Empowering families through Relationship Development Intervention: an important part of the biopsychosocial management of autism spectrum disorders

Ann Clin Psychiatry. 2009 Jul-Sep;21(3):174-82.


Background: Relationship Development Intervention (RDI) is a program designed to empower and guide parents of children, adolescents and young adults with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) and similar developmental disorders to function as facilitators for their children's mental development. RDI teaches parents to play an important role in improving critical emotional, social, and metacognitive abilities through carefully graduated, guided interaction in daily activities.

Methods: The paper reviews RDI's theoretical underpinnings, current methodology and preliminary research results. The clinical utilization of RDI is discussed as an important part of the biopsychosocial management of ASD.

Results: Although a controlled, blinded study of RDI has yet to be done, preliminary research suggests that parents, through the RDI curriculum and consultation process, have the potential to exert a powerful impact on their ASD children's experience-sharing communication, social interaction, and adaptive functioning.

Conclusions: RDI should be considered as part of a comprehensive treatment regimen, in which the physician plays a clinical management role, providing medical and psychiatric consultation. The RDI clinician can function as a remediation specialist, providing accurate feedback to the physician, along with individualized training and guidance to family members.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Autistic Disorder / therapy*
  • Child
  • Family / psychology*
  • Family Relations*
  • Family Therapy / methods*
  • Humans
  • Social Behavior*
  • Young Adult