Join CafeMom Today! Autism Spectrum Disorder: Treatments: Floortime and Autism (DIR, Floor Time)

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Monday, October 13, 2008

Floortime and Autism (DIR, Floor Time)

What is Floortime?

Floortime, a vital element of the DIR/Floortime model, is a treatment method as well as a philosophy for interacting with children (and adults as well). Floortime involves meeting a child at his current developmental level, and building upon his particular set of strengths. Floortime harnesses the power of a child’s motivation; following his lead, wooing him with warm but persistent attempts to engage his attention and tuning in to his interests and desires in interactions. Through Floortime, parents, child care providers, teachers and therapists help children climb the developmental ladder. By entering into a child’s world, we can help him or her learn to relate in meaningful, spontaneous, flexible and warm ways.

A DIR/Floortime clinician may prescribe a number of 20-minute Floortime sessions a day as part of a comprehensive treatment program. In addition, Floortime provides a framework that can guide various daily interactions with children; bathing, playground time, meals, etc.

Floortime is basd on interactive experiences, which are child directed, in a low stimulus environment, ranging from two to five hours a day. Interactive play involves the adult following the child's lead, and aims to encourage the child to "want" to relate to the outside world. Early intervention is encouraged as soon as possible as the child is likely to become more withdrawn and difficult to reach as they get older.

Beginning in the 1980s, Stanley Greenspan built upon research into social-emotional development to create a proprietary intervention for children with deficits in relating and communicating. This method is known as Developmental Individual Difference Relationship Model (DIR Model). Floortime, which is a specific therapeutic technique also developed by Greenspan, is often confused with the DIR Model.

The basic premise of Floortime is that children learn skills from the relationships which they have with their caregivers and other people significant in their lives. It was developed in response to the needs of the increasing population diagnosed with disorders on the Autistic Spectrum, who were then being either served by behavioural methods or cognitive skills, and other impairments of development and learning.

During the preschool program, Floortime includes integration with typically developing peers. Greenspan contends that interactive play, in which the adult follows the child's lead, will encourage the child to 'want' to relate to the outside world. Furthermore, Greenspan (1998) stipulates that the program should begin as soon as the child is identified as the longer children are uncommunicative, the more difficult parents find relating to them and the more the children withdraw. According to Greenspan (1998), intervention must transform perseveration into interaction. Once this occurs, he theorizes that the child becomes purposeful, and can imitate gestures, sounds, and play.

Relationships, according to Greenspan and Wieder, are essentially developed in playful interactions. Greenspan's theory of development is that children grow, from birth to 4 years, in six different milestones to succeed in further learning and development.

  • Self-Regulation: The dual ability to take an interest in the sights, sounds and sensations of the world and to calm oneself down.
  • Intimacy: The ability to engage in relationships with other people.
  • Two-Way Communication: The ability to engage in two-way communication with gestures.
  • Complex Communication: The ability to create complex gestures, to string together a series of actions into an elaborate and deliberate problem-solving experience.
  • Emotional Ideas: The ability to create ideas.
  • Emotional Thinking: The ability to build bridges between ideas to make them reality-based and logical.
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