Today’s AlphaBooks Blogging features Engaging Autism: Using the Floortime Approach to Help Children Relate, Communicate, and Think (A Merloyd Lawrence Book), available from Amazon. The late Sydney Greenspan authored this book with Serena Wieder. Engaging Autism is based on Greenspan’s DIR model for treating kids on the autism spectrum. DIR stands for “developmental, individual-difference, relationship-based approach.” Greenspan argues that intervention should be based upon a clear understanding of a child’s current developmental level, should take individual differences into account, and an emotional relationship should form the basis for intervention. His most well-known feature of the DIR model is Floortime, where parents engage their kids in structured “play,” stimulating language and abstract reasoning. The Greenspan Floortime Approach is a site dedicated to continuing the work begun by Greenspan, including training parents and practitioners. Greenspan does not advocate for his model to be used in isolation, but as a part of a team addressing the needs of kids on the autism spectrum.
At Autism Speaks, you can watch Floortime in action with videos of real kids, their parents, and therapists. In many ways, Floortime is not dissimilar to the kinds of play that typically occurs between parents and their children. The big difference is that the child’s reactions are not typical, which means the parent must work to elicit words, responses, and attention. When I was first exposed to Floortime, I thought the burden on parents could be overwhelming. As you can see in the videos, it’s a challenge to engage kids right where they are instead of where you want them to be. The therapist sitting on the floor with them plays a key role in modeling/guiding this process. Greenspan notes that this approach can be used with older kids as well. Their interests might be more advanced, but at any level, you start where the child is and build reciprocal relationships. One important feature of Greenspan’s approach is his infusion of hope. In my experience, kids on the autism spectrum can achieve much more than many doctors and educators have predicted. To quote Greenspan, “A significant number of children treated this way have broken new ground….They have formed warm, intimate relationships with family and peers and have developed sophisticated verbal skills. They not only have mastered academics but also intellectual skills, such as spontaneous thinking, making and understanding inferences, and empathizing with others.”