Relationship Development Intervention (RDI) is an intervention which concentrates on helping autistic children learn social skills so that they can enjoy socializing. Practitioners teach the children to be flexible in their interactions with others and to develop emotional connectedness.
RDI was developed by Dr. Steven Gutstein, and is parent-centric, that is, parents are expected to play a pro-active role in the treatment of the autistic child. Dr. Gutstein, a psychologist, while treating autistic children, observed that though parents were able to help improve the intelligence levels of the autistic children, they did not focus on meeting the child's emotional needs. For instance, they failed to "share a tender moment" or a joke with their child. Over a period of three decades, Dr. Gutstein documented his findings and identified certain core deficiencies in the approach of treatment of autistic children.
By following RDI, parents may improve the following aspects of the autistic children:
- Increased level of desire to socially interact.
- Increased level of desire to share skills and experience.
- Increased level of adaptability, and “go with the flow”.
- Increased level of meaningful communication.
- Increased level of doing things jointly with other persons.
It can also improve the relationship between parent and child, as it offers a chance for the two to have fun together while learning. Parents are encouraged to see the world through the child's eyes and to meet them at their level.
Because RDI focuses on teaching skills, rather than obeying prompts, it may help autistic children develop assertiveness and self-esteem.
Dr. Gutstein found six core skills in which autistic children often need help. RDI endeavors to address these areas so that autistic children can find their lives easier and less stressful.
- Emotional referencing describes the inability of a person to understand emotional issues, and to learn from emotional feedback.
- Social coordination describes the ability to mold one's actions and behavior to participate in social and group activities.
- Declarative language describes the ability to understand and use language -- verbal and non-verbal communication -- to interact with others and solicit their involvement.
- Flexible thinking is the ability to adapt to changes in the circumstances and includes change in strategies and modify actions and plans pursuant to changes in the environment around us.
- Relational information processing is the ability to define and find solution to problems which do not have any "right-or-wrong" solutions.
- Foresight and hindsight describes the ability to draw conclusions from past experiences, and use them to plan and predict future actions.
- Relationship Development Intervention with Young Children by Steven E. Gutstein, Rachelle K. Sheely