I posted this article quite some time ago. It was a pretty active post, with over 64 comments. The gist of my post was that RDI was difficult to understand clearly without paying big bucks to have someone explain it to you.
Well, someone recently provided me a copy of one of Gutstein's earlier books, Relationship Development Intervention with Young Children. Inside I was surprised to find not pages and pages of theory and anecdotes, but activities and exercises explaining how to move through the RDI stages. Finally, something practical for me to look at without words like "dance" or "redo". The activities are clearly laid out with goals that make sense.
What I've found so far is that RDI appears (at the early stages at least) to be a lot like speech therapy. Some of the early activities focus on changing how you communicate with your child, getting the child to pay attention, and sharing enjoyment with activities. A good speech program is Hanen's More Than Words, which has a lot of similarities with these RDI activities. I like what I have read so far - these activities are practical and will help develop the skills I think they claim to develop.
One interesting thing to note is that my suspicion about needing some ABA to get started is probably true. I often wondered what RDI proponents would suggest for a child who completely ignores the world around them. Here's an interesting excerpt from the book I am borrowing:
A small group of children with autism appear oblivious to these methods. They may monitor their communication environment so poorly that they do not even notice your highly emphasized, indirect prompts. These children require an initial behaviour modification approach where they initially learn to respond to direct prompts (emphasis mine).In other words, some children need some ABA to get started before one can even start these RDI activities. Now that makes sense to me. As Alanna has gained skills in communication and attention our ability to do these kinds of activities is increasing.
Lastly (and I expect to be flamed for this), Gutstein has claimed the reason he stopped publishing these activities was because the ABA crowd was de-constructing them and making them into behavioural programs. I think he has a valid point, but I also think the primary motivating factor was to make his method proprietary and "license" it to franchisees, namely the RDI Consultants. I am sure Dr. Gutstein has done well financially after making this decision. I suppose I can't really fault him for this, but I wish he was more interested in helping parents of children with autism rather than making money.