How to use use bowling in your RDI program for autism. What is RDI? How does one use bowling in their RDI program for autism? Why would someone use bowling as an RDI activity?
RDI is teaching a child with autism how to integrate the flow of information. Unlike ABA, it teaches a child how to take the information, process it correctly then take action using the information. You take ordinary activities to scaffold to make a child successful. You keep this up until the child can do the activity pretty much on his own with no scaffolding.
We had been searching for an activity that would help fulfill our PE obligations for our homeschool. We also needed to find an activity that would work on Logan’s muscle tone but would not be too strenuous or make him sweat too much . He’s allergic to his own sweat so that was quite a feat for sunny Florida.. I have fond memories of bowling as a child with my favorite aunt and my grandmother so I decided to try it with the children. The added bonus of the Kids Bowl Free during the summer made it a natural choice.
Madison bowled pretty well considering the ball weighed about 6lbs and she only weighed 46lbs. One week she even got a strike! Believe me, the whole bowling alley knew it. She’s never been known for being quiet. It was a great way to show Logan how to be happy for others even when you are in competition with them. That’s the beauty of RDI. You work on goals naturally as you live life. I could never have set up a scenario like the one that happened naturally when Madison got a strike. It wasn’t the goal we were working on but it was a great experience sharing moment for later use.
Logan took to it like a duck to water. He managed to do well at it although 2 games is really his limit. It’s important to know his limit and make every conceivable effort to honor it. We ALWAYS want to end the activity with a positive memory. Oftentimes, he was more interested in what the tvs were doing above the lanes. I could usually refocus him with minimal effort. He didn’t like to watch where the ball was going so we needed to work on that before we could work on our actual goal.
To work on watching the ball, we simply had to redirect him from the tv. The tv above the lane plays an animation while waiting for the score to register. I would watch the ball while he watched the screen. He would look to me to experience share then see I was watching the ball. After the ball hit the pins, I would look at him. He learned after what seemed like forever to watch the pins with me then I would watch the tv with him. That’s the beauty of the child wanting to legitimately experience share with you.
It seemed to be working on his muscle tone a good bit. We noticed that when he ran he actually looked like he was running and not flopping like a fish out of water. While I will not say this is entirely due to bowling, it is helping his core strength which is a major factor in running. It is just one facet to his home occupational therapy program.
I scaffolded by clapping and acknowledging him verbally during the game. When he had the hang of it, I stopped so he looked to me for reference. I used a thumbs up or a facial expression to respond to him. When he was not paying attention to his turn, I wait until he notices and DO NOT give him a verbal prompt. If he still didn’t notice then I sigh or clear my throat to get his attention. Regardless, I go non verbal with him in an effort to to get him to reference me.
Once he had mastered bowling as well as seemed to be enjoying it, we decided to take it a step further to have him join a league. I specifically picked one that had a prize at the end of his own bowling ball. He thought this was a fantastic prize which was a great motivator.
To start I would stay with Logan but keep Madison in sight. If this seems to be too much then just have your child with autism join the league. You are not trying to get your child to socialize. That is not your objective in this scenario. Sometimes it helps to write the objective on a card in order to remind yourself of the main goal.
We measured success when Logan could successfully navigate the league times on his own. The bowling alley always put Logan and Madison on separate lanes. It drives me crazy as I can’t split myself in half. Madison was in a terrible mood when we got there as she had been sleeping in the truck. So I sat with her to help her while Logan started bowling 2 lanes over from us. I look over and he is doing everything appropriately with the 2 other girls. He is laughing with them and even high fives them when he gets a strike! Better than that, he is not upset that he bowled a couple of bad frames. He paid attention to his turn and took it appropriately . He shared the experience with the other bowlers with no prompting. Objective achieved.