Connecting the Dots

Connecting the Dots

How the RDI Program Brought it All Together

2012-08-30 16.18.48

My work in the field of Autism began 23 years ago, when I was assigned to work as an aide in a preschool classroom full of young children with Autism in Los Angeles, California. I was fortunate enough to work under an inspiring teacher, Gloria, who used her beautiful voice when calling her little students to circle time. Gloria’s love for teaching inspired me to continue working with autistic children. I learned quickly that excellence and passion in anyone choosing to work with special needs children, is not enough to make a long lasting impact in the lives of individuals with Autism without prominent parental involvements.

For example, Gloria and I found that Mondays and coming back after an extended holiday break was particularly challenging for ASD children, it was as though we had to start over with some of the skills they have previously made progress in. We found that potty training was difficult to accomplish in the classroom without parents’ willingness to maintain a consistent routine at home.

After completing my field work as Gloria’s assistant, I explored working as a behavioral interventionist with ASD children. I would implement customized programs by working directly with a client at home, and even though we saw progress within the scope of therapy, there was still a disconnect in the child’s ability to apply the skills with parents, teachers or other professionals working to address co-occurring conditions. It seemed that the best team of professionals with the best intentions working for the same client was still not enough!! Everyone on the team seemed to work on his/her own objectives, and the child was not ‘connecting the dots’.

Almost 12 years ago, I stumbled upon a new parent-based program called Relationship Development Intervention (RDI), I became certified and have never looked back. What was and still is, unique about the RDI™ program is that building parental competence as a guide at home truly is the missing piece in Autism remediation. Even within the first year of implementing parents’ objectives, the learning potential in every child blossoms naturally, and even more important, the changes in the parent-child relationship just unfolds beautifully. As a clinician, there is nothing more rewarding than witnessing a client who is able learn something new, take off and run with it, and it would not matter where and who he or she is with. It is amazing to compare notes with other professionals working with the same client and agree that learning has become easier and more motivating for the child. The RDI program helps ASD children to integrate what they have learned in different settings, and increase their motivation to use the skills more.

What the RDI™ program has given the parents I work with is a chance to ‘redo’ the neurological pathways needed to develop mindfulness in their children. The program equips parents to be able to change themselves, and therefore have the mental, physical, emotional readiness and capacity to slow down and build competence in their children. Naturally by being successful guides at home, parents are preparing their children to learn from other adults.   Parents are no longer pulled to so many different directions by other people’s opinions, because they are confident that they can take any objectives from their team of professionals and implement them at home as only a good guide to a child would.

I love sharing about my work as an RDI clinician with other professionals working with special needs children, and when they ask me: “What do you love the most about RDI?”. My answer is simple: “Because our work as parent coaches helps children learn better with anyone about anything, the sky is the limit!”


Maisie Soetantyo has been providing RDI supervision and training for families in California and Southeast Asia. She firmly believes    that through daily mindful engagements parents can make a difference in their special needs children’s long term outcome. Maisie and her husband, Pete Dunlavey, are both seasoned certified RDI consultants and run destination 4 day RDI parent trainings around the world. For more information or to contact Maisie, email her at


Catch Maisie Soetantyo in person at Oasis Place! To learn more about RDI, join our RDI Workshop on the 23rd and 24th of January. Click here for more infomation : RDI Workshop with Maisie Soetanto

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