This summer three members of the CT team attended a DIR Floortime™ Therapy Approach seminar presented by Jake Greenspan and Tim Bleecker, to learn about this ASD therapy programme which some of our clients follow.
What is Floortime Therapy?
In DIR, D is for ‘Developmental,’ I is for ‘Individual Differences’ and R is for ‘Relationship-based.’ Floortime therapy is different to other ASD programmes that ‘condition’ or train a child to respond in sociable ways. Instead, Floortime follows the child’s lead, using what the child enjoys and plays with to help them learn vital social skills, such as two-way communication. If that means getting down on the floor to play with a ball or a car, that is what the adult does. The parent/teacher or therapist will play with the child and add the learning on to this. They may use sensory toys, swings and physical games, symbolic toys such as stuffed animals or ‘little world’ people depending on the play ability of the child.
Helping Children with Sensory Processing Disorder
Children have differences in their ability to process what they hear, see, feel and how they can move. The aim is to get children with sensory processing disorders to a balanced, self regulated state where they are comfortable and happy to learn and interact. When they are not feeling balanced, this is when problem behaviours can happen (such as screaming/hitting out/self-stimulating such as rocking). Once the child is calm and relaxed, the learning can be stepped up.
It is really important for the adult in the ‘teacher’ role to think about how they are showing their emotional energy to the child through the way they talk, look and their body language. These all affect the way the children learn about emotional responses and also how interested they are in working with the adult! Children with ASD do not naturally learn social skills and so it is important that they are taught using an approach that engages them.
Who Benefits From The Floortime™ Approach?
Children who benefit from the DIR Floortime™ approach may have Autistic Spectrum Disorders, developmental delay, Down’s Syndrome or Sensory Processing Disorder. They will often have low levels of communication ability.
We liked the crossover of some of the DIR Floortime™ ideas with those our team uses in speech and language therapy and also verbal behaviour therapy, for example following the child’s lead and using their own interests to guide learning, and also finding the child’s motivators and using them to make interactions fun, not work.
Meeting the Sensory Needs of our Clients
There was a big focus at the seminar on sensory processing difficulties and how these impact on behaviour. Although as speech, psychology and play therapists we aren’t experts in this field, it helped us realise that our children cannot work to their maximum potential without us meeting their sensory needs first. Sensory processing difficulties often result in poor self regulation, attention and motivation, and we need to take this into account when working with each child. The DIR Floortime™ approach may be offered as formal training in the UK next year. We will be very interested to learn about the training process and how this will benefit our clients at Children’s Therapies.
Find out more about Dr Greenspan and the Floortime Approach™