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The SPD Companion, Issue # 025-- DIR/Floortime Approach And SPD
May 01, 2008

Welcome to the May 2008 edition of the SPD Companion. Thank you for taking the time to join us today! Today's topic? An overview of Stanley Greenspan's DIR / Floortime model... by our guest author Alexis Smith from

Alexis has provided us with a nice summary/overview and some helpful checklists regarding your child's sensory needs and what he can do to address them at the end of the newsletter (make sure you stay with us to the end to check them out!!) Additionally, I have provided links to some wonderful information and resources that I highly suggest you take the time to read. Some of them are specific information about this model, some of them more specific to Sensory Processing as it relates to, and can be helped by, the DIR/Floortime model. I do hope they help.

DIR/Floortime has major significance for our SPD kids! It is a proven treatment (see Alexis's note further down in the newsletter for information of where to find the research) that works not only for Autism but for children with other related sensory processing issues and developmental delays. It isn't hard... it is actually a pretty natural way of parenting. I encourage you to learn as much as you can about it and try it out with your SPD child! It can definitely make a world of difference.

As explained by Stanley Greenspan's, there are biological challenges our kids face. These challenges are proven to be helped by the DIR/Floortime model. This is a nice summary to get us started...

Biological Challenges

- The Challenges Created

- The Sensory System

- The Processing System

- The Motor System

- General Sequencing Challenges

Children with special needs have a variety of biological challenges that impede their ability to function in the world. Although there are many ways to describe these biological challenges, for the purpose of considering how they influence development it is useful to divide them into three types.

1. Difficulty with sensory reactivity. The child may have difficulty with modulating information received from the world through his senses of vision, hearing, touch, smell, taste, and body awareness (i.e., the child may be under- or overreactive, or a combination).

2. Processing difficulty. The child may have difficulty making sense of the sensory data she receives. For example, a child’s hearing may be keen but he may not be able to distinguish sounds in the foreground from sounds in the background.

3. Difficulty with motor planning and sequencing. The child may have trouble making his body move the way he wants, and difficulty planning and executing responses to information he has taken in. For example, a child may be interested in cars but may only be able to put them in a line rather than play out a purposeful sequence where the cars drive along the road and park at the store.

Each type of challenge makes it difficult for the child to relate to and communicate with his parents and caregivers and thus impedes his ability to learn, to respond, and to grow. Therefore, to help a child progress, we must understand how he functions in each of these areas. Once we have pinpointed his specific challenges, we can begin to design treatment programs to ameliorate them. Even more important, we can help parents and caregivers learn how to work around these challenges to help the child learn, relate, and grow.

(Excerpt taken from, 2008.)

That said, and hopefully understood, allow me to introduce our guest author for the month, Alexis Smith...

What is DIR/Floortime?

An overview by Alexis Smith

I’ve been asked to give a brief overview of the DIR model and the Floortime method that we’ve been using to help our son move up the developmental ladder. I’ll describe what it is and give some basic tips and advice on how to start using this model right away. I’ll do my best, but please keep in mind that I’m not a professional I’m just a parent. However as you read further you’ll see how profound an influence a parent can have on their child’s development through the simple act of play.

DIR stands for the Developmental, Individual Differences and Relationship based model. This model is used for autistic children and children that have other developmental disorders. Basically the program is tailored to each child’s unique challenges and strengths. The objective is to build healthy foundations for social, emotional, and intellectual capacities rather than focusing on skills or isolated behaviors.

The DIR Floortime model is about the child’s natural emotions and interests which are essential for learning interactions that enable different parts of the mind and brain to work together. Floortime is where we follow the child’s natural emotional interests and at the same time challenging the child towards greater and greater mastery of social, emotional and intellectual capacities.

Children with developmental challenges miss cognitive milestones in their development. Due to sensory processing disorders or neuro-processing difficulties, this causes gaps in intellectual growth. The good news is that with an intensive program of floortime therapy, we can help them make those neuro-connections; by helping them climb the developmental ladder, and go through those developmental milestones that they missed.

So how do you help your child develop those connections?

Start one on one; this will help them go through the process of making new neurons for processing. As the parent, you’re given a unique opportunity to get on the floor, tune in with your child, and become your child's play therapist. It sounds like a lot of work. No it’s not easy but you will be rewarded for your efforts. Any type of therapy involves parental participation and the more the better. If both parents work then finding time for all of this can be a daunting task. The best advice I can give is to do what you can for now and work on adding more and more later.

Now... how do we play with our kids?

Here a some good guidelines:

You can directly help your child move up the ladder, by giving purpose to repetitive actions, build language and great communication skills, and help them develop problem solving skills and abstract thinking. It sounds like a mouthful; yes your child's well being is directly influenced by you.

