Relationship Development Intervention and Autism Ranking: Insufficient/Mixed evidence

Key Features

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.

A consultant evaluates the child's relationship skills and then develops a set of objectives which are designed to take the child to successive levels of skills. These objectives are taken from the RDI Programme curriculum, which consists of many hundreds of objectives, organised within 12 essential elements.

If the child has already mastered a particular set of skills, such as the ability to share emotion, he or she will be given objectives related to the next set of skills, such as social referencing. When he or she has mastered that stage, he or she will move on to the next stage. Because the stages build on each other, only one stage can be worked on at a time.

Once the objectives have been determined for the individual child, the consultant shows the parents the best way to help their child achieve those objectives. This is done over several days, during which the consultant works directly with the parents and also with the child. The consultant may also provide ongoing support to parents through videotape reviews and written feedback for many months or years after this initial training.

The parents work with the child during “lab time” but they may also make use of any learning opportunities which occur at other times, including everyday activities such as washing up, cooking, going for a walk, etc. During “lab time” the parents engage the child in a series of exercises, such as passing a "hot potato" rapidly back and forth or duplicating facial expressions shown in pictures.

When the child is ready, he or she is matched with another child at a similar level. Gradually other children are added, and the number of settings is increased, so that the child learns to form and maintain relationships in a number of different groups and contexts.


17 Jun 2022
Last Review
01 Oct 2018
Next Review
01 Nov 2024