After the ASD Diagnosis: Restoring Confidence

by Dr. Steven Gutstein

When parenting a typically developing child, we take the background elements of our relationship for granted. We assume that we can provide challenging opportunities by using the child’s moment-to-moment reactions to make adjustments ensuring that the child feels comfortable in engaging with the challenge.

Related: Growth-promoting Mental Challenge

Similarly we assume that the child will be highly motivated to seek us out and engage with us.We do not have to worry that in the midst of what seems to be a mutual enjoyable activity, that the child will suddenly disengage and walk away. We do not have to worry that the child will actively reject our attempts to introduce new ideas and perspectives into our engagements.

Read More:



Moving out of Crisis: The First Step

by Dr. Steven Gutstein

When people first come to us, they are usually desperate for change. A recent autism diagnosis sends conscientious parents looking for anything that will help their family regain some sense of normalcy. This quest for answers and the normal desire to fix things can escalate to a frenzied pace and a flurry of activity that increases everyone’s anxiety. Too often, this leads to a ‘crisis’ mindset that can be the first obstacle many parents have to conquer.

To become an effective Mindful Guide you must be able to move out of this mental state where you are looking everywhere and anywhere for solutions, where you are living day-to-day and where you are unable to gain the perspective you vitally need to see down the road.

Effects of Being in a State of Crisis:

  • We lose perspective
  • We can only focus on the short term
  • We become focused on immediate problems
  • We spend our energies putting out fires
  • Our pace becomes too rapid
  • We do not dare to stop and reflect
  • We are unable to learn from our experience
  • We use our resources inefficiently
  • We try to go everywhere and try everything

Read More:


Developing Dynamic Intelligence is Crucial

by Dr. Steven Gutstein

What most sets us apart from other species, is the powerful mental resources we have developed, enabling us to overcome the diverse mental challenges presented by our dynamic environments –  where  information overload, unpredictable change, unclarity and ambiguity are expected to be the norm.

Related: Messiness=Growth

We increasingly find that in the course of our daily lives we are confronted with messy situations full of competing demands, unclear, overwhelming information and sudden, unpredictable change. We find ourselves facing decisions, tasks and problems that are highly complex, unpredictable and frequently stress-producing. In short, we are learning that we must be ready to conduct our daily lives in Complex Dynamic Environments.

Read More:


Growth is Possible for Individuals With Autism

by Dr. Steven Gutstein

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.

Read More:



Empowering families through Relationship Development Intervention: An important part of the biopsychosocial management of autism spectrum disorders. 

Steven E. Gutstein, PhD. 2009; 21(3): 174-182. 


It has been nearly 10 years since the introduction of the Relationship Development Intervention (RDI®) program, a family-centered approach to remediating the primary deficits of autism spectrum disorders (ASD).1 More than 5000 families in 16 countries are currently participating in RDI. Although several books and articles have been written about RDI24 and a Web site ( contains extensive information about the program, it still not widely known, and most professionals and laypersons have only partial or incorrect information about the program. The purpose of this article is to familiarize clinical practitioners with RDI. Additionally, the article describes ways that RDI can be a useful tool for clinical psychiatrists and pediatricians involved in the biopsychosocial management of children, adolescents, and adults with developmental disorders.

To learn more or read the full article click on the following link:



Autism: SAGE Publications and the National Autistic Society, Volume 11 (5) 397-411; Evaluation of the Relationship Development Intervention Program.

By Steven E. Gutstein, Audrey F. Burgess, Ken Montfort. 2007


This study is the second in a series evaluating the effectiveness of Relationship Development Intervention (RDI) to address unique deficits inherent in autism spectrum disorders. RDI is a parent-based, cognitive-developmental approach, in which primary caregivers are trained to provide daily opportunities for successful functioning in increasingly challenging dynamic systems. This study reviewed the progress of 16 children who participated in RDI between 2000 and 2005. Changes in the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (ADOS) and Autism Diagnostic Interview—Revised (ADI—R), flexibility, and school placement were compared prior to treatment and at a minimum 30 month follow-up period. While all children met ADOS/ADI—R criteria for autism prior to treatment, no child met criteria at follow-up. Similar positive results were found in relation to flexibility and educational placement. Generalizability of current findings is limited by the lack of a control or comparison group, constraints on age and IQ of treated children, parent self-selection, and parent education conducted through a single clinic setting.