You might wonder... don't I have to have a degree or expertise to do this? Nope. All you need are a few basic techniques to get you started. There are many therapists and parents on here who can give you help when you get stuck. Who knows your child better than you? You know your child's unique personality, giftedness... yes all children are gifted with different talents and in different areas. As you do this you will see that emerging and it’s a wonderful gift because it’s what keeps you going.

What is Floortime and how can I possibly do it?

Floortime is a twenty to thirty minute session, getting down on the floor and tuning into your child. Eight of these twenty to thirty minute sessions is what is recommended as the best for your child. You’re going to get down on the floor and enter into your child's world. It’s best to turn off the TV, computer and phone while you do this, that way there are no distractions. I also recommend that you do it in your child's room or a quiet place in your home.

What do I do?

1. Provide a room, child's room or a nice space, where you can move around and explore. Have a basket and/or shelf... you can use a laundry basket with toys and a shelf where they have to point for games and activities.

2. Let your child select the activity. Let me say it again for us parents that love to take the Director's chair, let the child select the doll or activity, even if its the same activity every time. Even if the activity is staring out the window or wall, twirling paper as in my son's case, it’s your starting point. Start with that activity. You’re going to follow their lead with affect in your emotions, creative gesturing and facial expressions. Starting with some ooh’s “that’s a nice doll” or jump. If they use three words, use three words. Use a soothing voice if they overreactive and higher pitch for underreactive.

3. The Primary Goal: to woo your child into interacting with you. If your child is already engaging, then you want to improve this in the following ways:

By promoting personal interest or attention: you want to involve yourself in what your child is doing. By helping them build trust with you, to speak to you, engage with you, and develop a deep and loving relationship with you.

Building communication skills: you want to help your child build up to or gain eye contact, and express themselves and their creativity with language and gestures

Expressing feelings and ideas: you're going to help your child build on expressing sadness, joy, etc. by attaching words. You will help them express their thoughts and ideas on what they experience and see.

Building symbolic and logical thinking: Children are more successful when they are able to use symbolic and logical thinking processes. Helping them build these skills through play gives them a great foundation for learning.

I hope you find my overview of the DIR/Floortime model helpful. I know I’ve just barely scratched the surface. But the main thing to remember is this … through the simple act of play you can help your child create relationships, develop skills and form bonds that will stay with them for the rest of their lives.

Other Helpful Resources Regarding DIR/Floortime And SPD:

Floortime information links from Alexis's website ( to be sure to check out:

Floortime Intervention

Floortime Approach

Floortime Guidelines

More resources I suggest...

Power point presentation about sensory processing issues and DIR/Floortime Model

DIR/Floortime model as it relates to Sensory Processing Disorders (also check out links of the left side of this page linked to here... very informative and helpful!).

Floortime Training DVD's:

Floortime DVD Training Series. Set 1 The Basics: Relating and Communicating

Floortime DVD Training Series. Set 2 Sensory Regulation and Social Interaction

Product Description:

Let Stanley I. Greenspan, MD and Serena Wieder, Ph.D., creators of the DIR®/Floortime approach, show you how to help your child overcome challenges of sensory regulation that are interfering with his or her ability to relate and communicate. Watch them work with parents and children, and learn how better regulation will help your child reach higher developmental levels, from shared attention and engagement to social interaction and pretend play.

Stanley Greenspan is also offering his courses online! There is one going on right now, but check out his website for more about it and to keep tabs on the next one! I’m sure there will be more.

Before concluding with the NEW Sensory Checklists Alexis has made... an additional message she recently sent to her members:

"A message to all members of Floortime Repository...

I found a link on ICDL's website all about research for the DIR/Floortime model since many ask where they can find it. We have it posted on the "welcome to our community" page on our site ( under the ICDL DIR/Floortime logo. You will also find a link to ICDL Newsletters and their archives which are very helpful.

I wanted to also welcome our new members and tell you about Michele Mitchell... she has a wonderful website all about Sensory Processing Disorders. It's a terrific resource and it has a checklist just for that. She explains what it is with a quote from Greenspan and what it feels it. Her ideas and guides are very informative and very well put together.

I want to thank her for including an article by us in her newsletter on Floortime."

Alexis Smith

OK, as promised... new checklists!

Alexis has contributed two wonderful sensory checklists for us that will help you understand what your child needs and what they can do about it. Use these or make your own, based on your child's own individual behaviors, preferences and needs. They would also be good to give to family members, friends and babysitters who spend time with the child! Keep them handy... take them with you when you go places, hang them on your refrigerator, put one in your child's room, direct your child to his lists when he is stuggling. Take control of the situation and give him control over his "therapy". Work together to help him identify his own issues and what he can do to solve his own struggles. Have your OT help you devise an even more precise and individualized list for your child. It's all about a "sensory diet"!


