Thank you Allan Katz for stopping by my blog.
A little background here: Allan and I both commented on another blog post that highlighted the use of Collaborative Problem Solving (CPS; Ross Greene) in a classroom and discussed the use or concept of consequences. Since then, we’ve been reading each other’s blogs and have had some comments, questions for the other. I have his consent to answer this question publicly. I think it is a valuable thing for professionals to engage in this kind of discourse to understand what each of our respective fields have to say about our common goals such as educating others, addressing challenging behaviour, skill-building etc.
I am familiar with the Relationship Development Intervention (RDI) developed by Dr. Steven Gutstein and the type of programming or intervention that is recommended as part of it. When I worked as an autism consultant, many parents inquired about the program and some even sought training in order to implement the program themselves. I am not officially certified or trained in RDI. Some of the activities suggested would find their way into social skill groups and/or my music and play groups that I ran.
The philosophy of the program (as I understand it) is that intervention is family-centered, child-driven (i.e., uses the child exploration, motivation as the scene for intervention). It can be play or activity based. It encourages interaction between a child and adult, targeting the core social-communication and emotional regulation challenges (or deficits). I liken RDI to be similar to incidental teaching and pivotal response training (PRT) which are behaviour analytic in nature. For example: the focus on declarative communication in RDI is similar to mand and tact training in the verbal behaviour approach or the shaping of joint attention used in PRT. These skills are often the first ones behaviour analysts address. Behaviour is communication. If our learner does not know that her words/actions have meaning and result in getting others to interact, provide and share in something, then many other skills will continue to lag.
I also did some research on RDI and found a few studies that show promising results, but that it is yet to be established as an evidenced-based practice. The program is fairly new, so more studies conducted by other practitioners/researchers (i.e., not Gutstein) are needed and may come in due time.
The thing for me with any of these intervention packages is to analyze its treatment components and know what is at play. I see behaviour analytic components in many of these packages (including CPS) - we’re just calling them different things. For example, such phrases as “child-driven” or “using the motivation of the child” are similar to what I would refer to as having established MO (motivating operation). If a child shows interest in something or is anticipating what will happen next, that is your reinforcer.
Treatments come in all sorts of packages. Many “borrow” from what others are doing and call them something different - sometimes at the down-putting of behaviour analytic or behaviourist approach. The presumption that behaviourism or ABA negates the relationships between people or simply relegates it to be about control is disheartening to a practitioner like me. In my practice of ABA, the relationship between myself and the learner is absolutely important. Our work together should be fun and reinforcing where we are both learning. We should both come out of it having benefiting from what the other had to offer.