Each child with autism experiences the disorder differently. There are an abundance of theories and therapies available for parents to try. Parents are regularly challenged by time and financial matters when choosing autism therapies, drugs, and diets. Floortime doesn’t involve drugs or diets and is inexpensive. The National Institute of Mental Health recommends to attempt just one new therapy at a time, to monitor its effectiveness.
Floortime, or the DIR model (Developmental, Individual difference, Relationship based), is a therapy that works by following the natural interests of the child. It is an intense method of play between child and caretaker or therapist. Floortime was developed by Dr. Stanley Greenspan. Greenspan was the founder and director of the Interdisciplinary Council on Developmental and Learning Disorders. Floortime is an inexpensive and effective autism therapy. You can perform it yourself; however, it can be time consuming.
Floortime can benefit a child with autism because it helps to foster or increase the connection between parent and child. For children with autism this tie is often frayed and needs help to flourish. Communication and bonding doesn’t happen naturally for autistic children. This is because of several factors. Sensory issues make it difficult for children to be close or stay close to anyone. And autism impacts the areas of the brain which control socialization.
How Floortime Works
The therapy works as a method of hyperactive play. It helps to engage an autistic child who may have difficulty staying interested. The therapist (who may be the parent) crawls around on the floor, frequently hiding toys and making sounds like Mickey Mouse. A high-pitched voice has been shown to be most effective. Most play on the floor is part of “floortime.” Because of the connection it helps create, floortime has shown remarkable progress in children who participate. Floortime works in mini-sessions of play, 20-30 minutes in length, up to eight times in a day. Floortime works with communication circles and building and expanding these circles. The child is engaged because of the high-pitched sound of your voice and because you are following their interests.
A circle of communication is a smile from you that is reciprocated from your child. Floortime will leave you sweating and it is an invigorating and exhausting experience. You will feel thrilled to see your child’s face light up for the first time. Some children eventually begin to make eye contact when they previously did not. This therapy does require a large amount of energy and a time commitment. But as any person who has used it will tell you, the results are worth it. Outcomes will vary, as with all therapies, but improvements have been seen during the first full week in some cases.
Greenspan was a founding member and past board president of Zero to Three: National Center for Infants, Toddlers, and Families. He wrote over 40 books and has received several awards from psychiatric associations. He passed away in 2010, but his enlightened approach to helping special needs kids forever changed many families’ lives for the better.