The Powerful Effect of Respectful Parenting for Children With Special Needs (Case Studies from Sandra Hallman)

I’m often asked by parents of children with special needs whether respectful care practices, which are based on trust in our children as competent whole people at birth, can possibly work for them. And if so, how?

Based on the feedback I have received from parents and professionals in the field, the answer is a resounding “yes!” But since my own work with families has not included many of these children, I don’t have experiences and details to share firsthand.

Enter Sandra Hallman, a child development specialist and early intervention therapist who recently contacted me by email.

Hi Janet,

I have been following your blog for a few years now and have to say thank you for all the wisdom and raw honesty that you share with your audience.  I have learned so much!  I often tell my colleagues and clients that I have learned more from your blog and Magda Gerber‘s RIE approach than I did during the seven years I spent studying child development.

I have worked with infants and toddlers (and some pre-school and school-age children) with special needs and their families for about 15 years.  I have been blessed to work with some amazing people in my field and am so grateful that one of my colleagues told me about your website.  I have been reading, learning, and implementing the information from your blog articles, and I have to say that my work with families and children has become infinitely more effective, yet at the same time way more simple. It almost feels wrong, though I know it’s not.

In the world of Early Intervention and those working with children with special needs, there tends to be a “do, do, do” mentality instead of “watch, wait, and wonder.”  I think that we, as therapists, often don’t feel like we are being effective unless we have our hands on the child “facilitating” some sort of position, skill, or activity, or are giving out commands for them to follow.  I remember a saying from one of my professors in grad school: Don’t just do something, stand there.”

That made sense to me, but I didn’t know how to just stand there (i.e. just be with and support a child and his caregivers) until I learned the RIE approach from you.  And the progress that I see in children and their parents is like nothing I had observed before!  It’s incredible, and it always works when the parents follow through.  Of course, it’s a process, but the parents who seem to “get it” and implement a little more readily than others, consistently see greater progress in their child’s development or resolution of prior issues (i.e. sleep).

I have a desire to create an Early Intervention alternative for families, an approach where therapists are trained in the RIE philosophy and blend their expertise and training in whatever area they specialize in with the best practices in Educaring. I just don’t even know where to begin and wondered if you have had any similar conversations with anyone, or if any thoughts come to mind.  If nothing else, I’d just love to connect with like-minded people who can inspire me and fuel my dreams to ultimately help more children and families learn the incredible principles of RIE.

I’d love to know your thoughts on my thoughts…

Thank you for your time!

Sandra Hallman, MS, CEIM

Naturally, I jumped at the chance to have Sandra share some of her specific experiences in detail, and she graciously agreed.

Here are a few examples of my observations on how educating parents in the RIE philosophy and implementing this approach during therapy sessions has elicited positive outcomes related to the parent-child relationship, overall development, and behavior.

Possible Autism and Severe Behavior Concerns

Ethan was a 2-year-old boy who had been receiving speech therapy, developmental therapy, occupational therapy, and social work supports for a few months prior to my meeting the family. He was also referred to a developmental pediatrician for concerns about Autism.  Ethan’s mother was desperate for help with his frequent, intense, and very long tantrum behaviors, which had not improved at all after about six months of therapy.  She shared that they couldn’t go out to eat at restaurants or even to the store because his behavior was so difficult to handle.

Some of our sessions revolved around mealtimes and store outings.  During these challenging routines, Ethan’s parents were provided with supports to slow down, observe, acknowledge, and co-regulate (i.e. allow emotions to be fully experienced, expressed, and released without judgment). When Ethan lost control, the parents remained calm, accepting and supportive. This, in turn, provided Ethan with an increased sense of safety and trust in his parents, which I presume decreased his levels of stress and dysregulation, opening him up to being more available to learn and engage with his world.

Ethan’s mother read several of Janet’s articles and quickly became well versed in implementing RIE-inspired parenting.  Within a few weeks, Ethan presented as a very different child and was beginning to engage in more purposeful and symbolic play, use speech to communicate, show enjoyment during social interactions, and separate in familiar environments from his mother more easily. His body awareness and motor planning also appeared to increase, and his sleep became more regulated.  More specifically, Ethan was able to participate in meal times without tantrum behaviors (which previously happened at almost every meal, per mother) after he was allowed to work through a very long tantrum at mealtime during one of our sessions.

