What is the DIR®/Floortime® Model?

The DIR®/Floortime® Model 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.

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?

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 the DIR®/Floortime® Model 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 – for example, helping children learn two-way communication.

Where does the DIR®/Floortime® Model 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 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. It claims that children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) 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.

Intervention starts after assessment. Three different types of home and school interactions are used during the intervention:

  • Floortime® – this involves play-based interaction 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.

This therapy can go on for several years.

Cost considerations

You 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 you how to do Floortime®.

Does the DIR®/Floortime® Model work?

A small number of studies have shown some positive effects from this therapy. It’s been shown to help improve the interaction between parents and children and to improve social and emotional development.

More high-quality studies are needed.

Who practises the DIR®/Floortime® Model?

You usually do DIR®/Floortime™ at home. A DIR®/Floortime™ certified professional develops and oversees the program and helps you deliver it. Other professionals provide specific therapy services.

Professionals delivering DIR®/Floortime® 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 psychologistsspeech pathologists and occupational therapists. Teachers and other aides might also be involved in the intervention.

Parent education, training, support and involvement

If your child is doing a DIR®/Floortime® intervention, you need to be actively involved in this approach, because it’s delivered in your home (2-5 hours a day) as well as other settings.

Where can you find a practitioner?

Go to ICDL – DIR practitioners in Australia to find DIR-certified professionals.

You can find other professionals by going to:

If you’re interested in DIR®/Floortime®, it’s a good idea to speak about this therapy with your GP or one of the other professionals working with your child. You could also talk about it with your NDIA planner, NDIS early childhood partner or NDIS local area coordination partner, if you have one.

There are many treatments for autism spectrum disorder (ASD). They range from those based on behaviour and development to those based on medicine or alternative therapy. Our article on types of interventions for children with ASD takes you through the main treatments, so you can better understand your child’s options.