RDI® Program

The RDI® Program is a family-centred, developmental program which offers remediation of autism and other neurodevelopmental disorders. Remediation is the process of correcting a deficit to the point where it is no longer an obstacle.
Current autism interventions focus on developing skills and providing compensations which unfortunately doesn’t address the underlying neurological problems and core deficits causing autism.

The RDI® Program is based on a large body of research from the fields of human development, neurology, and neurodevelopmental disorders (including autism). Dr. Steven Gutstein and Dr. Rachelle Sheely, the founders of RDI®, have spent years studying and organizing the research literature in those areas to develop a comprehensive, research-based approach to neurodevelopmental disabilities.

By incorporating an understanding of how the brain functions, the typical sequence of development from birth through the lifespan, and the neurological and developmental problems that occur in autism and other related disabilities, they have been able to design an approach that addresses the core deficits of these disorders in ways that promote more typical pathways of development. Because it is based on the most current research in these areas, the RDI® model evolves over time as research sheds new light on our understanding of these issues. This is critical, because it means that RDI® as a treatment approach remains on the cutting edge of what we know about these disorders.

RDI is about restoring the natural relationship between the parent and child which gets distorted due to autism. Autism can make children very rigid, anxious and controlling which alters parents’ behaviour. By trying to avoid outburst and confrontations, parents often change their lifestyle; limit their social contacts and variety of life experiences. This in turn, limits their child’s opportunities for learning, discoveries and developing resilience.

RDI® recognises autism as a dysfunction of dynamic thinking. Dynamic thinking is what you do (function), with what you know (skill), in the real world. This is a core deficit of autism, universal to all individuals, regardless if they are “low” or “high functioning”.

By taking part in RDI® , parents work closely with a consultant to develop guided engagement necessary to support their child’s learning and development. RDI® does not focus on developing discrete, static skills but rather on developing conceptual and dynamic thinking skills. Children develop their static skills naturally in a process of learning and discovery. They learn how to use them and understand the concept of their function while learning the skill.

Most children with autism have very good memory and can quickly accumulate (static) information, but without dynamic thinking they don’t know how to functionally use that information often leading to limited interests and poor communication and social skills.

In RDI® Parents are taught to be reflective in ongoing analysis of their child’s abilities and challenges, and be able to modify what they do and say, accordingly. They learn how to use every day activity to provide learning opportunities for their child. Parents are taught to keep their child at the optimal learning level by understanding their child's current level of ability. This is also achieved through the support structure (scaffolding techniques) that parents use to promote their child’s thinking and learning.

RDI® works systematically through the sequence of developmental stages to ensure that every child has the developmental foundations which will allow them to make cognitive discoveries and to move towards increased flexibility, motivation to learn from others, development of meaningful relationships (with parents, siblings, friends & partners), employment and “real” independence. These are the measurable areas that determine Quality of Life in adults.

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