What is the DIR/Floortime Model?
The DIR/Floortime Model claims to promote development by encouraging children to interact with parents and others through play. It’s claimed that this interaction helps children reach milestones in their emotional development.
Other common names for this therapy include the Developmental, Individual Difference, Relationship-Based Model and the Greenspan Approach.
Who is the DIR/Floortime Model for?
DIR/Floortime is designed for autistic children and children with other developmental disorders. It’s recommended that children start this therapy as early in life as possible.
What is the DIR/Floortime Model used for?
DIR/Floortime 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 – for example, helping children learn mutual communication.
Where does the DIR/Floortime Model come from?
DIR/Floortime was developed in the 1980s in the United States by researchers Stanley Greenspan, MD and Serena Wieder, PhD.
What is the idea behind the DIR/Floortime Model?
DIR/Floortime is based on a developmental theory that says that all children need to reach certain milestones so they can keep developing emotionally and intellectually. The idea is that autistic children and children with other disabilities have difficulty reaching these milestones. Therefore, they need intense, individualised support.
What does the DIR/Floortime Model involve?
DIR/Floortime has several parts, including assessment, home interactions, school interactions, playdates and specific therapies. Central to the approach is ‘Floortime’. This is 2-5 hours of playtime a day between adult and child, usually on the floor.
Assessment is used to understand the child’s development.
The therapy starts after assessment. Three different types of home and school interactions are used during the therapy:
- Floortime – this involves play-based interactions between caregiver and child.
- Problem-solving interactions – these aim to teach the child something new by setting up a challenge for the child to solve.
- Specialised activities – these are designed to help the child with sensory development and engagement with others.
Having 3-4 playdates a week with typically developing children gives the child an opportunity to practise new skills.
The child also gets specific therapies – for example, speech therapy or occupational therapy.
DIR/Floortime can go on for several years.
Does the DIR/Floortime Model help autistic children?
A small number of studies have shown some positive effects from DIR/Floortime. It’s been shown to improve interactions between parents and children and children’s social and emotional development. But there isn’t much evidence of its effects on children’s communication and adaptive skills.
More high-quality studies are needed.
Who practises the DIR/Floortime Model?
A DIR/Floortime certified professional develops and oversees the program and helps you do it at home. Other professionals provide specific therapy services.
DIR/Floortime professionals must have training from the Interdisciplinary Council on Development and Learning (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 this program.
Where can you find a practitioner?
Go to DIR Practitioners Directory to search for DIR-certified professionals in Australia.
You can find other professionals by going to:
- Speech Pathology Australia – Find a speech pathologist
- Occupational Therapy Australia – Find an occupational therapist
- Australian Psychological society – Find a psychologist.
If you’re interested in DIR/Floortime, it’s a good idea to talk about this therapy with your GP or one of the other professionals working with your child.
You could also talk about DIR/Floortime with your NDIA planner, early childhood partner or local area coordinator, if you have one.
Parent education, training, support and involvement
If your child is doing DIR/Floortime, you’re actively involved because the therapy happens in your home 2-5 hours a day, as well as in other settings.
You might need to pay for specific therapy services along with the cost of a DIR/Floortime certified professional to design an overall therapy program and teach you how to do Floortime.
You can contact the NDIS to find out whether DIR/Floortime can be included in children’s NDIS plans.
Therapies and supports for autistic children range from behaviour therapies and developmental approaches to medicines and alternative therapies. When you understand the main types of therapies and supports for autistic children, it’ll be easier to work out the approach that will best suit your child.