Growth is Possible for Individuals With Autism

At the heart of what we do is an unwavering belief that growth is possible in the life of individuals with autism.

This foundational belief comes from the latest research and our experience with thousands of cases where the child’s growth-seeking drive has been activated, making a way for the crucial parent-child Guiding Relationship to form and for Dynamic Intelligence to develop.

Related: Developing the Brain through MindGuiding

When development happens as it should, infants at around 6-7 months begin to show signs of an insatiable drive to grow…to stretch, learn and explore. Parents, in turn, are instinctually ready to promote this growth and eagerly provide opportunities for the child to explore.

For infants with ASD, it’s a different story. Their growth-seeking drive doesn’t develop at this time and, instead, the drive for stability becomes their norm. Instead of venturing out, these kids shrink back, shy away and pull in. Consequently, they disengage from their parents who are intuitively trying to provide activities for growth. This starts a whole spiral of disappointment, failure, confusion and fear, which causes the relationship to break down.

The great news is that the growth-seeking drive is still present in these ASD kids (and adults) and it can be activated through the MindGuiding Relationship.




The ultimate goal in RDI programs is the development of Dynamic Intelligence that allows individuals with autism  to live and thrive in a complex world. In thinking about this goal, two ideas are key:

Dynamic: We use this word in contrast to static; where things stay the same and are predictable. Dynamic brains are needed to function in a complex, fast paced and ever-changing environment where options must be weighed and decisions must be made.

MindGuiding: What is unique about human beings and the relationship between parents and children, is that we are able to influence the development of the mind of our offspring. Other species engage to develop behavior; teaching movement, being with the herd, using a tool etc. But humans engage around mental development. Our unique advantage is we can actually develop the mental processes of our children to be optimal for the culture where the child will be living.

Through MindGuiding, we are developing the dynamic mind. When we speak of the mind we are not talking about things we know or the information or formulas we have. Instead, we are talking about building mental processes that allow us the ability to optimally:

  • Envision potential futures
  • Counter-factual thinking
  • See different ways we might approach situations
  • Imagine productively
  • Infer what others are feeling and thinking
  • Generate multiple possible ways of responding to a challenge
  • Use feelings in a productive way to make judgements when the environment is too complex
  • See decision-making as a process where we balance different variables

For more resources and guidance to activate growth-seeking and build the Guiding Relationship, check out the RDI Learning Community.


  1. Aniqa

    Feeling involved

  2. Peggy

    What do you do when your teen has reached internalizing but seems stuck? He has needed therapy reach this point but there’s no therapy for beyond this stage that I can find.

  3. Elizabeth Alford

    Hi Peggy. So sorry for the delay in my response.

    The RDI model relies on the expert help of RDI consultants to guide families in this important work. They can offer important third-party perspective and can create a plan to move you to the next level. Have you chatted with a consultant? We have professionals all over the world and many who work at a distance. Take a peek at the list ( and contact us if you need more guidance:

  4. Denise Stites

    I work within the highschool Autism program in PA. I am very lucky to have some freedom to use RDI with my students. I can say after 20 years of working with the special needs program that RDI works hands down at any age. I see how behaviors increase once kids reach teenage years. I go back to basics with these children and expereicne how very much they rely on the simple programs.

  5. Rachel

    My son has been diagnosed with autism. He is 5yrs old now. I really need help for him.

  6. Pete

    Hi Rachel,
    Have you been able to speak with anyone in the RDI community since you posted this last month? Your best bet is to use the ‘Find a Consultant’ tab in the top right of this screen to find a RDI professional in your area. They should be able to answer any questions you have and point you in the right direction. If you aren’t able to reach anyone you can message me at

  7. Huweida

    I need to find therapist near me. My 5year old needs this service asap. Thanks!

  8. Nik

    What is percentage of kids from 3,4,5 yrs old and on that were able to get tru the window and establish somewhat independent lives?

  9. Rachelle Sheely

    Hi Nik
    I don’t have statistics. Over the years I have seen a lot of families but am not in touch with most of them.Recently I did look at the first group of children I saw and tracked down about 15 or 19, I forget the exact number who are living independently and have relationships.

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