This is the RDI Book, written by Dr. Steven Gutstein. He is the founder of Relationship-Development Intervention, or RDI (pretend the registered trademark is beside each mention of RDI). RDI is a relationship/education type of intervention for autism, similar but in many ways different to DIR/Floortime (insert registered trademark here). Floortime was incidentally the first intervention we researched. RDI came next, then ABA. We contacted a very agreeable RDI consultant out in the Greater Toronto Area who was pretty helpful in lending us the book and the video that introduces RDI. Unfortunately for us, we never understood it. Both the book and the video are long on theory and short on practical examples.
From the website rdiconnect.com:
"Families under the guidance of a certified consultant slowly and carefully construct opportunities for their child’s neural growth while adding complexity. Over time, parents create a formidable impact on their child’s ability to form reciprocal friendships, mature emotional relationships, conduct successful collaborations, engage in flexible/adaptive thought and master problem-solving abilities necessary for job attainment and success in the 21st century world."
This sounds fantastic. But no where in the book or the video, or anywhere I can think of do I see how. I expected to see a list of activities targeting specific milestones or goals, with the ability to take data, but there is nothing like that available in the literature. To get more, one must sign up with a consultant (at a cost of $6000 or more) to gain access to the on-line tools and education.
To date, no one who has done RDI can explain it to me without using buzzwords like "guided participation", "guide", "dynamic thought" and other nebulous terms that do not have context. I remember watching the video and seeing a mother work with her son on anticipating a fun activity (this concept I get), but I had to wonder how she even got her son to sit down and pay attention to her... did this child just know this, or did they skip an RDI step and not show us, or did they do ABA first to get some basic skills before trying RDI? It's not clear.
When I explained the "lack of practical steps" to the RDI consultant, they explained you can't have steps because every child is different. Yes, every child is different, but you still need basic steps with variations. Are we saying we teach every person how to drive a car that much differently? Not really. There are variations certainly on what works for younger people, older people, nervous people, people with disabilities, etc., but to say there are "no documented steps" to me translated to "we make it up as we go along". Teachers in the classroom have lesson plans. They adapt it yes, but they don't go fly by the seat of their pants. They have goals and they measure progress.
The promise of RDI is great. I just don't understand it. I know many people like it, but I can't justify paying so much money just to understand a therapy. Can anyone explain it in practical terms?