Linking families and individuals with autism to services, care, support and learning resources for more than 10 years.

Teaching Children with Autism via RDI (Relationship Development Intervention)/Gutstein method


RDI is another type of therapy that is a relative newcomer to the autism scene. RDI is actually a brilliant way to teach children with autism by using nonverbal cues and forcing them to become more and more aware of their surroundings and by referencing facial cues on peers and others around them. RDI was the brainchild of Dr. Steven Gutstein, who initiated the RDI programs and has authored several books on the subject. The program is based on the philosophy that individuals with autism spectrum disorders can participate in authentic emotional relationships if they are exposed to them in a gradual, systematic way. The developers of the program say it is a parent-based clinical treatment for individuals with autism spectrum and other relationship-based disorders. The stated primary goal of the program is to systematically teach the motivation for and skills of “experience sharing” interaction, which proponents of this method claim is at the core of autism spectrum disorders.

For instance, one of the RDI “games” involves holding a tray between the autistic child and the parent or therapist. A glass of water is placed on the tray, and the pair must walk together, but are not allowed to speak to one another. Typical persons can anticipate or sense fluctuations in movements from their partners better than a child with autism, obviously, by reading body language, facial cues and the like. In order to prevent the glass of water from spilling, the child with autism must reference the facial expressions and nonverbal cues from the other person. It’s truly a unique and interesting concept!