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Relationship Development Intervention (RDI)

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What is the Relationship Development Intervention RDI™ Program?

Relationship Development Intervention (RDI) Program is a parent-based clinical treatment for individuals with autism spectrum and other relationship-based disorders.

It is the first systematic program designed to help children born with obstacles preventing them from attaining relationship competence.

The RDI™ Program is based upon the model of Experience Sharing developed by Steven Gutstein Ph.D. Dr. Gutstein studied the means by which typical children become competent in the world of emotional relationships.

His methods are based upon extensive research in typical development as well as scientific studies of individuals in the autism spectrum.

Clinicians from around the world are certified by The ConnectionsCenter to serve as consultants to parents and help them customize and implement their RDI™ Programs.

Certified Consultants use information from the Relationship Development Assessment (RDA) to develop clear, specific, developmentally appropriate treatment objectives and customized activities.

Goals of the RDI™ Program

The primary goal of the RDI™ Program is to systematically teach the motivation for and skills of Experience Sharing interaction. Deficits in Experience Sharing have been found to rest at the core of autism spectrum disorders.

The RDI™ Program provides a path for people on the Autism Spectrum to learn friendship, empathy and a love of sharing their world with others. Language comes alive when integrated with real emotion. People with Autism and Asperger's learn not only to tolerate, but to enjoy change, transition and going with the flow. It begins at the edge of each person's current capability and carefully teaches the skills needed for competence and fulfillment in a complex world.

A Brief Introduction to Relationship Development Intervention (RDI)

Thomas A. Brown, M.A., L.L.P., Executive Director, Autism Support Center, October 2006; Used by permission.


Relationship Development Intervention is an ongoing program of clinical development and research begun is 1996. The primary goal of RDI is to remediate the recognized core deficits of ASD. RDI provides individuals with ASD the cognitive, emotional, communicative and social tools that are geared towards remediation rather than compensation. Recognized deficits of individuals with ASD include, emotional referencing, social co-regulation, experienced based communication, autobiographical or episodic memory, executive functioning and dynamic thinking. RDI is a family centered treatment program that prepares parents to act as “participant guides”, creating daily opportunities to remediate the developmental deficits of ASD. The family is guided through the process by a RDI Certified Provider. The provider undergoes an eighteen-month internship in the program in order to become certified.

Considerations: Services must be provided by a Certified RDI Provider. Families must either watch the five hour RDI DVD or attend a Connections Center sponsored two day or four day workshop to participate in the program.

Parents are trained to integrate treatment principles into their everyday life, thus greatly increasing the opportunity to maximize progress. Includes parent training, written treatment plan, video review from home sessions and consultations with the RDI provider.

Approximate Annual Cost: 2,500-5,000 per year. As parents become more competent in implementing RDI at home, treatment costs decline.

Ages: Two and a half to Adult

Preliminary research indicate improvement in targeted areas for the treatment of the core deficits of ASD.

Important References:

  • Solving the Relationship Puzzle, Steven Gutstein, Ph.D. 2000.

  • Relationship Development Intervention DVD, 2004.

  • My Baby can Dance, Gutstein, Gutstein & Baird, Eds., 2006.

  • Preliminary Evaluation of the Relationship Development Intervention Program, Steven Gutstein, Ph..D Accepted for publication in Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders.

  • Relationship Development Intervention, Steven Gutstein, Ph.D. Autism Spectrum Quarterly. Winter, 2005 pp. 8-12.

  • Evaluation of the Relationship Development Intervention Program. Gutstein, Burgess & Montfort, 2006. Submitted for review to The Journal Autism.

Thomas A. Brown, M.A., L.L.P.

Executive Director

Autism Support Center

1270 Doris Rd.

Auburn Hills, MI 48326

Phone: (248) 276-8086


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