HOUSTON, Sept. 20, 2005 – As discussion continues regarding the dramatic increase in autism cases throughout Texas, Dr. Steve Gutstein will welcome parents and professionals from across the country to Houston for a comprehensive two-day workshop delving into the latest research findings and treatment advances. “Going to the Heart of Autism,” will focus on the Relationship Development Intervention® (RDI®) program Gutstein co-developed.

The conference, scheduled for Nov. 12th and 13th, is intended for family members, professionals, researchers and educators who work with people on the autism spectrum. It will cover the following:

  • How modifying communication style can dramatically change the way a person on the autism spectrum relates to others;
  • The importance of guiding and pacing, creating an experience-sharing communication environment and capturing episodic memories; and
  • What motivates people on the autistic spectrum to develop relationships.

The RDI program represents a new generation of autism treatment through which Gutstein has worked to translate research findings into a systematic clinical approach to address the core problems faced by all individuals on the autism spectrum. It is different than “first generation” intervention programs because it is geared toward remediation. A primary assumption of the RDI program is that through focused guided participation in challenging activities, families can increase the flexibility and complexity of neural pathways of people with Autism Spectrum Disorder.

“The RDI program represents a completely new way of thinking about and treating the deficits that are common in all individuals on the autism spectrum,” said Gutstein, co-director of The Connections Center. “We are challenging families and professionals to think beyond achieving mere functionality as a successful outcome for individuals with ASD; our reference point for success in the RDI program is fostering loving relationships and enhancing quality of life.”

The prevalence of autism and associated disorders has sharply risen in recent years, with some education and medical professionals describing the rise as an epidemic. According to the most recent Texas Public Schools Autism Prevalence Report compiled by FightingAutism, the number of individuals between the age of 3 and 22 hit 11,940 in 2003. That is an increase of more than 67 percent since the year 2000 when there were 7,131 reported cases. Some, including Gutstein, believe the rise is at least partly due to a loosening of the criteria used to diagnose autism as well as misclassification of autistic children as mentally retarded in the past.

The 2-day workshop runs from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. on Nov. 12 and 13, 2005. It will take place at the Sheraton Houston Brookhollow, 3000 North Loop West in Houston. The cost is $225 until Oct. 1, $250 until Oct. 29 and $275 after that. Online registration is available at www.RDIconnect.com or by calling (713) 838-1362.

About Connections Center

Established in 1995, the Connections Center for Family and Personal Development, based in Houston, is a multi-disciplinary program to develop innovative evaluation and intervention programs for people with relationship disorders. Led by Drs. Steve Gutstein and Rachelle K. Sheely, the Connections Center staff provides a full range of evaluation and treatment services, including RDI. They provide education and training to families and professionals worldwide. More information is available at www.rdiconnect.com.