Relationship Development Intervention – also known as RDI – is a parent-led approach which focuses on a child’s difficulties with flexibility of thought, emotional regulation and perspective-taking.

RDI is based on the idea that children with autism have missed key developmental milestones – such as social referencing, joint attention – that enable them to think flexibly, regulate their emotions, and understand social situations.

RDI seeks to give children another chance to master these milestones in the same way that they are mastered by typically developing children: through their relationship with their parents.

An RDI consultant guides the parent to change their communication and interaction style so that they can support their child to fill in the developmental gaps they missed. This is done through everyday activities such as washing up, cooking, going for a walk, etc – some of which are video recorded and shared with the family’s consultant who then provides feedback on progress.

We have identified a single research study, of very limited scientific validity and reliability, into the effects of the RDI programme on children with autism. Because of the lack of scientific evidence in favour of the RDI programme, we are currently unable to recommend its use.

However, given the claims made for RDI and the level of the existing anecdotal evidence, we feel that further, objective research into the programme is justified.

This information is reproduced with the kind permission of Research Autism. Research Autism is the only UK charity exclusively dedicated to research into interventions in autism. For further information please visit: