A decreased reliance on episodic memory is one of the core deficits of autism, as defined by Steven Gutstein of RDI. Episodic memory refers to autobiographical memory, or more colloquially, personal memory. Kids on the autism spectrum have a natural tendency to use more semantic memory skills–lists of facts, names, terms–the opposite of dynamic thinking which requires more complex reasoning and reliance on personal experience. Encouraging use of Ben’s episodic memory is one of our ongoing efforts through RDI. A really sweet example happened the other day, especially because it was spontaneous and organic and developmental and ALL Ben. I can’t describe the feeling of seeing cognitive development unfold so simply and on it’s own, once it’s been righted and set on the right course. Here’s the story:
We had been looking at the globe, naming countries and continents, talking about who lived where, when I wondered aloud (a technique I use in place of asking questions to encourage more dynamic thinking versus spouting out memorized facts) where Santa Claus lived. Without missing a beat, Ben exclaimed “Home Depot!” which is where we happened to end up visiting with the man in red and his elves last year. To this, I laughed, and shortly after reading my face, Ben joined me in giggling and said, “no, the North Pole–right here.” What is so important about this exchange isn’t the “mistake” or the correction or even the exchange between us, but what happened “behind the scenes”, so to speak. When presented with a quandary, Ben’s first and immediate reaction was to reach for the personal memory of our visit with Santa, not the memorized “facts” of the story of Santa Claus!
It’s beautiful, I tell you. Truly beautiful.
Thank you, RDI.