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At a glance: DIR®/Floortime™ Model
Type of therapy
The claim
Promotes social, emotional and intellectual development
Suitable for
Children with ASD
Research rating

Find out more about this rating system in our FAQs.

Some research shows positive effects, more research needed.

Estimate of the total time for family in hours per week and duration.

20+ This therapy requires 2-5 hours per day, and can last for several years.

Estimate of cost to family per session/item or week.

Visit the Autism Services Pathfinder to browse service provider information.

About this intervention

What is it?
The DIR®/Floortime™ Model is also known as the Developmental, Individual Difference, Relationship-Based Model. It focuses on promoting development by encouraging children to interact with parents and others through play. It’s thought that this interaction will help children reach milestones in their emotional development.

Who is it for?
This therapy is designed for children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) or other developmental disorders. It’s recommended that children start the program as early as possible.

What is it used for?
This approach claims to promote development in several areas including:

  • sensory development – for example, helping children make sense of what they see or hear
  • motor skills – for example, helping children get better at physical tasks like tying shoelaces
  • emotional and cognitive development – for example, helping children recognise other people’s feelings
  • communication.

Where does it come from?
This intervention was developed in the 1980s in the United States by two researchers – Stanley Greenspan, MD, and Serena Wieder, PhD.

What is the idea behind it?
In general, DIR®/Floortime™ is based on a developmental theory that says that all children need to reach certain milestones so they can continue to develop emotionally and intellectually. It claims that children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) (and those with other disabilities) have difficulty reaching these milestones. Therefore, they need intense, individualised assistance.

What does it involve?
DIR®/Floortime™ has several parts, including assessment, home interactions, educational interactions, play dates and specific therapies. Central to the approach is Floortime™. This is a large amount of play time between adult and child, usually on the floor. 

Assessment is used to gain an understanding of the child’s development, after which intervention begins.

Three different types of home and school interactions are used during the intervention:

  • Floortime™, which involves play-based interaction between caregiver and child
  • problem-solving interactions, which aim to teach the child something new by setting up a challenge for the child to solve
  • specialised activities, which are designed to help the child with sensory development and engagement with others. 

Having 3-4 play dates a week with typically developing children gives the child an opportunity to practise new skills.

Finally, the child receives any specific therapies needed (such as speech therapy or occupational therapy).

Cost considerations
Parents might need to pay for specific therapy services along with the cost of a DIR®/Floortime™ certified professional to design the program, and to teach and engage in Floortime™.

Does it work?
Some research has shown positive effects from this therapy. It has been shown to help improve the interaction between the parent and child and improve social and emotional development, but more high-quality studies are needed.

Who practises this method?
DIR®/Floortime™ is usually delivered by parents. They are usually helped by a DIR®/Floortime™ certified professional, who develops and oversees the program. Other professionals provide specific therapy services.

Professionals delivering DIR®/Floortime™ must receive training from the Interdisciplinary Council of Developmental and Learning Disorders (ICDL). This organisation is based in the United States, so there are only a few practitioners in Australia.  

DIR®/Floortime™ certified professionals might include psychologists, speech pathologists and occupational therapists. Teachers and other aides might also be involved in the intervention.

Parent education, training, support and involvement
Parents will need to be actively involved in this approach, because it’s delivered in the home (2-5 hours a day) as well as other settings.

Where can I find a practitioner?
Contact your state autism association and ask them to recommend a service or practitioner, or visit the ICDL website for a list of DIR-certified professionals in Australia.

The Perth-based early intervention service Sensory Connections also provides DIR®/Floortime™ Model therapy, including parent training and support.

  • Last updated or reviewed 20-11-2014