“The Developmental, Individual Difference, Relationship-based Model (DIR®/Floortime™) is a developmental framework that helps clinicians, parents and educators conduct a comprehensive assessment and develop an intervention plan that is tailored to the unique challenges and strengths of the child. It is an effective approach predominantly used with children who have an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) diagnosis as well as children with other developmental challenges. The objectives of the DIR®/Floortime™ Model are to build healthy foundations for social, emotional, and intellectual capacities rather than focusing on skills and isolated behaviours.”
The D (Developmental) part of the Model describes the building blocks of this foundation. Understanding where the child is at developmentally is critical to planning a treatment program. The Six Developmental Milestones describes the developmental milestones that every child must master for healthy emotional and intellectual growth.
This includes helping children to:
- Develop capacities to attend and remain calm and regulated
- Engage and relate to others
- Initiate and respond to all types of communication beginning with emotional and social based gestures and facial expressions (affect).
- Engage in shared social problem-solving and intentional behaviour involving a continuous flow of interactions in a row
- Use ideas to communicate needs and think and play creatively
- Understand and communicate feelings
- Build bridges between ideas in logical ways so that play and interactions flow and make sense
- Develop higher level capacities to be flexible in thinking, understand that there are varying degrees of emotion and ideas, and be reflective. This is instead of concrete, absolute and black and white thinking.
These developmental capacities are essential for spontaneous and empathic relationships as well as the mastery of academic skills.
The I (Individual differences) part of the Model describes the unique biologically-based ways each child takes in, regulates, responds to, and comprehends sensations such as sound and touch, as well as the planning and sequencing of actions and ideas. Some children, for example, are very sensitive (hyper responsive) to certain sensations such as touch and sound, while others are under sensitive (under-reactive). Some children may even seek out certain sensory experiences . The term Biological Challenges is used to describe the various processing issues that make up a child’s individual differences and that may be interfering with his ability to grow and learn.
The R (Relationship-based) part of the Model describes the learning relationships with caregivers, educators, therapists, peers, and others who tailor their affect (emotional and gestural expression) based interactions to the child’s individual differences and developmental capabilities to enable the child to master essential foundational skills.
Floortime™ is a specific technique used to follow the child’s natural emotional interests (lead) and at the same time challenge the child towards greater and greater mastery of their social, emotional, and intellectual capacities. With young children these playful interactions may occur on the “floor” but go on to include conversations and interactions in other places.
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Kids Matters OTs use the DIR/ Floortime model to guide their treatment of children with Autism and other developmental or behavioural issues.