Janet often talks about the healing power of a toddler’s tantrum in her blog, and I truly believe this to be true.  After parents and I support a child through a very intense tantrum, it’s almost like a switch gets flipped and their nervous system is re-set, which equals a well-organized, engaged child who shows profoundly increased social and play skills.  In the past, prior to my knowledge of RIE, I considered a session without a tantrum a success. Now, as difficult as it is for everyone to get through, I consider a session where a child is allowed to fully feel and express themselves during a tantrum (which has occasionally taken up almost an entire session) a huge success!  Especially when the parents can be supported through it and see for themselves what it looks like on the other side of the tantrum.  More often than not, the child wants to cuddle with/stay close to their parent for a while and demonstrates affection that is rarely observed.

One last anecdote about Ethan…when the developmental pediatrician saw him (which was a few weeks after his mother started implementing RIE-inspired parenting techniques), he asked Ethan’s mom, “What are you doing here?”  He wondered why she had brought him in with the initial concerns of possible Autism, because he certainly didn’t present this way any longer.

A Child with Down Syndrome “Who Didn’t Know How To Play”

If you have had any experience with children who have Down Syndrome, one of the things you likely observed frequently is throwing…everything. In one of the centers I worked there was a huge emphasis on hand-over-hand to “teach” children how to play “appropriately” with toys.

Emily was a child who had been participating in the group program for several months where this strategy was widely used and taught.  When I started seeing Emily for individual developmental therapy and talked with her mother about her strengths and what she enjoyed doing, her mother adamantly stated, “She “doesn’t play with anything. She just throws everything!”

What a shock it was for both her mother and me in our first session when this two year old little girl purposefully initiated play with a shape sorter and completed it independently with occasional “sportscasting” (what I consider co-regulating). It just took a little bit of encouragement and prompting from me to help Emily’s mother take a step back and allow her daughter to initiate and engage in play that until this moment she thought was impossible.  This continued to happen every single time we met, where Emily would surprise her mother with all kinds of play skills that she never knew Emily possessed.  And all this happened not because of some magic therapeutic intervention or hand-over-hand assistance, but because we just “stood” there and trusted Emily’s developmental process after providing her with the opportunity to explore.  After watching, waiting, and wondering, we joined Emily’s play and added other ideas, all of which she was able to imitate, expanding her play even more.

I think one of the most difficult things for us to do as therapists (and adults in general) is to slow down and allow the child to lead the way, showing us where they’re at, what they’re interested in, and then, if the opportunity presents itself, joining them in a playful interaction that shows them we are attuned to them and value their ideas.  I’ve learned that when children feel that we “get” them and have confidence in them, they are much more likely to respond with joint attention and play, reciprocal interactions, and imitation/demonstration of higher-level skills that are likely buried under a lot of stress, overstimulation, and insecurity.

The Mystery of Sleep and Hyperactivity

This brief experience still baffles me sometimes when I think about how simple the answer was to the sleep and hyperactivity issues that were going on.  I was seeing a toddler for therapy, and one day her mother shared concerns about her other child, three year old Jenny, who had difficulty transitioning to sleep and frequent night wakings, as well as her very high, disorganized activity level.  The mom shared suggestions that her pediatrician had offered (i.e. no TV during the day, changes in diet), but she didn’t feel these were issues or the cause of her daughter’s dysregulated sleep and hyperactivity.

After our first one-hour session, it was very apparent to me that Jenny was stressed out by the authoritarian parenting style her mother had demonstrated during our time together, and in my opinion, this was likely contributing to her many areas of dysregulation.  After giving Jenny’s mother my solicited opinion and information about RIE, two weeks later I was shocked by how well-regulated Jenny was and how different her mother interacted with and parented her.  And, her mother happily reported, Jenny’s sleep was significantly better. Wow!  I almost didn’t believe it.  This dramatic change definitely confirmed for me the power of the parent-child relationship and that it can be either a source of stress or a source of support for a child. To be sure I could believe what happened in just two weeks, I asked Jenny’s mother if she did anything else differently to address the sleep, and her answer was “no.”

Ex-Preemie with Sensory Integration Dysfunction or Lack of Limits and Emotional Regulation?

