5 Practical Implementations of RDI® in Your Life as an Adult To Help You at Work, at School or Socially

If you’re an autistic adult, you know how challenging living with autism can be. And you know that you can be proud of who you are, but still frustrated by your struggles.

If you’re looking for a way to improve your quality of life and relationships, achieve your goals and live the life you want to live, RDI® can help.

Autism Doesn’t Go Away When You Grow Up

There are few resources out there for autistic adults. If you’ve tried to search online for help in the past, you probably only found articles saying “your child” this and “your child” that, but autism doesn’t just go away in adulthood. Not only that, but more people are being diagnosed later in life. Finally finding out that there’s a reason that you’ve struggled so much in life is a relief – but discovering that there are few options for autistic adults wanting to improve their lives can be disheartening. We want to help with that.

RDI® can help you learn how to cope with and manage common challenges that autistic people face, like difficulties with finding or keeping a job, navigating social relationships at work, extreme stress and mental health struggles.

That doesn’t mean you need to change who you are, only that you, just like anyone else, can use therapy to change your thought patterns, improve your self-esteem and quality of life and enhance your relationships.

The RDI® Program Is Based On Dynamic Intelligence

The following practical ways to implement RDI® in your life are based around the idea of Dynamic Intelligence. Each of the six areas of Dynamic Intelligence can help you learn to think flexibly, understand different perspectives and cope with change. Dynamic Intelligence is what allows us to understand and navigate the dynamic (i.e. always changing) world we live in.

Neurotypical individuals develop this type of intelligence naturally, but individuals on the spectrum experience a divergence in early childhood that doesn’t allow them to develop that innate ability to think flexibly and understand different perspectives in life, to cope with change, and to integrate information from multiple sources. Without Dynamic Intelligence, it can be difficult to fully engage with our complex and constantly shifting world. However, Dynamic Intelligence can be learned – even in adulthood.

5 Ways To Implement RDI® As an Adult To Help You at Work, School or Socially

What does that mean in real-world terms? Here are 5 ways RDI® can help adults on the spectrum:

1. RDI® Can Help You To Have Real, Reciprocal Relationships

If you struggle with building and maintaining relationships with others, you’re certainly not alone; many people with autism do. Differences in communication styles, difficulties in seeing something from another person’s point of view and other personal challenges (like sensory sensitivities, difficulties with change, overwhelm, etc.) can make social relationships hard for individuals on the spectrum.

But RDI® can help you teach yourself how to manage your relationships. This can be done through learning:

  • Emotional Referencing – The ability to ‘read’ and learn from the emotional experiences of others
  • Social Coordination – The ability to observe others and self-regulate behavior in order to participate in social relationships.

Philip Milburn, an autistic adult and blogger, says that the RDI® program has helped him in several different ways. In his blog post “RDI and Me: How This Amazing Autism Programme Has Helped Me Thrive,” he says that since starting RDI®, he’s experienced an “increase in sociability:”

“I credit this to the R.D.I. programme, as it has helped me to take on board different perspectives. I’m still working on being able to do that ‘in the moment’…..it’s a slow process but I feel I’ve made progress.”

2. RDI® Can Help You To Have a Career You Love

Many autistic people have strong and passionate interests. Maybe you want to pursue higher education specializing in those interests and/or a related career, but attending college and having a job can be challenging. RDI® can help you to deal with common scenarios you’ll run into in college or at work:

Job Interviews 

Job interviews can be stressful for everyone, but individuals on the spectrum in particular can really struggle with them. In order to get a job you want, you’re expected to perform at every moment – making the “appropriate” amount of eye contact, using the “correct” body language, and saying the “right” things.

On his website Autistic Not Weird, award-winning author, speaker and educator Chris Bonnello says our world is “built with everyone else in mind” and that it’s not necessarily the best candidate who gets the job. “It’s the candidate who performs best at the interview who gets the job. And that’s why autistic people struggle so often to find employment.” Bonello likens a job interview to a “spoken word beauty contest.” It’s not how well you can do the job, it’s how well you can talk about doing the job.

RDI® can help you succeed in job interviews by helping you to teach yourself:

  • Declarative Language – The ability to use language and non-verbal language for expression, interaction, and to share feelings and ideas with others
  • Relational Information Processing – The ability to think situations through, to obtain solutions, when there are no “right or wrong” answers
  • Foresight and Hindsight – The ability to reflect on past experiences and use them as a tool to anticipate potential future scenarios

Navigating the School or Work Environment

And then once you get the job, what then? Navigating the workplace can be challenging, but Dynamic Intelligence concepts can help you to learn those soft skills – like navigating social relationships at work, adaptability, conflict resolution, teamwork and more – that are so important in the professional world. 

Related: Transitioning to Independence: 5 Online Resources To Help Neurodivergent Young Adults Find Jobs & Job Skills 

Like the workplace, the school environment also comes with complex situations and certain expectations from others. The challenge of completing your work, while also dealing with frequent changes, social relationships and meeting expectations (and trying to figure out when you should change your actions in certain situations) can be overwhelming, to say the least. 