To learn more or read the full article click on the following link:



Clinical Child Psychology and Psychiatry: The Relationship Development Assessment-Research Version: Preliminary validation of a clinical tool and coding schemes to measure parent-child interaction in autism. 

April 2015 20: 239-260, First published on December 23, 2013.


The aim of this project was to replicate and extend findings from two recent studies on parent-child relatedness in autism (Beurkens, Hobson, & Hobson, 2013; Hobson, Tarver, Beurkens, & Hobson, 2013, under review) by adapting an observational assessment and coding schemes of parent-child relatedness for the clinical context and examining their validity and reliability. The coding schemes focussed on three aspects of relatedness: joint attentional focus (Adamson, Bakeman, & Deckner, 2004), the capacity to co-regulate an interaction and the capacity to share emotional experiences. The participants were 40 children (20 with autism, 20 without autism) aged 6–14, and their parents. Parent-child dyads took part in the observational assessment and were coded on these schemes. Comparisons were made with standardised measures of autism severity (Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule, ADOS: Lord, Rutter, DiLavore, & Risi, 2001; Social Responsiveness Scale, SRS: Constantino & Gruber, 2005), relationship quality (Parent Child Relationship Inventory, PCRI: Gerard, 1994) and quality of parent-child interaction (Dyadic Coding Scales, DCS: Humber & Moss, 2005). Inter-rater reliability was very good and, as predicted, codes both diverged from the measure of parent-child relationship and converged with a separate measure of parent-child interaction quality. A detailed profile review revealed nuanced areas of group and individual differences which may be specific to verbally-able school-age children. The results support the utility of the Relationship Development Assessment – Research Version for clinical practice.

To learn more or read the full article click on the following link:



The Relation between Severity of Autism and Caregiver-Child Interaction: a Study in the Context of Relationship Development Intervention

By Jessica A. Hobson , Laura Tarver, Nicole Beurkens, R. Peter Hobson

This article evaluates the relationship between parent-child interactions and the severity of autism in the children involved in the study. The researchers focused on children and parents involved in Relationship Development Intervention and found that there was improvement in the severity of autism that was specifically related to the quality of parent-child interactions.

To purchase the study click on the link below:



Training by Repetition Actually Prevents Learning for Those With Autism

By Shilo Rea

Individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) sometimes acquire a new behavior or skill only in a specific context, but they have difficulty transferring that learned skill or information to a new context.

For example, children with autism can be taught what a dog is by showing them a picture of a dog and repeating the word “dog” over and over. But, when they are then taught what a cat is or even shown another type of dog, the previous knowledge does not transfer, and they have to learn this information from scratch.

A new study published in Nature Neuroscience shows that training individuals with ASD to acquire new information by repeating the information actually harms their ability to apply that learned knowledge to other situations. This finding, by an international research team, challenges the popular educational approaches designed for ASD individuals that focus on repetition and drills.

“There have been few systematic investigations into the fundamental mechanisms by which information is acquired by ASD individuals — and into the potential reasons for their restricted, atypical learning,” said Marlene Behrmann, the Cowan Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience at Carnegie Mellon University and a faculty member in the Center for the Neural Basis of Cognition (CNBC). “This study begins to scratch the surface of the phenomenon.”

Read more…


Chronic Inflammatory Diseases Sometimes Cause Behavioral Problems, But Probiotics Might Help

By  Kristin Magald

A new study has found that probiotics could potentially be used to treat behavioral symptoms in patients with chronic inflammatory diseases. Publishing their findings in the Journal of Neuroscience, researchers from the University of Calgary believe that probiotics work to alter the communication between the immune system and the brain, decreasing symptoms of fatigue, depression, and social withdrawal that are usually seen in chronic inflammatory diseases, like rheumatoid arthritis and inflammatory bowel disease. So far, researchers have examined a reduction in these symptoms within mice that had liver inflammation.

Most of the processes of our gastrointestinal tract are carried out by microbiota, a mass of microorganisms that regulate digestion and our immune system health. Probiotics, consisting of many different cultures of live bacteria and yeasts, can help microbiota maintain digestive health when introduced into the gastrointestinal tract. Previous studies have also found that probiotics has positive effects on mood and cognition, but up until now, how probiotics interact with the brain has been relatively unknown. Researchers are finding that the answer is linked to the immune system.

Read more…