Noah was born extremely premature and showed many of the typical ex-preemie challenges around sensory processing.  I started seeing him when he was about 2.5 years old, and at that time, I was fascinated by sensory processing and all the “tools” that could be used to help support integration for a well-regulated nervous system.  Noah presented as what some refer to as a “sensory mess,” as he had limited attention, decreased body awareness, difficulty motor planning, high levels of sensory-seeking behaviors (i.e. climbing, jumping, throwing), as well as sensory-avoiding behaviors/sensitivity (i.e. gagging, tactile defensiveness).

I initially approached all of these challenges strictly from a sensory perspective and implemented many of the calming/organizing activities that Noah’s OT recommended. They occasionally worked for short periods of time during my once-a-week, 60-minute sessions.  Even the most helpful sensory tool (compression garment), which appeared to be a miracle the first time we tried it, only lasted a couple of weeks and then seemed to have no organizing effect for Noah.  His occupational therapist and I spoke multiple times and collaborated extensively to share things that did and didn’t work, but ultimately, neither of us felt like we were providing Noah’s parents with any effective long-term strategies.

The challenges that were presented during my work with this child and family were what helped me shift my focus and look for other possible resources. I was completely out of ideas.  So I took what I had just started learning about RIE and implemented it into my work, and voila!  I’m certainly not saying it was perfect or that the child’s development miraculously advanced to age-appropriate; however, the results that we were seeing in our sessions warranted a call from the occupational therapist. ”Ethan’s parents said he is doing so much better in your sessions.  What are you doing?”  I sheepishly replied, “I’m setting limits and acknowledging his emotions.”

That was just the beginning…the hardest part was helping the parents learn to set limits and acknowledge emotions as well. For many parents of ex-preemies (or any child who spent time in the NICU) this is incredibly hard to do because any negative emotion that is exhibited by their child often triggers the trauma they experienced, and all they want to do is make it stop. To most effectively help these children and their families, I believe parents should be provided with trauma-focused therapy with a mental health practitioner before ever starting therapy services for their child. I believe the “therapeutic” affect this can have on the child is more powerful in the long-term because it supports the very relationship that will have the biggest impact on the child’s development.

Even though I’m still learning and often fumbling my way through this work, I’ve found it to be so much more effective and rewarding since learning about RIE and sharing this parenting philosophy with families.  I’m so grateful for Janet and all the other RIE-inspired resources that have helped me better understand development, how to support it, and that respectful parenting is what every child thrives on, special needs or not!

Sandra Hallman, MS CEIM has been working with infants, toddlers, and pre-schoolers with special needs and their caregivers since 2000.  She has provided families with service coordination in Early Intervention and developmental therapy in a variety of settings, including home, school/day care, community environments, and hospital.  Sandra also has a private practice providing families outside of Early Intervention with supports around challenges they experience in parenting.  She is NDT (Neuro-Development Treatment and NIDCAP (Newborn Individualized Developmental Care and Assessment Program trained.   Her areas of specialty include prematurity, attachment, behavior, and routines-based intervention. 

Contact: / 773-653-4889


(Photo by Maria Grazia Montegnari on Flickr)


Please share your comments and questions. I read them all and respond to as many as time will allow.

  1. This is fantastic! The principles described here (and in all of Janet’s work) are things I have found work extremely well with the disabled people I have worked with over the years, regardless of age. Setting limits, allowing emotional expression, supporting only when actually necessary… these things give the child (or young adult) a feeling of safety, build trust, and let them choose for themselves when to try something new or try to do something on their own that previously they have needed help with. This also allows them to feel safe asking for help if they are having a day when previously demonstrated skills are on the fritz.

    One anecdote:

    A preschooler I was working with at preschool and at home had a global developmental delay and a diagnosis of autism (later, once he was in school, ADHD and LD-NOS were added). One morning at school, he became very upset about something and began to cry and scream. I removed him from the situation at the request of the lead teacher and carried him into the hall, telling him we were going to go somewhere quiet to calm down. Once we were alone, I let him do his thing, speaking words of reassurance as necessary. Once he was over the worst of it, we were able to have a proper conversation about what had upset him and come up with a plan for what to do if it happened again.