RDI® can help you to navigate these complex environments and situations by helping you teach yourself:

  • Social Coordination – The ability to observe others and self-regulate behavior in order to participate in social relationships
  • Flexible Thinking – The ability to adapt when life’s circumstances change

Avoiding Sensory Overwhelm at School or Work

Complex environments like the workplace or school can often lead to sensory or emotional overwhelm. If not dealt with, overwhelm can lead to shutdowns or meltdowns. 

RDI® can help you learn to avoid overwhelm through several aspects of Dynamic Intelligence, including:

  • Social Coordination – The ability to observe others and self-regulate behavior in order to participate in social relationships
  • Flexible Thinking – The ability to adapt when life’s circumstances change
  • Relational Information Processing – The ability to think situations through, to obtain solutions, when there are no “right or wrong” answers
  • Foresight and Hindsight – The ability to reflect on past experiences and use them as a tool to anticipate potential future scenarios

3. RDI® Can Boost Your Happiness and Overall Quality of Life

Philip Milburn says that RDI® is behind the new sense of joy he now feels in life. He says that he used to struggle with:


Catastrophizing is a “cognitive distortion that prompts people to jump to the worst possible conclusion, usually with very limited information or objective reason to despair. When a situation is upsetting, but not necessarily catastrophic, they still feel like they are in the midst of a crisis.”

Philip describes catastrophizing as the “unintended act of feeling horrifically stressed over spilt milk inconveniences.” He says that in the past, catastrophizing was something he really struggled with, but now, “RDI has helped me to see mistakes are not the end of the world. In some cases, they can even bring useful learning experiences.”

Ruminating on Mistakes

Philip says that before RDI®, he didn’t have the “ability to view something as a small inconvenience” and that this caused “severe and painful stress over small things:”

“Using RDI to work on mistakes and mishaps, indeed I did get better. Now I can outright not even see these mistakes, much less plummet into depressive rumination over them. I define rumination as an endless cycle of negative thinking which it is really difficult to break out of. This is another example of the RDI programme working its wonders better than anything else ever could.”

4. RDI® Can Help You To Have More Meaningful, More Helpful Memories

Episodic memory – one’s autobiographical memory – serves two primary purposes: personal and functional. We use our memories to build and strengthen relationships, to develop meaningful memories of our lives and the time we’ve spent with the people we care about. It also allows us to draw from those memories later, to reminisce alone or with loved ones about the past, and to form a sense of self-identity.

Episodic memory is also important in a more practical sense. It lets us reflect on what we’ve done in order to make plans for the future, and to problem solve based on past experiences. Developing meaningful memories and being able to draw from them later is a critical skill when it comes to moving forward in life, but autistic individuals often struggle with this.

RDI® techniques can be used to strengthen episodic memory, to allow for dynamic growth in both your personal life and ability to make decisions on the spot and plan for the future.

5. RDI® Can Help You Handle “Messy,” Unpredictable Real-World Problems and Settings

Behavior-based autism treatments, like ABA, are focused on teaching autistic individuals certain skills. While learning social and communication skills can certainly help you get through life a little easier, it’s not enough. 

Most individuals with autism can learn a wide range of sophisticated skills, just like any other person. However, significant obstacles are found when the individual tries to apply these learned skills in real-world, complex, dynamic settings, or when skills must be modified or adapted “on-the-fly” to meet circumstances that were not covered in the training curriculum.

The problem, then, is not learning specific skills per se, but their application in a more dynamic manner, to progressively more complex, “messy”, unpredictable real-world problems and settings. Behavioral therapies don’t teach individuals how to apply learned skills in real-world situations, and how to deal with unexpected changes, but RDI® does, through the lessons of Dynamic Intelligence.

Philip Milburn says that RDI® has helped him personally in dealing with unexpected changes in life:

“On a recent trip to the nation of Portugal, famed rightfully for its wine and ocean coasts … I caught a bad cold, which dogged me for the duration of the break. With the help of RDI, I was able to be thankful and relieved to have [my hosts] there to support me and allow my family to enjoy their stay. It meant so much to me that at least my family enjoyed their time and I was able to enjoy myself as much [as] a sick person can. What’s more, RDI helped me retain some composure despite the sickness. I didn’t take it as badly as I have done in the past. I’m sure if this happened a few years ago, the sickness would have caused extreme stress and I’d have refused the holiday completely.”

Find Whatever You Call “Success” With RDI®

Success doesn’t mean the same thing to everyone. While society defines it as having a college degree, a “good” job and perfect relationships, for others it may mean having a job they like and relationships that aren’t perfect, but wonderful nonetheless.

Many people on the spectrum struggle to find whatever happiness and success means to them because of the many challenges they face navigating a world not built for them. Maybe you’ve struggled for so long at this point that you don’t see any other way, but RDI® can help you to stick with and accomplish your goals, manage life’s challenges as they come and have fulfilling, reciprocal relationships.

About the impact RDI® has had on his life, Philip Milburn says:

I feel relieved every day. I will hold on to my improved and re-invented ability to see myself through challenges and turmoil with all my spirit and desire to live a happy and healthy life.”

RDI® changed Philip’s life and it can change yours, too.

Ready to get started?

Find Your RDI® Certified Consultant or go ahead and sign up for your free consultation today.


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