How do RDI™ and ABA differ?

ABA (Applied Behaviour Analysis) shapes behaviours and teaches skills using tangible external reinforcers. While ABA can be a very effective method for teaching behaviours, behaviour change does not necessarily mean that the cognitive processes underlying the behaviour have developed. The focus is on skill deficits, rather than on remediating the underlying cognitive processes.

RDI™ focuses on re-establishing typical development, and on developing the underlying cognitive processes necessary to appropriately categorize and generalize information. This means the child can assess a new situation and, based on their own observations and experiences, adapt their behaviour accordingly. Instead of teaching the skill and all the possible variants, the child knows that variation is a natural part of life. This means they appreciate the challenges inherent in situations that require dynamic problem solving.

What is the research evidence for RDI™?

RDI™ is an evidence-based family-centered intervention that is intensive, objective driven, and individualized. It targets the components of social-emotional development in the context of the parent-child relationship. Dr. Gutstein first described the approach in 2001 in his book, "Solving the Relationship Puzzle". There are many research studies published in peer-reviewed journals documenting the validity of the following approaches:
• RDI™ for remediating the core deficits of autism (e.g. joint attention, social communication, flexibility, and theory of mind);
• RDI™ for improving overall functioning (per special education placement, ADOS diagnostic category, and other normed valid measures of ASD symptoms like flexibility and joint attention);

• Training parents with ongoing consultation using the parent-child relationship as a natural context for child learning and growth; and
• Incorporating intervention into daily routines that account for caregiver needs and child functioning.
A llst of peer-reviewed published research on these topics can be found here