Relationship Development Intervention (RDI®)

Our primary approach for treatment of autism spectrum is a developmental program called Relationship Development Intervention (RDI®). RDI® is a unique treatment approach that empowers parents to guide their child to succeed in our dynamic world. Children who learn to actively engage with the support of their parents in safe but challenging learning opportunities develop a strong motivation to explore and expand their world, as well as develop competence and trust in themselves and their guides.

Why RDI®?

Foundations of the adult mind are developed in the first years of life through the “Guiding Relationship”. From the middle of the first year of life, hour-by-hour, day-by-day, in every culture on earth, children interact with parents and other important adults in deceptively simple encounters, with a very serious underlying agenda; constructing the architecture of the child’s mind and brain.

Some children are born with vulnerabilities that in early development serve as a “tipping point,” interrupting developing foundations needed to participate in and benefit from the Guiding Relationship. For example, the early differences for children with autism may shift foundational parent-child communication. These early disconnects make it more challenging for
many parents to  provide the thousands of hours of safe, productive guidance needed to foster their child’s dynamic development.

The RDI® Consultation Program seeks to provide renewed opportunity for parents and children to develop this essential relationship. Dr. Steven Gutstein has spent over twenty years studying the intuitive guiding process as it is conducted over the entire world and has distilled the typically intuitive process into its central elements. He has systematically “de-constructed” the process – breaking it apart into its central components, so that any parent can learn to be an effective guide. Dr. Gutstein has developed a variety of methods to create optimal practice and learning environments that slow and amplify information so that children can experience trust in their guides and in themselves.

How does it work?

The program involves both parent and child learning new ways of thinking and perceiving in a carefully guided and personalized program. An individual plan is developed that first focuses on reducing family or personal obstacles that have gotten in the way of family wellness. Next, your consultant provides the guidance and tools needed for successful parent-child guiding engagements to occur.

Live purposefully. Love fully. Grow with us!

Frequently Asked Questions

Does RDI® work?

Yes, RDI® is very effective. However, with therapy, there is never guarantee regarding each family’s individual treatment.

Through in-session parent consultation and homework assignments, you will feel empowered to make changes in your family’s life. Like all therapy, RDI® requires commitment and active participation in order to be successful. We notice a direct correlation between how often our client’s put into practice what they learned in therapy and the positive change that occurs.

The National Autism Center 2009 report indicates that RDI® included as a Developmental Therapy is listed as an “Emerging” therapy.

There is some research building to support the efficacy of RDI®. Gutstein, S, (2005) Relationship Development Intervention: Developing a Treatment Program toAddress the Unique Social and Emotional Deficits in Autism Spectrum Disorder. Autism Spectrum Quarterly, Winter, 8-12.

Gutstein, S., Burgess, A. & Montfort, K. (2007). Evaluation of the Relationship Development Intervention Program. Autism, 11, 397-411.

Hobson, J. A., Hobson, P., Gutstein, S., Ballarani, A., Bargiota, K. (2008) Caregiver-childrelatedness in autism, what changes with intervention? Poster presented at the meeting of the International Meeting for Autism Research

For more information, please read Introduction to the RDI® Consultation Program By Dr. Steven Gutstein, creator of RDI®.

How long does treatment take?
RDI® is flexible and designed to accommodate a range of needs and ages. Therefore, depending on your child or family needs, RDI® can range from one to several years. As your child grows, your RDI® program will continue to be customized to meet your needs.
Where do you start?
During your first month of RDI® we use a series of interactive assessments to identify both your child and family’s needs. The Relationship Development Assessment (RDA) is a thorough multi-part assessment that gives your consultant a snapshot of your life.
Where do services take place?
Services can occur in a variety of settings. Parent training is always best in a clinic setting. If your child is receiving direct services, these appointments can occur in a home, office or community setting. As for homework, RDI® guiding engagements will take place in your everyday life. Part of your program will include you video recording you and your child together. Videos are submitted through the secured RDI® online learning community, hosted by the Connection Center and the founders of RDI®. In addition to video submission, the RDI® platform has a wealth of videos, webinars and articles to support your education.
What are the fees?

RDI® is covered by health insurance under behavioral health services similar to other models of treatment. At present, we are also a vendor of San Diego Regional Center to provide these services. Our vendor number with SDRC is PQ8319.

Fees are $150/hour. Sliding scales are available, based on financial need, when funding is not available. Typically parent consultation is between 6-10 hours per month for the first six months. After the first six months, you may see your consultant less frequently. For children who receive direct RDI® services, hours are vary between 2-26 hours a week.

How are services delivered?

Primarily services will be provided in several ways:

  • Parent meetings, without the child
  • Direct therapy with your child in home or in clinic.
  • Parent meeting with your child.
  • RDI® homework consultation, including video review and feedback.

Although in initial stages parents have a primary role, we believe that siblings, grandparents, relatives, teachers and other caring adults can and will play a crucial role in the child’s development and they are considered integral parts of the guiding team.

What does an RDI consultant do?
  • Plans and coordinates a developmentally appropriate program for your child
  • Trains parents to be mindful guides
  • Provide family support to develop a natural apprenticeship relationship
  • We will show you the scope and sequence of the program so that it is understandable to you
  • We will use the most updated version of RDI®, as we pride ourselves on staying current within this model. From dynamic assessment to your graduation in the Family Consultation Program, we will provide your family with quality consultation.
  • We will personalize our consultation to your family’s unique needs. We understand that each parent may  have differing levels of commitment, different amounts of time that they can spend parenting and working towards your RDI goals, and different learning styles. Your RDI® plan will be reflective   of who you and your child are.
  • We have an indepth understanding of development, parent-child relationships and autism. We are aware that the neurological differences related to autism do not lessen the need to live purposfully and love fully.
  • Our compassionate and knowledgeable team will provide an enriching, warm, environment for your learning.
What are the requirements?
Membership to the RDI® learning community is required for participation in the RDI® program. These monthly fees are established by The Connection Center. At present, these fees are $50/month. They are subject to change at the discretion of the Connection Center. Each family must have access to a video camera, computer, and internet services.
Want to read studies about RDI®?

Beurkens, N., Hobson, J.A. & Hobson, R.P. (2012). Autism severity and qualities of parent child relations. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 43(1), 168-78. doi:10.1007/s10803-012- 1562-4

Gutstein, S. (2000). Solving the relationship puzzle: A new developmental program that opens doors to lifelong social & emotional growth. Arlington, TX: Future Horizons.

Gutstein, S. (2009). The RDI book: Forgoing new pathways for autism, asperger’s and PDD with Relationship Development Intervention program. Houston, TX: Connections Center Publishing.

Gutstein, S. (unpublished). Preliminary evaluation of the relationship development intervention program. Journal of Autism & Related Disorders. Retrieved from:

Hobson, J. A. (2009). The guided participation relationship as a focus for change in children with autism and their parents. Poster presented at the Society for Research in Child Development, Denver, CO.

Hobson, J. A., & Hobson, R. P. (2011). Emotional regulation in autism: A relational, therapeutic perspective. Poster presented at the International Meeting for Autism Research, May 12–14, San Diego, CA. Retrieved from:

Hobson, J.A, Hobson, R.P., Gutstein, S., Ballarani, A., & Bargiota, K. (2008). Caregiver- child relationship in autism: What changes with intervention? Poster session presented at International Meeting Autism Research, London, England. Retrieved from:

Hobson, J.A., Tarver, L., Beurkens, N. & Hobson, R.P. (2016). The relation between severity of autism and caregiver-child interaction: A study in the context of relationship-oriented intervention. doi: 10.1007/s10802-015- 0067

Larkin, F., Guerin, S., & Hobson, J.A. (2013). The Relationship Development Assessment-Research Version: Preliminary validation of clinical tool and coding schemes to measure parent-child interaction in autism. Clinical Child Psychology and Psychiatry, Advanced online publication. doi: 10.1177/1359104513514065

Palmiotto, Jennifer (2015). A qualitative content analysis of parent-child interactions in autism within RDI. Retrieved from database .(3702866)









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San Diego, CA 92110

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San Diego, CA 92131

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