What is D.I.R.® Model / Floortime™ Play Intervention?


The DIR® Model and Floor­time™ Play Inter­ven­tion is a frame­work (devel­oped by Stan­ley I. Greenspan, M.D. and Ser­ena Wieder, Ph.D.) for under­stand­ing and improv­ing inter­ven­tions with infants, chil­dren and adults who have chal­lenges in relat­ing, com­mu­ni­cat­ing and think­ing, includ­ing autism spec­trum disorders.

Picture of Sara L . Henry, MA, LMFT

Sara L . Henry, MALMFT

DIR® is the acronym for Devel­op­men­tal, Indi­vid­ual Dif­fer­ence, Relationship-based. Devel­op­men­tal refers to the crit­i­cal neces­sity that we fully under­stand where your child is devel­op­men­tally in order to plan an effec­tive treat­ment pro­gram. Indi­vid­ual Dif­fer­ence refers to the unique biologically-based ways your child takes in, reg­u­lates, responds to, and com­pre­hends sen­sa­tions such as sound, touch, and the plan­ning and sequenc­ing of actions and ideas. Relationship-based refers to the process through which an effec­tive treat­ment pro­gram is deliv­ered, i.e., the affect-based inter­ac­tions with care­givers, ther­a­pists, edu­ca­tors, fam­ily and oth­ers that are tai­lored to your child’s indi­vid­ual dif­fer­ences and devel­op­men­tal capac­i­ties and designed to enable progress in attain­ing and mas­ter­ing the Six Devel­op­men­tal Mile­stones:

  1. Self-regulation, mutual atten­tion, inter­est in the world;
  2. Co-regulation, inti­macy, engage­ment, falling in love;
  3. Two-way com­mu­ni­ca­tion, pur­pose­ful emo­tional inter­ac­tions, reciprocity;
  4. Com­plex com­mu­ni­ca­tion, shared social prob­lem solving;
  5. Emo­tional ideas, cre­at­ing sym­bols and ideas, rep­re­sen­ta­tional think­ing; and,
  6. Emo­tional & log­i­cal think­ing, build­ing log­i­cal bridges between ideas.

It is well known that the essen­tial learn­ing inter­ac­tions that enable the dif­fer­ent parts of your child’s brain to work together and build suc­ces­sively higher lev­els of social, emo­tional and intel­lec­tual capac­i­ties are fired by your child’s nat­ural emo­tions and inter­ests. Floor­time™ is a dual-focused tech­nique that calls on the inter­ac­tion provider (i.e., the ther­a­pist, edu­ca­tor, fam­ily mem­ber, etc.) to use or fol­low your child’s nat­ural emo­tional inter­ests (or lead) to cre­ate or design the chal­lenges that pro­pel your child towards greater and greater mas­tery of his or her social, emo­tional and intel­lec­tual capac­i­ties. These Relationship-based inter­ac­tions typ­i­cally occur dur­ing play­time and may actu­ally occur on the “floor,” but also include con­ver­sa­tions and inter­ac­tions in other environments.

Because of the impor­tance of their emo­tional rela­tion­ships with your child, par­ents, fam­ily mem­bers and peers are crit­i­cally impor­tant in the design and deliv­ery of DIR® Model and Floor­time™ Play Inter­ven­tion. The DIR® Model and Floor­time™ Play Inter­ven­tion is a col­lab­o­ra­tive, inter­dis­ci­pli­nary team approach that typ­i­cally involves speech ther­apy, occu­pa­tional ther­apy, edu­ca­tional pro­grams, men­tal health (developmental-psychological) inter­ven­tion and, where appro­pri­ate, aug­men­ta­tive and bio­med­ical intervention.

To briefly sum­ma­rize an incred­i­bly com­plex sub­ject, the over­ar­ch­ing objec­tive of the DIR® Model and Floor­time™ Play Inter­ven­tion is to enable your child to attain and mas­ter the Six Devel­op­men­tal Mile­stones as a healthy foun­da­tion for devel­op­ing his or her social, emo­tional and intel­lec­tual capac­i­ties rather than exclu­sively focus­ing on his or her spe­cific skill set and iso­lated behaviors.

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