Empowering families
Complimentary to RDI
RDI / The Sonrise Program

For a detailed comparison please click here  http://educationforremediation.blogspot.com/2011_11_01_archive.html

I had the pleasure of attending the Autism One conference in Chicago this year.  There were so many great speakers and I was able to talk to many and share ideas, encourage and learn from them. Being a Mom who tried many different things with her children before I ultimately found success in helping my children remove the obstacle of Autism in their lives, I have a passion for education so that we as parents can make an informed choice.  For me personally, I like to know the similarities and differences with different options for treating Autism.  Some I am more than familiar with because of my own children .  Some I am not because I went a different route.  I chose RDI for my own children, along with helping them in some Bio medical co occurring issues they had.  Even though I chose RDI, I still appreciate the social connection approach that the DIR model and Sonrise seems to promote, compared to the behaviorial approach .  I did get a chance to talk to Raun Kaufman at the Autism One conference.  We talked about how we can get school districts to understand that forming that trusting relationship ( without being overwhelmed) is where true learning begins!!  Bypassing that is a huge disservice to our kids!  When I got home, I was contacted by 3 different families and they asked me what the difference was between RDI/DIR/Sonrise/ABA.  I love this question because when my first son was Diagnosed 12 years ago, we as families did not have these options ( or they were not recognized as options).  I told them what I knew, and was honest and told them that I was not really all that familiar with DIR ( I know some but certainly not an expert) and I knew some things about Sonrise ( but again not an expert)  This led me to sites looking at both so that I could be more help to these families ( I am also an RDI certified consultant now because of my own children and their success, I wanted to help other families just starting on this journey or wanting to take the next step to remediation)  I thought to myself,  maybe I will do a comparison but in order to do that I needed to know more.  For my ABA comparison I consulted with a professional with a Masters in ABA.

While I was looking around on a DIR site and the Sonrise program site, I saw that Sonrise posted this ( including RDI in a comparison) 
Celebration of the Child
RDI The Son-Rise Program
Does not believe in big celebrations of the child (particularly with regard to eye contact) because of a concern about doing anything which might be construed as ABA-type behavior-shaping reinforcement, which is seen as bleeding social interaction of most of its humanity. When the child engages in some way, the facilitator either remains silent or “spotlights” what the child did in a low-key manner.  Sonrise- Sees another way forward with a different kind of huge celebration which adds humanity. Celebrates eye contact, communication, flexibility, and engagement as magnificent and meaningful steps toward the world of others. Uses celebration to express a deep sense of gratitude that the child can understand, enhancing closeness and social engagement.

The Importance of Attitude
Floortime/DIR and RDI The Son-Rise Program
Sees attitude as largely irrelevant, with effective application of each program’s techniques being what matters. Sonrise- Sees attitude as vitally important, since having a non-judgmental and welcoming attitude determines whether the child feels safe and relaxed enough to interact and learn. It also determines whether  parents stick with the program.

 I was disappointed with what I read.  Yeah I get that misinformation is out there, and that putting a spin on how we understand something is human nature.   While I respect the Sonrise Program, I do think this was more then just a spin…and I certainly want to clear up any misrepresentation that is being claimed regarding RDI.  I did email and Facebook Barry Kaufman but did not get a reply .  UPDATE-  I did receive a response and look forward to providing a detailed comparison

I will be doing a comparison once I am able to talk to a son rise representative.  We all are frustrated no matter who makes incorrect statements so for right now I wanted to clarify few misrepresentated statements.

1,  RDI does indeed celebrate ( and celebrate in a huge, mindful way) with a child and their moment of competency.  The statement that RDI does not because we don’t want to be construed as doing anything like ABA is false.   RDI is based on developmental milestones so what RDI does, or does not do, has nothing to do with concern over ABA. Here is the difference.  RDI celebrates the Mindfulness of the child at the exact moment that the child makes a discovery.  A child deserves to *soak up* the competency of the moment whether it be referencing/Gaze ( loosely termed eye contact) , joint attention or true communication.  In order for our children to encode that positive memory of competence, RDI does believe in spotlighting the moment.  Spotlighting is celebrating the progression of Dynamic thinking.  The guide and child, share that moment of connection with the positive memory.  It is a reflective process where the child concentrates on sharing the moment of their own discovery with their guide.  THIS is the core of understanding that people and relationships are the backbone to understanding their social world.  That said, Sonrise is correct that we do not view celebration in the same way.  Again, the differences do not mean there is no celebration happening.   RDI is using the spotlight and relationship as the celebration, not in any way taking away from the concentration of the crucial memory of success.  For this same reason  RDI does not promote saying Good job but instead saying what we see the child do ( wow you put your shoes on!) or  ( we did that together).  As a parent and a consultant,  I want all my kids ASD or not, to celebrate their achievement and share that with them compared to telling them how to think or feel.   This is the foundation of human interaction…sharing perspective.  Building from this foundation right from the get go prevents having to fade the prompt of over exaggerated praise as an instrumental practice.  Praise cam be a good thing in context and as long as it does not take away from the child’s actual mindful discovery. 

2.The guide in RDI is always reciprocal with the child’s interactions.  Any silence during an activity should not be construed as non communication.  Our children on the spectrum struggle with non verbal communication.  They need a lot of practice not leaning on our words for instrumental purposes.  The Guide is ALWAYS engaging with the child, either with action or the process of promoting dynamic intelligence.  RDI does believe in celebrating a child, by spotlighting their competency and sharing the moment compared  to entertaining the child.  Finally there is nothing low key about a child feeling competent in an interaction and being able to share that joy with their guide without overstimulation!

 and finally 3. The importance of attitude-

I have to say this is the one that made me write this post.  Saying that RDI does not care about attitude of the parents or family and that it is irrelevant,  is flat out not true in all aspects. My understanding as a parent, how I accepted how I was the vehicle for change for my children, my own joy and attitude in helping my children, all came from my own discoveries through the process of RDI.   RDI devotes its model of a family consultation program, through objectives to the family and parental empowerment in taking back the role of trusted guide in their child’s life.  “The focus is on constructing essential foundations for mental development by harnessing the immense potential of the family. ( Dr, Gutstein) Time is spent on mission statements, spending time with the family as a unit and reflecting on childhood and parental styles. Parents stay with the program because they not only see progress with their own child, but they are able to transfer the reflection of Dynamic Intelligence into areas of their own life.  “The Family Consultation Program seeks to provide a second opportunity for parents and children to develop this essential relationship. We have distilled the typically intuitive process into its central elements. Dr. Gutstein has spent over twenty years studying the intuitive guiding process as it is conducted over the entire world. He has systematically "de-constructed" the process - breaking it apart into its central components. He has developed a variety of methods to create optimal practice and learning environments that slow and amplify information so that children can experience trust in their guides and in themselves.”  (RDICONNECT) 

Parents are guided through this simultaneous process of Dynamic intelligence and reflection for both themselves and their child.  This is one of the key components making RDI effective in empowering parents, giving them hope and success in restoring their child’s developmental trajectory.  In no way is attitude irrelevant to our families!


I do hope that  Mr Kaufman does take into consideration the misrepresentation on the  Sonrise Website.  I definitely want to continue to support all relationship based interventions and know that with accurate information, families are capable of making the best decision for their own family

Kathy Darrow

Mom and  RDI certified Consultant