The RDI® Protocol

“First, you know, a new theory is attacked as absurd; then it is admitted to be true, but obvious and insignificant; finally it is seen to be so important that its adversaries claim that they themselves discovered it.” — William James


The RDI® program is a diligently researched, evidence-based system for remediating autism and similar neuro-developmental conditions. It was developed, continues to be refined, and is supported by Steven Gutstein, Ph.D., Rachelle Sheely, Ph.D., the faculty and staff of the Connections Center in Houston, Texas.

The RDI® Protocol is a sequential, formal specification for the process that consultants and families use in implementing an RDI® program. Families move through the protocol one stage at a time.

“You are the embodiment of the information you choose to accept and act upon. To change your circumstances you need to change your thinking and subsequent actions.” — Adlin Sinclair

stages of the RDI® program Protocol

  1. Initial Parent Meeting (no charge):  Family can share strengths and concerns about their child.  Consultant provides an overview of RDI® and the online Learning Community. Family and Consultant discuss any questions the family may have. Financial contracting is discussed and family is given intake packet.
  2. Beginnings: Parents make a decision about beginning RDI® and contact the Consultant.  Parent completes and returns intake packet to Consultant. Family is sent an invitation to subscribe to the RDI® Learning Community.  Each parent is asked to make a video clip (approximately 5 minutes) of themselves interacting with their child. Consultant may make an initial home visit to begin to get to know the family and the child, or conduct a baseline RDA™.
  3. Getting Ready for Guiding: Initial focus is on helping parents understand the theory behind RDI®, and learning to use the online Learning Community.  Topics are individualized, and may include recovering from crisis, understanding ASD, understanding the difference between static and dynamic intelligence, and learning about the guiding relationship. Consultant works with parents to develop new habits that help the child get back on a more typical developmental pathway, such as: learning to slow down, focus on the process of interaction rather than the product of a task, shifting the kind of language used with the child, & emphasizing non-verbal avenues of communication. Additional topics may include managing the family schedule, limit setting, and parental emotional regulation.
  4. Relationship Development Assessment (RDA™) 1 and 2, and Initial Treatment Plan:  This is a dynamic assessment that involves both parent(s) and child, and leads to the development of the individualized RDA™ plan.  All interactions are recorded. The RDA1 involves both parent(s), individually, with the child, completing 4 different activities with together.  It typically takes between 1.5-2 hours to complete. The RDA2 involves the consultant with the child, and typically takes between 0.5-1 hour to complete. The RDA2 footage is typically shared with the family.  An initial treatment plan is written and shared with the family. Things that are discussed may include: personalized supports the child needs for success, missing foundational developmental skills, and any need for outside referrals for possible co-occurring conditions.
  5. Guiding: Continued focus on objectives that help the parents grow in their ability to establish a strong Guided Participation Relationship with their child.
  6. Child Objectives: Begin purposeful work on specific child objectives, determined on an individualized basis.
  7. Additional RDA™ reviews are conducted on an “as-needed” basis.

Video Taping and Review:

Throughout the program, but especially at the beginning stages, parents provide regular video footage of, and personal reflections on, their interactions with their child. The consultant also reviews the footage and parent reflections to assist in the guiding process. Feedback is provided to the family through office sessions and the Learning Community. Phone calls, Skype or Face Time can also be used. For long distance families – parents and consultants connect regularly through the Learning Community, with approximately twice a month phone/Skype/Face Time calls, with office and/or home visits scheduled on an “as-needed” basis.

RDI® Learning Community:

The RDI® Learning Community is an online operating system that serves as a major platform for planning, communication and connectedness between consultants, families and the worldwide RDI® community.  Subscription cost is $50 per month and is paid to the Connections Center, not to the consultant.
Public RDI® site–
Private RDI® site for families and consultants —

Full subscription includes:

  • Access to all webinars, live and archived
  • On line communication and documentation with consultant
  • On line community forums
  • Access to videos and similar resources submitted by families and consultants 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.
  • Secure video upload system

Autism Therapy, RDI Relationship Development Intervention, and Consulting