RDI – Relationship Development Intervention

Relationships Development Intervention for ASD

What is RDI Relationship Development Intervention

RDI is a systematic intervention style program designed to help children with difficulty in forming and retaining relationship competence in their natural environment such as children with Autism, Asperger Syndrome, Pervasive Development Disorder (PDD) or in general within the Autism Spectrum of Disorders.


Typical or “normal” children learn by proxy to engage and fulfill their social requirements, they learn off other children and adults during play and interaction. Unfortunately ASD children have a development delay in the part of the brain that would normally take on the social role thus making it difficult for them to learn as “normal’ children would.

RDI – Relationship Development Intervention is a program that has been developed by Steven E Gutstein and wife Rachelle K Sheely. RDI programs can be used by persons of any age to learn the fundamentals of relationships and social behavior and can be administered by a trained RDI therapist and or Parents, Teachers and Special Educators.

Gutstein describes RDI as being an invitational model of learning rather than being coerced or bribed by material rewards. RDI uses the positive enjoyment and excitement of relationships and friendships and is centred on trust to gradually and systematically introduce new ways to act and interact with others.

Clinical Psychologists Steven E Gutstein and wife Rachelle K Sheely have written three books / volumes on the subject of RDI. These books are a great way to learn how to deliver and administer the program, with step by step instructions.

What Parents Think of RDI

Recently we received some excellent comments on the previous post Ten Things To Know About Autism about comparisons between RDI and ABA as two of the more known and used therapies for persons within the Autism Spectrum of Disorders. I have included some excerpts of the RDI comparisons from the comment by Kathy:

“RDI is a parent based program & is not typically done at specific “therapy times.” RDI is considered a life style program because instead of adding therapy time to a parents already hectic & full day, it is incorporated into what parent have to or want to do in their typical day”.

“Parents are the primary agents for change and do not take on a therapist role, but rather maintain their role as parent. The role of an RDI consultant is to help the parents in the how-to of re-establish a reliable feedback system that exists between neurotypical children and their parents. Under some circumstances children may have other guides in addition to their parents. These people are called “extenders” because they “extend” the work being done by the parents”.

“Because RDI is not a skill based program, it does not place the same emphasis on “correct” answers. Its focus is more about developing the dynamic function of the brain and the individual with ASD’s ability to think like their guides. So for example, if you think about the question “where is the right place for a box of cereal to go in the cabinet?” The person with ASD learns with the aide of their guide that there are many “correct” places, although some may be better or worse than others, for the cereal to go. It is in many such experiences with a guide that the individual with ASD will discover how to make “good enough” choices to “grey area” problems.”

We have not ventured into RDI therapy as yet, we have been reading the first volume of the RDI book. In some ways we have been following a similar path but we have not adhered to the program as such.
Isy certainly needs more work and skills in the area of social interaction and so our next step is to get serious about Relationship Development Intervention (RDI)
Below are some links for more information.

  • RDIconnect The RDIconnect website is the entry point to a learning community committed to giving individuals a second chance at dynamic thinking.
  • What is RDI Kathy’s Blog on RDI – Excellent information!

© 2011, EJ Banon. All rights reserved.

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