    1. Janna,
      Your comment and anecdote reminded me about the importance of children feeling heard and validated! Sounds like the child felt heard and was able to hear you, too, after he knew it was safe expressing his emotions with you. These moments have a colossal impact on children, sometimes more than we think. 🙂

  2. Thank you for sharing this Janet. It is so sad how strict and intrusive most early intervention programs are. I hope more OTs and child therapists can see this light!

  3. Thanks you so much Janet, for posting this, and Sandra for your information!
    As a mother of two my life became way easier after indulging in your RIE blogs and implementing RIE educaring on my youngest (then 2 years old, now 3,5). It was amazing how it changed our way of being with each other and how strong our bond is now. So thanks for your work Janet!
    But the nasty thing was my guilt towards my eldest daughter (then 8, now 9,5). We just found out she has ASD, Aspergers, and RIE, in some cases, is just not the way to go: in cases when she has a sensory overload, don’t touch, don’t talk more than 3 words, stand the screaming and don’t leave, but do act because the overload sometimes doesn’t ease until she falls asleep and needs to recover for a week… so intervention is needed, but there’s no room for talk or touch or any other thing that feels so natural with my youngest.
    But due to RIE my eldest and I talked about these episodes on occasions they didn’t occur, and we made some agreements:
    When she is so happy she’s likely to explode (quite literally) I may order her to go on the trampoline and jump for at least 15 minutes (things like ’till it’s over’ are not specific enough, but 15 minutes usually does the trick, sometimes I add 5 or ten more if I notice it’s not over after 15). I’m very dictator-like at those events: you – trampoline- jump – now, 15 min. Is the only thing ‘ll repeat until she goes. I don’t like to do it, but it works. And it’s less and less necessary!
    In case of extreme also exploding anger I have the permission to hold her so she can fight it out. I won’t let go (thank heavens she’s not that strong!) until she gives me a special sign (which is still difficult for she’s not abel to speak at those occasions so she nods, but she rocks her head all over the place so sometimes I don’t recognize the nod, hold her to long and increase the upset, cause she won’t stop fighting when it’s enough…)
    When her mind it to full to function (do everything to go to bed f.e.) I dictator-like order her to write a list. She’ll do anything to not write that list, so I really have to make her put her mind in an order (most of the time I write). Making the list she’ll tell me everything that loops in her head and we write it down, ordering, making categories or sometimes a long long list. From the list some times a plan of action arises, sometimes it’s just writing the list that calms her. In the last case she needs me to make the list disappear.
    When the overloads mentioned above are there but not jet explosive I order her to go and watch cartoons. Me a mother who wants to raise her children whit very little tv and sugar… two things this girl needs to function… (watching cartoons she knows somehow distracts her senses so she can organize her mind herself).
    But doing all these things in consent with her (beforehand and after it was needed) makes our bond more loving. For me it’s clear I give her an as RIE as possible approach. Or maybe it is RIE, shaped to her special needs…

    With love,


    1. Thank you for sharing this, Karin. So often I feel alone reading these blogs because I feel like we can do everything right but that nothing works when our child loses control of herself. She is 6.5 years old and has severe ADHD, SPD, a pragmatic language delay, and high-functioning Autism is on the watch-list. When her brain is fully connected (she’s well-regulated), RIE works about as well as you would expect with a kid who isn’t very intuitive but wants to do well. We’ve had lots of good talks, though sometimes I’m not sure they lead to a change in her ability to control her behavior or feelings. (Time, give it time, I keep telling myself.)

      When she’s struggling and heading towards a meltdown, sometimes we can avoid a full meltdown with forced sensory stuff, but once she hits the fight-or-flight mode, it’s just survival and protecting her and everyone else from her. However, RIE has helped us be able to talk to her about these times afterwards and seems to be helping space out the meltdowns (maybe?). We’ve been working towards RIE our whole parenting journey but only just discovered the official system this past year. I love it and I wish it worked 100% of the time but I tend to see meltdowns as kind of emergency situations since our daughter does become a danger to herself and others during those times.

