The Relationship Development Intervention (also known as RDI or the RDI program) is a parent-led approach which focuses on a child's difficulties with flexibility of thought, emotional regulation and perspective-taking.
RDI is based on the idea that autistic children have missed key developmental milestones (such as social referencing and joint attention) that enable them to think flexibly, regulate their emotions, and understand social situations.
RDI seeks to give children another chance to master these milestones in the same way that they are mastered by typically developing children: through their relationship with their parents.
An RDI consultant guides the parent to change their communication and interaction style so that they can support their child to fill in the developmental gaps they missed. This is done through everyday activities such as washing up, cooking, going for a walk, etc. - some of which are video recorded and shared with the family's consultant who then provides feedback on progress.
There is a very limited amount of research evidence (a single, very low quality study) into the use of RDI for autistic children.
The single study we identified has some major methodological weaknesses, which means that it cannot be considered scientifically valid or reliable.
Because the quality of that research evidence is so poor we cannot determine whether RDI is likely to provide any benefits to anyone who is autistic. We must wait for further research of sufficiently high quality to be completed.
However, given the claims made for RDI and the level of the existing anecdotal evidence, we feel that further, objective research into the programme is justified.
That research should use scientifically robust, experimental methodologies with larger numbers of more diverse participants. That research should investigate whether RDI is more or less effective than other interventions designed to provide the same benefits and whether specific individuals are more likely to benefit from RDI than other individuals.
Please read our Disclaimer on Autism Interventions