Questions and Answers

What is Relationship Development Intervention® Program?

RDI® is a program for educating and coaching parents of children affected by Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) and similar neuro-developmental learning differences. The mission of RDI® is to develop the most effective methods to remediate those specific deficits which impede individuals from achieving productive employment, independent living, marriage and intimate social relationships. It involves systematic, long-term remediation of specific deficits that define these types of neuro-developmental disorders. It aims to prepare parents to act as guides, and restore the critical early guided-participation relationship damaged by ASD and similar learning differences. This is done by creating numerous daily opportunities for the child to respond in more flexible, thoughtful ways; and helping children capture and recall critical memories that build a sense of competence, in gradually more complex environments. The RDI® Program protocol includes a curriculum of step-by-step, developmentally-based objectives and a thorough Relationship Development Assessment. For more detail, please also see the RDI® Program Protocol.

What is the difference between RDI® Program and other interventions?

RDI® is a parent consultation model rather than a direct service model. It is the first intervention that directly and purposefully targets the difficulties created in the parent-child guiding relationship as a result of brain differences such as those caused by ASD. The intervention also addresses the core deficits caused by ASD and similar learning differences, focusing on remediation rather than compensation. Each program is individually constructed for the specific family system — considering the child’s and family’s specific needs, in order to decrease the parents’ and child’s obstacles and utilize their strengths to develop meaningful relationships, cognitive flexibility and improved self-awareness and self-regulation.

Is the RDI® Program effective for everyone on the autism spectrum?

All people on the autism spectrum, as well as others affected by similar learning differences (ADHD, NVLD, TBI, and Social-Cognitive delays) can benefit from the RDI®Program. RDI® appears to be helpful regardless of IQ, language, gender, age or specific diagnosis. The most important factors in determining the rate of improvement is the level of family commitment, the degree to which we have to overcome obstacles like the child’s desire to control others, and the presence of co-occurring conditions.

What about older children?

Early intervention can yield better results in most forms of treatment. However, new research supporting the plasticity of the brain tells us change is always possible.  RDI® methods have been developed for people of all ages, including teenagers and adults. For remediation, the key is not the age of the person, but developing a customized program that considers the unique obstacles and strengths of each person.

What about non-verbal children?

The RDI® Program dramatically increases children’s motivation to communicate and to use meaningful, reciprocal language (verbal or non-verbal). The RDI® Program should not be the sole intervention for any individual with severe speech and/or language development problems.  The RDI® Program blends well into programs such as RPM and other forms of facilitated communication.

Is the RDI® Program just for social development?

No. While social improvements are dramatic, children who succeed in their RDI® Program demonstrate dramatic changes in flexible thinking, pragmatic communication, creative information processing, problem-solving, and self-development.

What is the first step in beginning an RDI® Program?

The first step in beginning your RDI® Program is to find an RDI® Program Certified Consultant who is a good match for your family. Once you have identified a consultant to work with, there are a variety of avenues families pursue. Some simply begin working with the consultant.  Others prefer to do some independent learning before beginning formal work with a consultant and read the RDI® book, “The RDI Book: Forging New Pathways for Autism, Asperger’s and PDD iwth the Relationship Development Intervention® Program”.  Your consultant will customize your program appropriately in response to how you wish to begin. Your consultant will also send you an invitation to join the RDI® online Learning Community, which gives you access to the video library, objectives, parent forum, parent webinars, Dr. Gutstein’s webinars, and much more.

What do I need to begin RDI®?

You will need a method for video taping interactions you have with your child, for you and your consultant to review. Many families find their current video camera, smart phone or tablet an effective alternative to the more expensive, elaborate video cameras. A tripod is helpful — and the “Gorillapod” type is relatively inexpensive and easy to set up almost anywhere.  You will need regular access to a computer with a high speed internet connection so you can access your RDI Learning Community account and upload video footage.

What is the RDI® Learning community?

The RDI® Learning Community is a secure on-line system that serves as the major platform for planning, communicating and connecting consultants, families, and the worldwide RDI® community.

The subscription costs $50 a month and includes:

  • Access to all live and archived webinars
  • On line communication and documentation with consultants
  • On line community forums
  • Access to videos and similar resources in the ever-expanding resources library
  • Development of your personal video progress archive, completely integrated with all of your communication and documentation with your consultant, accessible at any time of day.
  • On line video review with your consultant. Simple video transfer with your consultant (saving you and your consultant many hours of viewing and editing video clips)

Currently, (2017) there is a trial subscription available for up to 3 months to families who are interested in RDI®  but not formally working with an RDI®  consultant.  This version cost approximately $20 a month.  You can learn more about this level of subscription on the public RDI® website. 

What does the Relationship Development Assessment™ entail?

A full assessment occurs after the parents have completed the beginning Parent Learning portion of the protocol and includes:

  • RDA1 with child and both parents
  • RDA2 with child and consultant only
  • Written intervention plan with recommendations

What happens after the assessment is complete?

At this point the family and consultant enter the ongoing guidance phase. The family submits video clips through the RDI Learning Community. Parents reflect on and analyze their clips, sharing these reflections with their consultant. Consultants also review clips and provide feedback to the family on an on-going basis through the RDI Learning Community and through face-to-face, phone, or Skype sessions. Re-evaluation occurs on an as-needed basis.

How do I find someone in my area to provide RDI®?

For a complete list of RDI® Program Certified Consultants, please go to and view their certified consultant list. If a certified consultant is not accepting new clients they may be able to refer you to a local consultant-in-training.

How long will my child have to do RDI®?

RDI® is an ongoing process; however, how long one chooses to continue the program depends on each child’s specific needs, parental goals for the child, and family commitment. Many of our families continue working on higher level objectives throughout childhood and adolescence. Eventually, most families find that they have the skills and confidence to continue to work with their child with minimal consultant help.

Does most of the work take place one-on-one or in group settings?

Your program will begin with your consultant helping you learn methods to effectively coach your child in the foundations of Dynamic Intelligence. Once the child demonstrates competence with the parents, we can expand the circle to include siblings and other extended family members and caregivers. When the child is ready, he or she may be carefully matched with a peer at a similar level of relationship development to form a dyad. Gradually we work to increase the number of settings in which the children practice so that the child learns to form and maintain relationships in a number of different social pairings and contexts.

How often will I have to do RDI®?

The greatest success is seen in families who have an “RDI® lifestyle.” Your family is encouraged to use their objectives and frameworks within everyday activities to maximize progress and ensure generalization. Rate of progress is also affected by level of family commitment.

(Source: Connections Center)

Autism Therapy, RDI Relationship Development Intervention, and Consulting