10 RDI Activities for the Whole Family
By Katherine Lee, RDI
Program Certified Consultant
RDI ( Relationship Development Intervention) is a parent training program, in which we as consultants, guide our par-
ents to be able to guide their children to address the core deficits of autism (regulating together,
flexible thinking, per-
spective taking, good enough thinking, attention to detail, inferencing, joint attention, problem solving, etc) . We have
guiding goals for our parents and goals for the children as well. Our
goal as consultants is to empower parents!
To guide our children we have to have ACTIVITIES*!
Goal : Regulating Together
Regulating together means staying together in time. When many of my families come to me, their children don't walk
next to them when they are out (at the mall, the zoo, wherever) , they don't stay in sync with their parents when they are
playing a game (throwing a ball together is not possible) or even maintain a simple patty cake together. Here are just a
few activities I recommend, depending on the child and parent of course.
Jumping and falling on a trampoline together.
Holding hands jump, jump, jump fall.
( I've had moms do this on
the bed with little ones) Change it up, some times jump fall, sometimes, jump jump jump jump fall.
Staying side by side walking together can turn into funny walking, walking backward, walking ba-
by steps, walking big steps, walking side to side, running and stopping together. My parents have done this in their hall-
way, to the mailbox, to a near by pond or just in the back yard.
Falling together on a pile.
1, 2, 3
FALL. My parents have made piles of pillows, cushions and bean bags to have
fun falling together a the same time. Starts by holding hands and falling and eventually NOT holding hands and being
unpredictable, like 3,2,1 or count down blast off from 10....or 3, 2 fall
4. Drumming together.
Learning to drum together at the exact same beat.
Starts out simple....1, 2, 3. You can use
pots and pans too for flexible thinking. Once you are drumming together, you can start to change the beat
, slightly at
first, then getting more complex
I throw you the ball , you throw it in the basket
or opposite world. You throw me the ball and I make
the basket (parents with younger children use the indoor children's goals and they start by just handing the ball to their
child and he/ she puts in the basket). For children who struggle with the ball, we use rolled up socks and hampers for
the different but same activity.
Some of my parents have used rolled up paper balls and a waste paper basket.
Change, variation, same but different and different but same are often not tolerated by the children I see.
The status quo
or what we call "static thinking" is preferred to the dynamic life they are meant to lead. These are just a few of the activi-
ties my families work on in the process of building dynamic thinking and tolerance for change.
Continued on Page 5
RDI Activities (Continued)
1. Rolling balls back and forth together.
Change out colors of balls you use, size of balls you use, texture of balls you
Some of my families have used cars instead, firetrucks, etc. Keep changing out the vehicles.
2. Painting with Squirt Guns.
Put paint in squirt gun, and shoot it onto a canvas. Washable pain please. Set up outside
or some other "paint safe" zone. Hang an old sheet or some other item that can serve as a canvass. Have everyone squirt
guns with paint in them.
3. Watermelon cookies.
Slice watermelon and use a cookie cutter to
make cookie cutter shaped watermelon pieces (can
also be done with other melon. )
4. Popping bubbles together.
Let some get away.
Chase after the bubbles together. For little ones, inside in a smaller
room may be best( but watch out for spills). Outside, the bubbles can really fly, but are fun to chase together.
Make a cinnamon roll birthday
Take store bought rolls and line them into the shape of a number.
is key. You can make cinnamon role rabbits by taking some of the rolls and turning them into ears. Make noses and eyes
out of bits of cinnamon roll dough
*Before we choose activities, we select a goal, then choose a set of activities to meet that goal. All of our decisions are
based on our assessments and on going supervision of the families.
All activities can be modified for age and skill. Some
of the best activities are the most simple so you will see some of those too
Every family is unique and so every RDI program is unique with unique strategies and activities for working on the core
deficits. When a family struggles with what to do with a child, often I find that is because they can't formulate a vision of
their child" doing that activity". Helping build that vision
is my role because without it, we won't move forward. Visions
give us hope and hope moves us forward.
Katherine Lee is a RDI Program Certified Consultant in the DFW area.