Relationship Development Intervention (RDI)Last updated Tuesday, April 05, 2011 |
Relationship Development Intervention (RDI) is a developmental program that parents use for helping children with Autism and Autism Spectrum disorders to function better in daily life. Parents use RDI to not only improve the daily functioning of their children, but also to improve the overall quality of life for the children and entire family (Gutstein, 2007). Originally developed by Dr. Steven Gutstein, RDI is a method of improving social and communication skills that is well researched and documented as beneficial. RDI uses the daily experiences of children and their parents to target core problem areas of Autism. Some problems of Autism that RDI targets are:
- Lack of meaningful communication
- Lack of social curiosity
- Lack of enthusiasm
- Lack of initiation
- Lack of spontaneity
- Lack of interaction
RDI helps children learn behaviors that improve and, at times, eliminate such social and communication problems of their disorders. RDI philosophy believes that the natural environment of daily living, and the natural relationship with parents, are where social and communication skills can be most effectively learned. Consequently, parents are educated and trained to help teach these skills on a daily basis. Parents can implement teaching in a wide variety of settings that naturally occur in the routines of family life. There are many goals and benefits of RDI. Some of these are:
- increased ability to have emotional connections
- use of emotional and social information to better participate in relationships
- increased empathy for others
- improved verbal behaviors that engage and interact with others
- improved abilities to adapt to changes and accept new ideas and routines
- improved problem-solving
Children with Autism who have been taught with RDI methods typically have achieved a better quality of life even when behavior has not been disruptive or generally considered problematic (Gutstein, 2004). RDI, for example, will help these children enjoy relationships more, have a sense of humor, participate in family, school and social activities with more enjoyment and motivation, initiate contact, pursue interests, apply learning to new situations, share their own ideas and experiences and have friendships. RDI, in many ways, is a method of intervention that cares for the ‘human’ side of children with Autism and Autism Spectrum disorders. Both children and their family members benefit from the gains made through this training.
RDI works through ‘slowing down’ the natural processes of daily life so that children can be taught the ‘steps’ of how such things work. For example, children can be helped to focus upon the facial expressions of others in order to better understand what they must be feeling. A parent may ask the child to look closely at the face of an actor on television or may mimic exaggerated expressions for the child in a learning game. Such activities would occur ‘naturally’ as the family watched television or as parent and child spent play time together—perhaps reading a story in which feelings are discussed or in which illustrations show an emotional reaction.
Because RDI is incorporated into each family’s natural routine, parents set their own goals while using RDI methods. Unlike many other teaching methods used with autistic children, the naturally occurring daily routine is not changed. Parents use their own intuitive approaches to caring for and teaching their children, but are better equipped to understand what special needs children with these disorders have. Parents can be educated and trained in RDI methods through structured sessions that typically occur over several days or can work with certified consultants who teach methods and help parents set goals for their children. Parents learn to participate with their children through ‘guiding’ them or ‘coaching’ them to learn new skills.
Children Who May Benefit From the Use of RDI
Children with Autism or other such disorders of the Autism Spectrum (Pervasive Development Disorders) such as Rett’s Disorder, Childhood Disintegrative Disorder, Asperger’s Disorder and Atypical Autism (Autism NOS) have benefitted from the use of RDI in their daily routines.
The Impact of RDI upon Children and Their Families
Both children and their family members can benefit from RDI. As the child’s quality of daily life improves so does that of the family. Family members, particularly parents, however, will have to invest time initially in learning about RDI techniques. Additionally, parents will have to incorporate these techniques into daily family life in order to gain maximum benefit. Children taught with RDI methods can gain greater independence as well as more enjoyment of daily life and family and peer relationships. The emotional benefits of RDI can be quite impactful. Children improve in self-concept, self-esteem and feelings of self-worth. They become less isolated and more ‘enlivened’. As such children age, many are able to function more effectively in academic and occupational settings that require understanding of social and emotional skills. The time and effort involved in learning RDI methods are considered by most families to be a small investment for such benefit.
Gutstein, S. (2007). Evaluation of the Relationship Development Intervention Program. Autism, 11:5 , 397-411.
Gutstein, S. (2004). The Effectiveness of Relationship Development Intervention in Remediating Core Deficits of Autism-Spectrum Children. Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics 25:5 , 375.