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Applied Floortime

The genius of Dr. Stanley Greenspan, author of the Developmental, Individual Differences, and Relationship model (DIR), lay in his ability to understand the development of the natural human mind and applying this progression to a model with techniques that actually works. Many families complete formal Floortime sessions in their home, though most of them also learn to apply the principles throughout the day. Though there are many techniques to Floortime; in this article we will highlight a few favorite ones.

Waiting on the child seems such a simple concept and we all like to think we are doing it, but if we objectively reflect on an interaction, we realize how many times we repeat an instruction or a question simply because we are “waiting too long” for a response. This judgment reflects more on our own patience than the actual processing speed the child needs to execute.  To really wait on a child to process what he heard auditorily, then retrieve his response from the different storage files in his brain, after which he has to order his language sequentially, and then to send this formulated message to his vocal and facial musculature to be expressed, is a much longer affair for some children than for others. If we jump in too quickly with more words, more language, more expectation, we frequently add anxiety to the child’s performance, which may cause the child to retreat or give up, or simply answering a short answer that he thinks may be sufficient to the expectation. If we waited long enough, we might have gotten more “gold” and more ideation from the verbal exchange.

Pacing is another concept that is so innate in typically developing interactions, yet so frequently misunderstood in children who have communicative challenges.  As well meaning adults we frequently impose our pace of an interaction on the child with the intention of helping the child. Fact is that, as an adult, I would feel a certain discord in a relationship if another adult is speaking or moving slower or faster than me and a similar discord is true for children. In interaction it becomes imperative that in order to feel that my partner understands what I am relating, to feel like he or she is on the same page as me, we need to match the pacing of each other.  A child feels more understood by our non-verbal communication, rather than what we are saying verbally. Feeling understood leads to feeling trust and trust leads into taking more risks in learning and progress in the developmental milestones.

Decreasing our use of Language is the third and last one that we will focus on today. When children experience communicative difficulties, adults are frequently found to use an overabundance of language to repeat, to paraphrase, to re-explain, only to name a few. Even when the child has more language, and still has processing difficulty, it does not mean we should use more language. In-between verbal reception and verbal expression, there is a field of organizational structure that is frequently “ignored” , albeit well intentioned. If the child is provided with less language, he has less to analyze, leaving more active working capacity for the formulation of his own expression. Caregivers are afraid that they would lose opportunities to model language, but what we see in practice is that once the process is “easier” for the child, they progress further in language anyway.  One of the reasons for this is that the DIR model is driven by the intrinsic motivation of the child and the child receives their own internal reward for the success they are experiencing, which in turn drives him or her to do more.

Maude Le Roux, OTR/L – July 2012

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