What is Relationship Development Intervention?
Relationship Development Intervention (RDI) is a parent-led approach that focuses on helping autistic children to develop social skills, think flexibly, understand different perspectives, and learn to engage and form close relationships with others.
Who is Relationship Development Intervention for?
Relationship Development Intervention (RDI) is designed for autistic children.
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 autistic children’s quality of life can be improved by forming close, mutual relationships with others. The idea is that when children 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
- 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 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.
Does Relationship Development Intervention help autistic children?
Some research has shown positive effects from this therapy, but there’s not much independent research on the program and why or how it helps. 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.
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 this therapy with your GP or one of the other professionals working with your child. You could also talk about it with your NDIA planner, early childhood partner or local area coordinator, if you have one.
Parent education, training, support and involvement
If your child is in a 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.
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.
You can contact the NDIS to find out whether you can include the cost of RDI in children’s NDIS plans.
Therapies and supports for autistic children range from behaviour therapies and developmental approaches to medicines and alternative therapies. When you understand the main types of therapies and supports for autistic children, it’ll be easier to work out the approach that will best suit your child.