      I like your idea of getting her permission while she’s well-regulated to hold her, move her to a safe place, etc. during meltdowns. That makes total sense to me but I hadn’t thought to discuss it with her. It’s so hard to respectfully parent a child during a time when they’re violent and out of control but I know it must be possible and your comment gave me a bit more hope. 🙂

  4. Hi Karin,
    Thanks so much for sharing your story and a snippet of what life is like for you and your family, especially the specific examples of your experiences with your daughter. It sounds like you have a lot on your plate, but that you’ve also done some thoughtful problem solving and implemented some of the RIE-style parenting techniques. Parenting in general can be incredibly challenging, but the added layer of complexities that come with having a child with special needs can make it even more stressful. Karin, I am so glad to hear you talk about some of the positive experiences that you’ve been able to enjoy (i.e. stronger bonding with your son and progress with your daughter-which I suspect in some ways also includes bonding), because it’s so easy to get stuck in the guilt and stress. Something that stood out for me that you did with your daughter was engage her in conversation and participation of coming up with/problem solving ways to support her when she becomes over-whelmed and dysregulated. And it’s wonderful that you following through consistently in her times of need. That’s respectful parenting!! 🙂

    Part of my process as a therapist has been learning how to not just provide children with supports during meltdowns/behavioral and emotional dysregulation, but to also slow down and think about what precipitated or triggered the event and acknowledge that for the child, as well as think about what I could do differently in the future if appropriate. What can be frustrating, is sometimes I have NO IDEA. :/ But, the more I practice this, the more I am able to recognize some of the triggers and help parents do the same, so that they can register these subtle signs earlier and make parenting decisions that they know are best for the child before they cross that threshold. I think one of the most powerful and organizing things for children of any age, is when they know that they have leaders who are tuned in consistently, and not just reactive, but proactive (which is super difficult with all of life’s distractions). Karin, from what you’ve shared, it sounds like you’re engaging in this process, and I am confident that you will continue to find success with these respectful parenting ideas.
    Something I had to write in my internship notebook and I continue to remind myself of, is that all of this is a PROCESS…the fact that you’re engaging in the process is an incredible gift for your family, as they see the love, care, and respect you put into parenting!! 🙂 Way to go!!

  5. “For many parents of ex-preemies (or any child who spent time in the NICU) this is incredibly hard to do because any negative emotion that is exhibited by their child often triggers the trauma they experienced, and all they want to do is make it stop.”

    This could not be any more true for me. Thank you, Sandra, for your insight and important work and to Janet for sharing her words with us. My former preemie is now approaching two and regrettably I did not find RIE until recently. Before that, every cry, negative emotion, problem, frustration, etc cut straight to my heart and I felt the need to make it stop. As you can imagine, that led to making many consequential mistakes and for a miserable child and mama. Since adopting RIE into our lives of course I now am trying to accept all feelings, set clear boundaries, trust, and unconditionally love my child as well as myself, however, I still seem to be getting stuck on a few things.

    For example, my son is a thumb sucker (which does not bother me) for comfort, when feeling anxious, etc. But the thumb sucking (which is prolific) is almost always accompanied by pinching his neck (rather hard; his neck is constantly bruised and has small cuts from his nails). I’ve tried accepting this behavior but it just seems so odd to me (and others… It’s often commented on by those who witness it). Do you think ignoring and accepting it is indeed the right thing to do? If so, any additional advice on how to do that? I feel like I “caused” this habit because of our difficult first 1.5 years so I know overcoming my guilt about it is the first step.

    1. Cara,
      Sorry for the delay in responding to your thoughtful comment! I’m so glad you shared your perspective and experience with us as a parent of a child who spent time in the NICU (I’m assuming based on your comments). You are not alone in your feelings of guilt, as EVERY parent I work with experiences these, especially with the trauma you’ve been through. But, I’m glad to hear you recognize that moving past the guilt is important and often times the first step in making progress in many other areas. I know it’s easier said than done. I am the worst when it comes to moving on from my guilt. I always try to remember what one of my counselors said…”Guilt has a shelf life. If you let it sit too long, it will spoil you.” When we are spoiled we become less effective in our role as caregivers and leaders for the children in our care. Remember that when we take care of ourselves, we are indirectly taking care of our children. Again, easier said than done, but try to find a way to help process and release the burdens of guilt and trauma from the past…perhaps talking with a counselor/friend/significant other, journaling, prayer, quiet time, etc.

