What is RDI?Mother and Daughter baking a cake together.

Relationship Development Intervention® (RDI) is a parent-led approach that focuses on developing the child’s dynamic thinking abilities so that they can cope with the unpredictability of the modern world. This powerful mental processing helps the child step away from the black and white thinking patterns usually seen in children with Autism and often reinforced in some other therapies. The parents provide the child with many learning opportunities to set up new thinking pathways in the brain. This increases brain pathway integration which will equip the child for the complexity of relationships and 21st century living.

Who is RDI for?

RDI is used in many different countries and cultures for children of all ages – young children, school aged and adults. It was developed for those on the Autism Spectrum and is effective for people anywhere on the spectrum, whether they are considered to be low or high functioning. RDI is also used for disorders where the child’s ability to be in a guided relationship has been disrupted.

What is RDI used for?

RDI gives paiStock_000047822080XXLargerents the ability to establish or re-establish the Guiding Relationship with their child, which is lost in Autism Spectrum Disorder. RDI is used to help parents develop children who are strong and flexible enough within themselves to cope with a world that keeps serving up the unexpected. This strength and flexibility develops from the ability to think and relate dynamically, the central focus of RDI.

Where does RDI come from?

RDI was founded in the USA, in the 1980s, by renowned clinical psychologists Dr Steven Gutstein and Dr Rachelle Sheely, who drew on the latest research in the fields of autism, child development, psychology and neurology. They have continued to develop the RDI Program incorporating emerging evidence in these fields and educational best practice.

What is the idea behind RDI?

In the early months of life, all infants have a drive for maintaining consistency and stability that parents also foster. Before the end of the first year, this drive for sameness is usually supplanted by the Growth Seeking drive.  However, for children with ASD, this drive for sameness persists and the child seeks isolation, and continues to be self-directed and object focused, to feel safe.  Meanwhile, the child’s parents have switched to their Growth Supporting role which adds stress to their interactions because the child feels unable to respond appropriately.  Trust between child and parent can be damaged because of this mismatch.  The child has become autistic.

The RDI Program aims to provide a second chance to restore or establish a guiding relationship between the child with Autism and their parents, enabling and enhancing the development of the awakening of the Growth Seeking drive. This is done in a deliberate and mindful manner, so that children with Autism and their families can embark on a more normal path of cognitive, emotional and social development.

What does RDI involve?

RDI is a000032843754_under 1MB-Father-and-childn individualised program, customised for each family. The RDI Consultant gives parents the understanding and tools to work with their child. Parents are guided by their RDI Consultant to provide learning opportunities using everyday situations within their family life. Parents initially concentrate on areas such as the early foundations of social interaction and dynamic thinking skills.

Video is used as a learning tool for parents. There are many resources for parents on the RDI website and discussion forums to connect with other families. Rather than having others work with their child, parents collaborate with their consultant through regular sessions in order to understand how they can help their child. Parents receive online feedback from their consultant between sessions via the RDI On-line Learning Community.

What will RDI cost?

Costs will include:

  • Session Fees with your consultant
  • Assessment Fees
  • RDI Website subscription for Private Family Account
  • Access to reliable and fast broadband
  • Access to a video camera or smart phone with video capacity and a tripod
  • Access to a computer is desirable for uploading video and information

Does RDI work? 

  • RDI incorporates evidence based best practice in the areas of child development, teaching and learning and is individualised for the family.
  • The RDI Program is evidence based as all elements of the program have been drawn from current research.
  • The National Autism Council of the USA classifies RDI to be an “emerging treatment”. They deem emerging treatments “should be considered promising and warrant serious consideration”.
  • The Australian Government’s Department of Social Services recognises RDI as a treatment for its Helping Children with Autism funding packages.
  • Many RDI families have received approval for National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) funding but no general policy has been developed.
  • Preliminary research has highlighted the RDI Program’s treatment effectiveness, with significant improvements in: age-appropriate adaptability and flexibility; intersubjectivity (experience-sharing); school placement; and improved scores on the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (ADOS®).
  • Parents describe their children as significantly more flexible and adapting more readily to changes in their environment. They report that their children have improved relationships with the people in their lives.

Who practises RDI?

Although parents provide most of the intervention in the home as part of their normal parenting, they work in collaboration with a certified consultant.

To become certified, consultants must undergo training and a period of supervision. Each RDI Consultant is trained by the Connections Center either in Houston, Texas or at one of a variety of locations worldwide, including in Australia.   Consultants are required to recertify annually, which includes fulfilling ongoing professional development requirements. Certified consultants have experience working with children and generally also hold a degree in psychology, speech pathology, education, occupational therapy or other relevant field.

Parent educPageLines-iStock_000008985845_2000.jpgation, training, support and involvement

The RDI Program places great emphasis on providing parents with the knowledge and tools that enable them to lead their child towards a path of more typical development. The education provided by RDI helps parents feel empowered to guide their child with ASD. Consultants customise the program for each family and support each parent individually to work with their child.

Where can I find a practitioner?

A list of our member RDI Program Certified Consultants can be found on this website.