Many parents, caregivers, and teachers wonder how to support a child with special needs, especially if the child has a complex diagnosis such as Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). One of the increasingly popular methods used is Floortime therapy. The goal is not to address speech, occupational therapy, or applied behavioral needs on their own, but to use this therapy to form a natural connection through play to address these needs. This therapy engages children to practice behavioral, social, and cognitive skills while engaging in emotional connection.
What is Floortime Therapy?
Based on the theory behind the Developmental Individual Difference Relationship-Based Model, Dr. Stanley and Dr. Serena Weider developed the Floortime therapeutic framework. This model emphasizes the relationship between biology and experience through child-led play.
One important difference between Floortime therapy and Applied Behavior Analysis therapy (ABA) is the difference of approach to a common goal. In Floortime therapy, you follow the child’s lead rather than rewarding the child for desired behaviors.
Anyone can join in Floortime therapy activities like pretend play, building blocks, or reading. Our therapy staff understands that in order to achieve success, you need the guidance of a trained professional. That is exactly what we offer here at The Therapy Place.
The 6 Milestones of Floortime Therapy
Therapists aim to help children reach six milestones that are essential for their emotional and intellectual development.
1. Self-regulation and interest in the world:
As your child reaches this milestone, he or she is emotionally mature and calm, in a state that allows him or her to begin positive communication. Slowly, your child can be expected to express more through play.
2. Intimacy or engagement in relationships:
With this second milestone, the focus is on social interaction and building intimate connections through eye contact, gestures, engagement, and bonding. Your child takes the lead and no pressure is on him or her to complete a specific task, just focus on the organic connection.
3. Two-way communication:
In this third milestone, your child takes the initiative in sharing feelings and actions. An exchange of objects or eye contact should take place in this milestone, in which your child is an active participant. We encourage your child to take initiative but never push them beyond their self-regulation and interest limits.
4. Complex communication:
The fourth milestone involves your child engaging in cooperative interactions and problem-solving. Complex communication involves using gestures and words in play to solve problems.
5. Emotional ideas:
By reaching this fifth milestone, your child is learning to build empathy, ideas, insight, and make sense of the world around them. In play, your child is able to try on different roles and characters while doing something they are interested in.
6. Emotional thinking:
By the time your child reaches this sixth milestone, he or she will be more aware of the world around them. Through play, he or she is able to be more reflective. In addition to learning more about cause and effect, your child will become more precise and nuanced with their reasoning. By playing with them, we hope to help them see there is a gray area in the world around them.
Examples of Floortime Therapy
Our goal at The Therapy Place is to teach you how to engage your child in different levels of communication with the help of milestones. Every milestone builds upon the one before it. By using “open and closed circles of communication” the child is able to develop a sense of self.
Parents and caregivers participate in the Floortime activities in a calm environment. Everyone follows the child’s lead.
Therapy consists of three types of play: Sensory, Object-based, and Symbolic play. During Sensory play, your child will twirl, bounce, crawl, and skip. During Object-based play, your child will sort objects, throw a ball, move objects to other locations and go and get them. During Symbolic play, your child will play dress-up, build cities, and act like different animals.
Children in Floortime therapy work with the therapists to continue their development of emotional, social, and cognitive gross motor, and fine motor skills, as well as communication and sensory development.
What are the Benefits of Floortime Therapy?
Children with Autism need to become adjusted to the sights, sounds, and sensations that surround them. During therapy your child will be exposed to different sounds and sensations like bells, drums, music, and touch. This will be achieved through role playing and work with tactile objects like fabrics or stuffed animals.
Fine Motor and Gross Motor Benefits:
Autism can cause children to fall behind in fine and gross motor skills. Children with Autism should work on these skills. During therapy your child can build with blocks, play board games, zip up zippers, lace up shoes, and string beads on a string.
Emotional and Cognitive Benefits:
As a child with Autism, your child may find it difficult to respond appropriately to things that happen to them and around them. During therapy, your child will experience and practice different emotions, such as happiness, surprise, delight, and confusion. Role-playing and dressing up will give your child a great opportunity to practice different emotions. Reading stories aloud to your child will also expose him or her to a variety of voices and emotions.
During the interactions, your child is guided to answer questions in order to work on expressive language (How are you doing? How do the characters feel?) as well as demonstrating actions to work on receptive language (Show me how to wave. Show me a smile.) Working on communication in this way helps them to make progress in other areas of speech and language development.
Who Benefits from Floortime Therapy?
The benefits of Floortime therapy can be seen in children, of any age, with Autism. This therapy is also helpful for any child with developmental delays; intervention should begin as early as possible.
Floortime therapy is play based therapy that addresses social, emotional, and cognitive delays in children through interactive child lead connection.
If you have a child with Autism or developmental delays please reach out to The Therapy Place today. Our team is ready to help guide both you and your child on the road to better communication and understanding through speech therapy and occupational therapy.
We encourage everyone to sign up for The Therapy Place’s email newsletter to get more information, tips, and at-home exercises for your children.
Robert K. Ross, EdD., BCBA-D, LABA, et al. “Is There Science Behind That?: Autism Treatment with DIR/Floortime.” Association for Science in Autism Treatment, 8 Feb. 2019, https://asatonline.org/for-parents/becoming-a-savvy-consumer/is-there-science-behind-that-dir-floortime/.
Autism-help.org. 2022. Autism, PDD-NOS & Asperger’s fact sheets | A guide to using Floortime as a home-based autism intervention therapy. [online] Available at: http://www.autism-help.org/intervention-floor-time-dir2.htm> [Accessed 10 April 2022.
“Dir®/Floortime® Model.” Raising Children Network, 22 Feb. 2021, https://raisingchildren.net.au/autism/therapies-guide/dir-floortime-model