I’ve started providing RDI consultancy to a new family recently. I find that every time I work with a new family, I either re-discover something about RDI or something is positively reinforced for me. This time, it’s the difference in outcomes that can be achieved with static and dynamic intelligence.
What’s dynamic intelligence I hear you ask – well it’s the opposite of what’s measured by IQ, which measures what we know…..how many facts we’ve accumulated and whether we can work out formulas and patterns. Basically, academic learning. Most schools have a primary focus on teaching academic learning, which is static by nature i.e. the facts and formulas don’t change. Dynamic intelligence is about what we can do with what we know…..how we can use the information in our noggins to adapt in the moment to the ever-changing demands of the world.
In typical development, kids are quickly motivated to take part in social interaction because of the emotional feedback they get from their parents. Here is an example of two toddlers: a typically developing toddler receiving and responding to positive emotional feedback from her parents; and a toddler with autism whose development has been derailed by the autism.
Some of you have seen this clip before in a different blogpost. It’s a great clip in that it reveals so much about social interaction from different perspectives – let’s look at it now through the ‘dynamic intelligence’ lens. The time codes we want to look at for this video are 2 mins to 6 mins.
The second toddler is unable to be soothed by the parent when something goes wrong – he starts to get mad and cry when the tower tumbles. If we contrast this with the typically developing toddler, we see that she is able to take her mishap in her stride, re-placing the brick and echoing her Dad’s ‘uh oh!’
The first toddler is getting positive feedback from her parents and she is able to use it to help her stay on task and to keep regulated. A crucial bit of feedback here is the Dad’s off-camera ‘uh oh!’…….a shorthand vocalisation of the thoughts ‘oh no – what a shame….never mind, it’ll be ok, you can try again!’ The emotional feedback loop between this child and her parents is working. The child borrows Dad's thinking (conveyed in the vocalisation of 'uh oh!') to help keep herself from getting upset and frustrated when things go wrong.
The emotional feedback/thinking-sharing loop is not working between the second toddler and his parents. It has been disrupted by the onset of autism. Why do we need that emotional feedback loop? Because it is right at the heart of child development. It is Peter Hobson’s ‘Cradle of Thought’ – emotional feedback/thinking-sharing between child and caregiver enables the child to develop ‘dynamic intelligence’ (DI).
With my new family, I asked parents to think about the differences between what can be achieved with static intelligence and what can be achieved with dynamic intelligence. Here (with kind permission….for which, thanks) are their answers:
Skills and abilities that can be achieved through behavioural and academic programmes (developing static intelligence)
Improved IQ, speech and language and task focused / instrumental behaviours that can be taught through rehearsal, repetition and modelling. (As opposed to spontaneous, flexible and emotionally driven behaviour that is informed by the person’s dynamic intelligence).
Skills and abilities that can be achieved through RDI (developing dynamic intelligence)
Flexible thinking, problem solving, critical analysis, grey area thinking, good enough thinking, simultaneous processing and integration and assimilation, relational thinking, emotional regulation, self-evaluation / awareness, reflection, emotional resilience, empathy, seeing it from another's point of view, ... and so on.
Without the skills and abilities that can be achieved through RDI, you are very limited in what you can do with those skills that have been acquired through behavioural and academic programmes.
We also had a discussion about how dynamic intelligence helps to achieve good mental health and wellbeing. Here are parents’ thoughts:
DI enables you to have meaningful interpersonal engagement with others. Having reciprocal relationships with family and friends, people to confide in as part of your network of support, is a protective factor against mental illness.
DI enables you to develop adaptive coping skills and strategies (manage uncertainty and change) and this is a protective factor against mental illness.
DI can enable you to engage and sustain purposeful activity and/or employment. This can foster a sense of independence, self-worth/improved self-esteem and this is another protective factor against mental illness.
Great responses, helping us to see very clearly that whilst we need both static and dynamic intelligence, dynamic intelligence ‘provides the tools to successfully solve complicated problems, prioritize multiple demands, carry on meaningful relationships and achieve long-term goals. Jobs, friendships, marriages and most aspects of daily life are primarily dynamic in nature.’
I think this feedback from my parents sums it up: ‘Without the skills and abilities that can be achieved through RDI, you are very limited in what you can do with those skills that have been acquired through behavioural and academic programmes.’
RDI gives our kids another chance at developing dynamic intelligence – all those key competencies that are crucial for jobs, relationships and independence.
To read more about dynamic intelligence, please follow this link: