What is DIR® / Floortime™ ?

DIR is a framework that helps parents and professionals understand children. It is a comprehensive approach that considers the Development, the Individuality of the child, and our Relationship with him or her.

When looking at Development, we assess basic fundamental capacities that typically emerge during the first years of life but may not be fully mastered by a child with developmental challenges. These capacities include the ability to remain calm, interested, and responsive to sensory experiences (self-regulation), the ability to engage in back and forth emotional interactions, the ability to problem solve in social contexts, and the ability to create ideas and purposefully connect those complex ideas.

The Individuality aspect of the model identifies specific ways in which the body processes sensory information. For instance, some children may seek auditory input, while others may avoid it. Here, we also consider the child’s communicative ability, motor planning, and visual-spatial processing.  

The last component of the model, the Relationship, acknowledges that a warm and emotional interaction tailored to the individual needs of the child will foster overall development.

Floortime refers to a technique in which therapists and caregivers follow the lead of the child, and based on his/her interest, find opportunities to expand the interaction and challenge the child. The emotion and natural motivation of the child are considered essential to enable higher levels of social, emotional, and intellectual capacities.

Why would it be beneficial to follow the lead of the child?

Children in the autism spectrum spend a great deal of time going to therapies in which they are being told what to do and what not to do. Nevertheless, very rarely are they allowed to just be. When we begin to validate the interest of the child, we create a space in which the child feels understood and opens up to new experiences. This is tremendously important because it allows us to get to know the child better, to learn about his/her passions and challenges; and with this knowledge we are able to connect at a deeper level, to interact for the sake of the interaction itself. 

Does it mean we just let the child do what he/ she wants? 

Not at all. The child functions best when naturally motivated, therefore we consider his or her interest as a window of opportunity to engage and challenge the child. For instance, if a child is playing with trains, the adult would join him, and using animated gestures and sounds, would crash, hide, or even steal the trains.  If done correctly, the child’s attention would shift from the trains to the adult and from there the interaction can expand. At the same time, we set boundaries when appropriate, as you would with any child. 

Is floortime only for young children?

No. With young children, this can be done on the floor; however floortime can take place through conversations and interactions in other settings, depending on the interest of the child. We always adapt the intervention according to what motivates the child; an older child will probably be interested in different things than the younger one. Nonetheless, the same principles apply. 

How does it work?

The intervention is always tailored according to the needs of the child and the family unit. Nonetheless, considering the role  of emotional connection in the development of the child, active participation of the parents is always crucial. It is therefore important that parents work with a trained professional to appropriately implement floortime.

Who can benefit from DIRFloortime® ?

This model is beneficial for any child or adolescent who may be struggling meeting developmental milestones. Typically, it is known to benefit those in the autism spectrum, but it's also beneficial for others with different conditions such as: sensory integration, attention deficit, speech delays, depression, anxiety, learning challenges and behavioral problems. 

Is there research supporting the model?

Yes, there have been  studies published in scientific journals reporting positive results and more studies are being conducted. For a full list of research articles click here