controlled with your child and it is devistating your family. This is not the answer to curing autism but it is the key for true learning to take place.
I could go on about the breakdown that occurs for a family when the Guided Participation Relationship is not in place for a child and their parents but I think many of you have already experienced that. The important thing is that it can be re-established. It takes time and hard work but this downward spiraling path can be averted and moved to first a steady forward path and soon an incline. I know this subject can be very difficult for many families so I will leave it at that. In our next posts we will discuss guiding moments and apprenticeship moments and reflect on personal experiences that will help this make more sense.