What is life without people, relationships and warm emotional connections with our loved ones?

This is what DIR:Floortime is all about. It is about connecting those with difficulty relating and communicating to their parents, caregivers, teachers and peers. It is about looking at where the child is at, what their highest and lowest levels of ability are an where they are going to go next. It is not about teaching specific skills or carrying out a pre-decided treatment plan, it is rather about helping the child develop skills within a supportive home and treatment environment. It is about meeting the child where they are at, following their lead, helping them to feel safe, secure and connected and then helping them to climb the developmental ladder.   

DIR:Floortime is a therapeutic model that was developed by the late Dr Stanley Greenspan (clinical psychiatrist) and Dr Serena Wieder (clinical psychologist) and it has its roots in infant mental health. The model focuses on the development of the child while looking at their  individual differences (such as their motor or sensory abilities, language development etc) as well as their ability to cope within a relationship.

This model is transdisciplinary, meaning that it is used by multiple different professions (Occupational therapists, speech therapists, psychologists and teachers) as well as parents. This allows different professionals and parents to learn some of the tools and methods used by other professionals to utilize within their interactions with the child to support the child in the best possible manner. While the model takes into account the need for a transdisciplinary approach, it does not claim to replace any one therapy. Rather the model aims to inform and empower therapists to better engage and relate to clients. More importantly the model encourages the coaching and training of parents to become the primary play partner in the child’s world. Becoming the primary play partner empowers parents through understanding their child’s unique set of strengths and weaknesses. This allows them to enter into their child’s world, where previously they have felt excluded. It promotes the continued therapeutic process at home, which in turn promotes improved overall development of the child.

Once a parent feels empowered this gives them the confidence to take the lead in selecting a school, setting goals and even choosing therapies to add or remove from their child’s programme.

As a parent of a child with Down Syndrome I have had first hand experience with the benefits of the DIR model. When our son was first born my husband had no idea how to interact with him as he did not develop eye gaze or babbling at the rate a neurotypical child would. I would often find him just holding our son in his arm and not making any attempt to engage with him because he just didn’t know how. I have sent him on parent training workshops and I have spent time teaching him the basic principles of the DIR model and the change in his relationship with our son has been remarkable.  The model has also helped to empower our extended family to connect with him. He is doing so well developmentally at the moment.  I attribute this to the DIR model and being able to understand his profile and relate on his level to regulate him, engage with him and support his development of intentional actions.

For more detailed information on the DIR model and training within South Africa please visit SPOTLight Trust Alternatively you can visit the Profectum Foundation Website where you are able to get more information, access the free parent tool box or international certification in the model

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