Relationship Development Intervention and Autism Ranking: Insufficient/Mixed evidence

Aims and Claims


The aim of RDI is to develop what Gutstein, the co-founder of the RDI programme, calls "dynamic intelligence" (Gutstein, 2009). He defines this as the ability to flexibly and creatively respond to novel situations.

According to DeAngelo, L. (2008)

"The RDI program systematically develops dynamic intelligence so that autistic people can achieve the flexible thinking critical to regulate social interactions. With improved ability to form social connections comes a greater quality of life for the autistic person and those around him or her."

According to Morris, B.K. (200?)

"Instead of trying to directly alter behavior, RDI focuses on cultivating the building blocks of social connection - such as referencing, emotion sharing, and experience sharing - that normally develop in infancy and early childhood. The RDI program provides a path for people on the autistic spectrum to learn friendship, empathy and a love of sharing their world with others."

According to Thompson, personal correspondence (2009)

"The aim of RDI is to enable parents to re-introduce the 'guided participation relationship' (GPR) with their autistic children. The GPR is the mechanism through which every baby, toddler and child learns from its parents, in every culture all over the world. It is something parents do intuitively without thinking about it and involves gently challenging the child at the edge of their competence, scaffolding if necessary to ensure that the child is successful in achieving something new. In autism, something happens in the child's brain, which means that they are unable to take part in the GPR. This is why the thinking of children with autism becomes static and rigid, and why they have so much difficulty coping with change."


According to the RDIConnect website, accessed on 8 June 2018, 

“RDI  programs teach parents how to guide their child to seek out and succeed in truly reciprocal relationships, while addressing key core issues such as motivation, communication, emotional regulation, episodic memory, rapid attention-shifting, self awareness, appraisal, executive functioning, flexible thinking and creative problem solving.” 

The Connections Center website (the predecessor to the RDIConnect website), accessed on 10 October 2008, made a number of claims for RDI including

  • "We have found the RDI Program dramatically increases children's motivation to communicate and to use meaningful reciprocal language. However, the RDI Program should not be the sole intervention for any individual with severe speech and/or language development problems, such as apraxia.
  • "The RDI Program can also be helpful with a number of problems like 'stimming', limited motivation for communication and disorganized behavior.
  • "... children who succeed in their RDI Program demonstrate dramatic changes in flexible thinking, pragmatic communication, creative information processing, problem-solving, and self-development."
17 Jun 2022
Last Review
01 Oct 2018
Next Review
01 Nov 2024