      In regard to the anxiety and related behaviors that your son exhibits…you talked about ignoring and accepting it. I think we often assume that by ignoring it we are accepting it, but I wonder how that “message” might be received by the child. I also wonder if you’ve ever verbalized the emotion that you think your son is feeling when he demonstrates the thumb sucking and neck pinching/scratching and helping him through it without letting him hurt himself. Sometimes when we identify and verbalize what we think the child is feeling, they are able to release the emotion along with the maladaptive communicative behavior (i.e. pinching), because they know we “get it”, and our calm and validating response allows them to be okay with the feeling, which is likely causing the less than ideal response. When the emotion becomes less powerful, and they can self-regulate better through our co-regulation (i.e. acknowledgement and verbalization) they have less need to express it with their bodies.

      One other thought is that sometimes children’s traumatic experiences in the NICU (yes, they subconsciously remember them, as does their body), with all the painful procedures that are often necessary, become re-activated during current stressful/anxiety-producing experiences, and they engage in these types of self-injurious behaviors (this is actually something I see quite often with NICU grads). If you find that your son continues to struggle with anxiety as he gets older, this is something to keep in mind and potentially think about addressing with a child psychologist at some point. I have a colleague who worked with a child that engaged in very serious self-injurious behaviors due to anxiety that resulted from an event in-utero (cord wrapped around his neck), and once she was able to finally make the connection and address this through play-based therapeutic intervention, the child’s behaviors ceased. Pretty powerful stuff!
      Cara, please feel free to reach out to me to discuss by phone if you still have questions. 773-653-4889. Sandra

  6. Aunt Betty says:

    I was a premier 54 years ago. My twin sister and I grew up” in the special education system. The emphasis was on “what was wrong with us” & what our parents should/could do to “make us normal”. This was so stressful for all of us.

    Raising a child with special needs is a more “public affair”. The. Rocess can make all of us5 parties involved feel like failures.

    I choose early childhood education as my life’s work because of these experiences. As a result I feel qualified to help parents sort out what help is needed for their child. It is so gratifying to see the family blossom as a result of my collaborative efforts.

    1. Aunt Betty,
      I want to give you a hug!! 🙂 I think some of the best early childhood educators are those who have experienced the challenges with the “systems” personally. I am grateful that you’ve channeled your energy and negative experiences into a positive place of helping others. I’m sure the families you work with feel a strong connection with you, which sometimes has the biggest impact of any supports we provide!

  7. Erika Cedillo says:

    Janet and Sandra,
    Thank you so much for this post!!! And for the work you do. I have been following Janet for a while and although it didn’t say much about children with special needs, it made a lot of sense and has been useful for me. My oldest daughter has a developmental delay and the youngest is typically developing. I have found this approach so useful for both of them. Although I would love to read and read more of it, what I have read and implemented has helped me a long way. This post has made me feel more supported and I found so many little details and ideas that can be useful for me and my family.
    The process for me is to read these ideas over and over and remind myself this is a process and that I will have a new chance to make it better. I deal a lot with my guilt of what I do wrong in a given situation and usually that is the time when I find one of Janet’s wonderful posts to support me in the process.
    This morning was about supporting the young one through a tantrum to which my partner said don’t cry (I still haven’t found a way to change his point of view about saying this to her) and then supporting the old with her frustration with her learning to ride her bike and my rush to get her to her day camp.
    There is a lot in my mind now but I just wanted to say THANK YOU for your words of wisdom. You make a big impact in me and thus in my family. I will continue on my journey to make it better, to wait, see and wonder more and support my girls in their own development.
    Many blessings for you,

    1. Hi Erika! Thank you so much for your kind words. It’s so wonderful to hear from parents like you who make the work with families so rewarding and worthwhile!!

  8. Helen Rubin says:

    Dear Janet,

    What a wonderful post! I know I’m late in finding it just today.

    It really is SO supportive of my work over the years. This is the first time I’ve read of a therapist using similar patient and respectful care to aid a child and his/her family in making developmental improvements.

    I’ve worked with at least two children who might have been diagnosed around 18 months who have gone on to be mainstreamed. One couldn’t even be held until she’d been in my care for three years, at which point she asked me “Will you be my mummy?” When I told her ‘no, because you have a wonderful mummy’, she laid in my lap and sobbed and sobbed while I stroke her hair and back.

    I saw her a week ago and she is a wonderful 14 year old – it was as though our connection hadn’t left (we haven’t met in several years) and we had a most wonderful and mature conversation!

