DIR-Floortime therapy: Refurbishing the relationship with your child through play

In our latest blog, Child and Adolescent Psychotherapist Zuzana Camm, tells us about DIR-Floortime therapy, and how it’s become her life mission to help parents who are finding it hard to connect with their child.

Child playing with blocks

Where does the name come from?

“DIR-Floortime is a therapeutic model of supporting children with neuro-developmental differences such as autism, Down syndrome, sensory-integration issues, or early attachment difficulties. The model’s aim is to carefully attend to each child’s unique palette of needs, capacities, difficulties and talents.

The three letters stand for the three main areas we address:

  • D – developmental capacities

  • I – individual differences

  • R – relationships

At the core of the model is Floortime – time specifically devoted to therapeutic play that is tailored to the child’s emotional and neuro-developmental needs.”

What does Floortime play look like?

“Floortime is different to each child and each carer. It reflects their unique ways of being in the world, what feels pleasurable to them, what helps them be in touch with themselves and each other.

Floortime is a therapeutic form of play that feels really good and challenges at the same time. The shared pleasure and relationship that deepens through the experiences of togetherness serve as the fuel for learning.”

People describe DIR-Floortime as a ‘family approach’ – what does this mean?

“The DIR-Floortime approach sees the parents as experts on their child. They spend the most time with them, they are closest to their child’s heart, and their shared pleasure is the greatest motivating force for growth and learning. We also include siblings and friends in the play, when the child is ready to do so.

To help parents learn the play strategies, I use coaching, modeling and also reflective discussion meetings. Together, we look closely at video recordings of the play interactions with their child. We become detectives of how and why to adjust our play to make it a therapeutic tool.”

What attracted you to DIR-Floortime work?

“Many parents I have worked with shared their despair about not being able to think about a toy to give their child to make their eyes spark with joy. Their children don’t play. They don’t share their play. Perhaps they escape into the world of (sometimes) hard to accommodate repetitive rituals or screened gadgets; more and more so as they grow.

Without getting support to learn the basic capacities to relate, play and learn, the gap between the children and parents can grow. Often this comes with a widening range and intensity of difficult behaviours. The lack of meaningful connections may lead to emotional and mental health problems, both in the children and in their overstretched parents.

Before I trained in Floortime, I had been wondering what I could offer to prevent such a trajectory. This has really become my life mission – and I would say DIR-Floortime is the vehicle to make my mission successful.”

What’s the best age to start DIR-Floortime work?

“It is never too early and it is never too late. Still, the brain plasticity is greater early in life, so the earlier therapeutic intervention begins, the better. In the initial phase of our work we closely assess the developmental capacities of each child and create a treatment plan that attends to the gaps in developmental capacities.”

What do you enjoy most in your work?

“The most rewarding part of my work is witnessing the growing and deepening loving connections the parents and children make with each other.

Oftentimes, when I meet the parents for the first time, I see that they had been working really hard on strategies and behavioural management that brought fragments of success and required lots of time and energy. It is amazing to see that simply connecting with what brings joy and pleasure in play leads to growth, learning and repair.”

What do you think are the three biggest benefits Floortime can provide for a child?

“Three? Hmm… Floortime gives children experience of shared pleasure, sense of being listened to and understood and it allows them to be authentic and comfortable with who they are.”

What would you say to a parent who is considering trying DIR-Floortime therapy?

“The best way is to simply try it out. Starting a therapeutic programme with your child is a journey and it is important for you to feel convinced that what you are doing is meaningful to you.

If you’re not sure, please do get in touch with me for an informal chat. I usually offer parents six initial sessions to get a sense of what the work is about and to decide if working with me and sharing the Floortime resonates whith what they are looking for.”


To make an appointment with Zuzana or speak to her about your concerns, please call us on 0208 6737930.

Lizz Summers

Voice & Presentation Skills Coach