Tell Me About Floortime

The acronym DIR stands for “Developmental, Individual-Difference, Relationship-based approach,” a therapeutic intervention model developed by Dr. Stanley Greenspan.

Developmental refers to the capacities on the FEDC chart. It provides a standard way to measure milestones in our students’ development over time.

“Individual-Difference” refers to the unique way a child processes information. This means that we account for the individual strengths and needs of every student.

“Relationship-based” refers to our understanding of the learning relationships that enable a child to progress in their development.

The Rebecca School utilizes the Developmental Individual Difference Relationship-based (DIR®) model. The DIRFloortime® methodology, developed by Dr. Stanley Greenspan, proceeds from the core belief that relationships are the foundation of learning.  Academics at Rebecca School foster a child’s ability to relate, communicate, and think.  Our academic program is focused around the student’s passions, interests, and lived emotional experiences.  Teachers create individualized lessons to address both the developmental and interest levels of each student.

Academics in the classroom aim to address the student’s core developmental and learning challenges. Skills taught in a dynamic relationship within 1:1 interactions with a teacher, small groups, and large classroom activities. Our goal is to create classrooms that promote a child’s ability to think critically about their world.

For students working at the beginning developmental capacities, an academic program includes a focus on a functional communication system using initial sight words, self-regulation, and remaining in frustrating and/or joyful interactions for longer periods of time with both children and teachers. For children who are symbolic, classroom curriculum focuses on perspective taking, empathy, and multi-causal reasoning.

Unlike more data-driven behavioral approaches, the DIRFloortime®/Rebecca School intervention promotes a child’s ability to think critically rather than perform for trials or discrete tasks. Stanley Greenspan explains, “The job of schools should be to help children relate to others in a meaningful way, use language and ideas creatively, and become abstract as creative thinkers, as well as master academic subjects.

A detailed breakdown of the DIRFloortime® Model can be found at the website of The Interdisciplinary Council on Development and Learning.

Floortime™ is one component of a comprehensive DIRFloortime®-based intervention program. DIRFloortime® focuses on creating emotionally meaningful learning interactions that encourage mastery of the developmental capacities. The DIRFloortime® model has helped many children with developmental delays such as autism spectrum disorders learn to relate to adults and peers with warmth and intimacy, communicate meaningfully with emotional gestures and words, and think with a high level of abstract reasoning and empathy.  The DIRFloortime® model allows us to integrate emotional, social, intellectual, and educational goals for each child.

Greenspan, Stanley I., and Serena Wieder. Engaging Autism: Using the Floortime Approach to Help Children Relate, Communicate, and Think. Philadelphia: Da Capo Lifelong, 2009. Print.


FEDC Chart

Functional Emotional Developmental Capacities

Each stage of functional emotional development involves the simultaneous mastery of both emotional and cognitive abilities.  For example, a baby learns causality through the exchange of emotional signals: I smile and you smile back.  She then uses this knowledge to understand that pulling a string, for example, rings a bell.

1. Regulation & Interest In The World:The focus of this stage is shared attention: to learn and interact socially, children need to be able to focus, be calm, and actively take in information from their experiences with others; from what they see hear, smell, touch, and taste; and from the way they move.

2. Engagement & Relating:When we talk about engaging and relating, we mean doing so from the heart.  The child has the desire to be part of a relationship.

3. Intentionality & Two-way Communication:Engagement in back-and-forth emotional signaling or two-way communication.  A child smiles, he gets a smile back, so he smiles again.  This is what we call a circle of communication.  His smile becomes purposeful: he smiles in order to get a smile in return.  Different facial expressions, vocalizations, and gestures become part of this communication.

4. Social Problem Solving, Mood Regulation & Formation of a Sense of Self:During this stage shared social problem solving emerges: children use patterns that involve three or four steps toward achieving a desired result.  Later this leads to putting words together in a sentence and to scientific thinking and math.  All of this progress is built on emotional interactions that become increasingly complex, leading to higher levels of intelligence.

5. Creating Symbols, Using Words & Ideas:To understand and use words and language, children must first be able to engage in complex emotional signaling, which allows them to separate actions from perceptions and hold images in their minds.  They must also be able to connect these images with their emotions to give them meaning, forming symbols and ideas.  Language ability arrives because images acquire meaning through many emotionally relevant experiences and exchanges.
The use of ideas and symbols can be seen in imaginative play.  Children use pretend play to symbolize real or imagined events such as tea parties or monster attacks.  They use symbols to manipulate ideas in their minds without actually having to carry out actions.  This allows new flexibility in reasoning, thinking and problem solving.

6. Emotional Thinking, Logic and a Sense of Reality:Connecting one’s own idea to someone else’s logically is the basis for a new understanding of reality.  Children now connect internal experiences with external experiences.  Emotional investment in relationships enables children to recognize the difference between what’s inside them, their fantasies and the ideas and actual behavior of others.  Logical thinking leads to news skills, such as debating, math, and scientific reasoning.

7. Multi-causal & Triangular Thinking:To learn multi-causal thinking, children must be able to invest emotion in more than one possibility.  For example, they must be able to consider a second friend as a play partner, rather than depend on just one friend.  At this stage, children can understand family dynamics in terms of relationships among different people, rather than just in terms of whether they get their own needs met.

8. Gray-Area, Emotionally Differentiated Thinking:Multi-causal and triangular thinking enables children to progress to understand the varying degrees or relative influence of feelings, events, or phenomena (for instance, “I’m only a little mad.”)

9. Reflective Thinking and an Internal Standard of Self:One can now judge experience and can say things like “I was really mad – more than usual.”   Or, they can look at a peer’s behavior and say, “That is OK for them, but not OK for me. ”  One can now make inferences and can think in more than one frame of reference at a time.  They can create new ideas from existing ones, they can consider both the past and the future.

The Floortime Team

Kimberly Giardino

Staff & Family Educator

Tanya Shteinfeld

Staff & Family Educator/Art Therapist

Elizabeth Guzman

Staff & Family Educator

Melissa Sinacori

Staff & Family Educator

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