    Thank you a thousand times Janet! And Sandra too!

    1. Wow, Helen! I’m amazed that you’ve stayed connected to that girl’s family for so long. You must have had a huge impact on them!!

  9. Hi Sandra and Janet,
    I really enjoyed reading this. I’ve been following Janet’s blog for several years now, since my son was a baby, but have felt frustrated in the past because my RIE-inspired parenting doesn’t look as successful as other people’s. My son has ASD and he is generally a happy and engaging person. However, what seem like small things to the rest of the world are big for him. So even though I implement this kind of attention and care into our home every day, he continues to have tantrums and moments of just general overwhelm. It took me awhile to see that our situation was a bit different and to be ok with that. Without RIE, I think my son would struggle a lot more and I am glad I found this when he was so young. As my son gets older, I actually find him struggling more, or at least his behavior appears more unusual, as he starts to recognize his differences, for example, that he has a harder time connecting with or understanding other kids than they do with one another. But I continue to try hard to keep our communication strong and use RIE principles. For us that doesn’t mean that he will stop having tantrums or fixating on things others can’t relate to. It seems to me that the world outside our home is a confusing place for him and I so appreciate RIE and this blog for supporting my instinct to be there for him as he finds his way through it. It’s has been a real blessing to be able to embrace the gift of tantrums and allowing space for my children’s emotions (although I don’t always succeed at this). The hardest part for me has been accepting that our success story looks different and trying not to be affected by how that might be judged. I haven’t found anything to be a “miracle cure” for autism and it actually feels disrespectful to my child to try to look for such a thing. I’d love to hear both of your thoughts on that because there is so much out there that goes in that direction. Thank you!

    1. Hi Heidi,
      Your son is a lucky guy to have a mother like you who is so thoughtful in your parenting. I have many thoughts on your last comment about a “miracle cure” for autism. My other passion, along with RIE, is learning how the body can heal itself when the interference is removed.
      I have met many functional and holistic practitioners who are helping children with a diagnosis of autism heal their guts and their brains, which in turn helps their nervous system find homeostasis, leading to decreased symptoms and often times complete recovery and typical development. It’s not a quick process, but with consistency and the right protocols, these children are no longer ‘autistic.’ I think it’s respectful for our children to educate ourselves on how we can best support their overall health for optimal development. Feel free to reach out to me if you’d like more information.

  10. Thank you! I learned a lot from this blog.

    I do have a question.

    I understand the uniqueness of every child, my concern is if we apply the RIE approach, how are we able to identify early identification of disabled children?

    1. Hi Moshi,
      Great question. I think the best way to answer that is to TRUST your gut. If it’s your child, your mommy or daddy instinct will never misguide you. If there is truly a neurodevelopmental issue, you’ll see atypical patterns in developmental skills. If you’re concerned, I would consider an evaluation with an professional, but know that they are often coming from a medical model that can get hung up on numbers and remediation of any delays, rather than looking at the bigger picture and typical/atypical development.

  11. Hi- this resonated with me a lot. My 28 week preemie has severe SPD affecting motor planning, body awareness and attention and most problematic was with eating (texture aversions, etc). He’s been in special Ed preschool for the past few months- he’s 3.5 and has been making good strides but lately since we are in the summer and the schedule is not consistent, he’s been having a lot of meltdowns. He has a few new behaviors like screaming when he doesn’t getting his way or refusing to move or go to where we need to be when we are out of the house. He also has pushed his 13 month old brother very roughly several times where it has made me concerned that he could get really hurt. I’m having trouble dealing with these outburst and meltdowns. It doesn’t seem like anything I do really helps. Do you have any advice, Sandra?

  12. Hi Sandra and Janet and parents,

    This article is fantastic and I so appreciate the information and responses. I’m a child/family/marriage counselor in Hong Kong and I had the pleasure of working with special needs students for over four years at an international school here as well as in private practice. Unfortunately, I didn’t know about RIE then. I stopped working in the school when I became pregnant and that’s when I discovered Dr Pikler, Magda and Janet’s work. Since, I have dreamed of getting RIE certified and opening my own center once back stateside in June 2017. Sandra, I am so pleased to know you are already successful with this idea! You’ve given me hope! Thank you so much!!

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