Autism Awareness Month 2021: Relationship Development Intervention in Kenya

Article by Maureen Kasuku
Posted: April 13, 2021  

April is Autism Awareness month. In Kenya, official data on autism prevalence is not available, but the Autism Society of Kenya (ASK), a parent-driven organisation established in 2013, believes it could be up to 4%, or one autistic child for every 25 children. That is higher than the global average, which is one in 160 children  (less than 1%), according to 2018 statistics by the World Health Organisation.

A diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) can be difficult for both parent and child and parents of children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) often report high levels of parenting stress and low levels of well-being and parenting self-efficacy.

A great way to empower parents and families with a newly diagnosed autistic child is through Relationship Development Intervention. This is a family-based, behavioral treatment which addresses the core symptoms of autism. It focuses on building social and emotional skills. Parents are trained as the primary therapist in most RDI programs.

RDI helps kids with autism form personal relationships by strengthening the building blocks of social connections. This includes the ability to form an emotional bond and share experiences with others.

The main objectives of RDI are:

  • Emotional Referencing: the ability to learn from the emotional and subjective experiences of others
  • Social Coordination: the ability to observe and control behavior to successfully participate in social relationships
  • Declarative Language: the ability to use language and non-verbal communication to express curiosity, invite others to interact, share perceptions and feelings and coordinate your actions with others
  • Flexible Thinking: the ability to adapt and alter plans as circumstances change
  • Relational Information Processing: the ability to put things into context and solve problems that lack clear cut solutions and have no “right and wrong” solutions
  • Foresight and Hindsight: the ability to think about past experiences and anticipate future possibilities based on past experiences


If you have a newly diagnosed child and you’re seeking information on how to best connect and help your child, Meghna Visaria is an M.ED in special education and an RDI consultant-in-training based in Nairobi. Reach out to her by sending an email to  


About the author

Maureen Kasuku

Maureen is our resident cat lady and Beyoncé stan. She writes about spas, brunch and ballet recitals but has never been to any. Moonlights as a social justice activist in her spare time. She knows things and is obnoxiously opinionated on the internet but not in real life


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