Relationship Development Intervention® (RDI®)

Relationship Development Intervention® (RDI®)

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What is Relationship Development Intervention®?

Relationship Development Intervention® (RDI®) is a parent-led approach that focuses on teaching children how to develop social skills and think flexibly - for example, how to understand different perspectives. Children learn how to engage and form close relationships with others.

Who is Relationship Development Intervention® for?

Relationship Development Intervention® (RDI®) is appropriate for all children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

What is Relationship Development Intervention® used for?

The goal of Relationship Development Intervention® (RDI®) is to develop children's ability to think flexibly and handle social situations. Supporters of this approach believe that improvements in relationships and engagement with others lead to an improved quality of life.

Where does Relationship Development Intervention® come from?

Relationship Development Intervention® (RDI®) was developed by clinical psychologists in the United States in the 1980s.

What is the idea behind Relationship Development Intervention®?

Supporters of Relationship Development Intervention® (RDI®) believe that children's quality of life can be improved by forming close, two-way relationships with others. The idea is that when children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) develop their social skills, they can form relationships more easily. As a result, they'll also be better able to overcome everyday challenges.

In particular, supporters say that children's quality of life improves as they learn to:

  • share feelings, memories, plans, ideas and so on
  • understand that sharing is a good thing, and recognise when other people share
  • solve problems in creative and flexible ways - for example, think about the different ways that a problem could be solved and choose the best solution
  • reflect on past experiences and think about what might happen in the future
  • cope with uncertainty and setbacks.

What does Relationship Development Intervention® involve?

Relationship Development Intervention® (RDI®) is customised for individual children.

After an initial assessment, a consultant develops an individualised program for a child and trains the child's parents to implement it. The program is made up of teaching strategies and techniques that parents are trained to use on a daily basis with their child. It takes quite a lot of time, but this time is part of daily family life.

Some techniques take the form of 'games' that might involve different kinds of physical and nonverbal communication. A game ends when the child can make sense of facial expressions or other nonverbal cues.

Over time, program tasks get more difficult as the child learns how to respond to new, challenging and increasingly unpredictable settings and problems.

Parents use the strategies at home and regularly video-record sessions for the consultant to review. The consultant gives parents support and feedback, either face to face or online.

All parents using RDI® subscribe to the RDI® Learning System, an online system that allows parents to store information, access resources, and communicate and share video information with their consultant.

Cost considerations

If your child is in a Relationship Development Intervention® (RDI®) program, you need to pay for the assessments, the consultant fees and a subscription to the RDI® Learning System.

Medicare and some private health funds might cover some of the costs of a consultant. If the consultant has HICAPS, you might be able to make a claim immediately.

Does Relationship Development Intervention® work?

Some research has shown positive effects from this therapy. More high-quality studies are needed.

Who practises Relationship Development Intervention®?

Although parents provide most of the intervention in the home, they work in collaboration with certified consultants.

To become certified in Relationship Development Intervention® (RDI®), consultants must undergo training and supervision in the United States. Certified consultants have experience working with children and hold a basic degree in psychology, speech pathology or a related field. Consultants must recertify each year.

Parent education, training, support and involvement

If your child is an Relationship Development Intervention® (RDI®) program, you do most of the work with your child. You need to:

  • learn to use the RDI® online system and assessment
  • deliver the program curriculum
  • receive feedback and regularly video-record your work with your child at home
  • have weekly or fortnightly meetings with the consultant
  • take part in assessment after each stage of the program.

Where can you find a practitioner?

You can find RDI®-certified consultants though the Association of RDI® Consultants Australia, Autism Connections, Connect and Relate for Autism and RDI® Connect - Find a consultant.

If you're interested in Relationship Development Intervention®, it's a good idea to talk about it with your GP or one of the other professionals working with your child. You could also talk with your NDIA planner, NDIS early childhood partner or NDIS local area coordination partner, if you have one.

There are many treatments for autism spectrum disorder (ASD). They range from those based on behaviour and development to those based on medicine or alternative therapy. Our article on types of interventions for children with ASD takes you through the main treatments, so you can better understand your child's options.