Sensory Checklist: What I Need

When I need Proprioceptive input to my brain stem, I can’t feel part or all of my body. I may try to fix this myself by:

• Running a lot (leg awareness)

• Jumping a lot (body awareness)

• Flapping my hands (hand awareness)

• Climbing a lot (hand and leg awareness)

• Hiding in a confined space (whole body awareness)

• Hiding under a blanket (whole body awareness)

• Touching everything as I walk by (hand awareness)

When I need Vestibular input to my brain stem, I feel off-balance. I might try to fix this myself by:

• Spinning in circles without getting dizzy

• Swinging for long periods of time

• Sticking my fingers in my ears (the inner detects balance)

When I need auditory input to my brain stem, It’s like the world is on too low of a volume. I may try to fix this myself by:

• Humming a lot

• Signing a lot

• Using my outside voice inside

• Plugging my ears (there might be too much noise in this case!)

When I need Oral input to my brain stem, I can’t feel my mouth and it’s hard to talk. I try to fix this myself by:

• Chewing on things… anything!

When I need Tactile input to my brain stem, I need extra sensation on my skin. I might try to get this myself by:

• Taking clothes on or off

• Looking for extremes in temperature (too hot or cold) • Scratching or biting myself

• Touching lots of stuff that I know I shouldn’t…. but it feels so good!

When I need Visual input to my brain stem, everything looks “off” and it’s really distracting. I try to fix this by:

• Searching out very bright or very dark places

• Following lines or patterns

• Watching bright or flashing lights

NOTE: I may sometimes be overwhelmed in ways that are probably NOT related to sensory input. Often this overwhelming feeling is related to a part of my brain called the amygdala. When this organ gets overwhelmed, the smallest change can seem as terrifying to me as the largest oncoming truck. To calm myself I may:

• Demand a strict routine

• Line things up over and over

• Have trouble recognizing facial expressions

• Want you to wear certain colors or do things a certain way every time

• Repeat things over and over, like words or play routines


Sensory Checklist: What To Do


• Walking

• Pillow squishes

• Running in hallway

• Bouncing while being held

• Jumping

• Swinging by arms/legs

• Climbing

• Obstacle course

• Wrap in blanket

• Weighted stuffed animal for stroller

• Weights on ankles

• Weighted vest

• Backpack

• OTHER: _____________________


• Shape-sorter cube

• STAR stacking rings

• Movable beads on wire toy

• Puzzles

• Other blocks

• River stones

• OTHER: _____________________


• Massager in ear

• Swinging from ankles

• Spinning while being held

• Swinging in net swing

• Swinging in cuddle swing

• Spin in office chair

• OTHER: ______________________


• Therapeutic listening/Kidz Jamz

• Singing songs

• Toy keyboard

• Playing music with body taps

• Music block toy

• Bongo drums

• OTHER: ______________________

Heavy Work

• Push-the-door-open game

• Wheel barrow walk

• Holding weighted bottle/bucket/other

• Stacking weighted bottle/bucket/other

• OTHER: ________________________


• Vibro toothbrush/mouthing toys

• Sucking yogurt through straw

• Jiggler facial massagers

• Froggie bubble blower

• Facial massage

• OTHER: ________________________


• Hand/foot massage with cream

• Crawling through tube

• Beans and macaroni

• Play dough

• Shaving cream

• OTHER: ________________________


• Parachute

• Books

• Bubbles

• Drawing

• Painting

• Star Lamp

• Rain stick

• OTHER: ________________________

Imaginative Play

• Puppets (frog, monkey, etc)

• Hide & Seek

• Peek-a-Boo

• Uniqua/other doll

• Pretend feeding/eating

• OTHER: ________________________


Nap: _______________________________
Meals: _____________________________
Diaper/Bathroom: _____________________

(Alexis Smith, 2008)


Complimenting direct OT treatment and a sensory diet, with the DIR/Floortime approach will bring you that much closer to your goals. It is a wonderful combination! I do hope you take advantage of the resources mentioned above and the links provided to learn more about how this particular model can help your child!

For anyone who has already used this model or is just starting, send us an email or submission on how it has helped your child. We love to hear the success stories and I will be honored to publish it for you so you can share it with others in this community.

Lastly, a reminder... if you do not receive your newsletter any month in particular, please let me know so I can double check you are on the list. If you are on the list, know that sometimes they bounce (or end up in a spam folder, they shouldn't, but it could)... to help prevent this please add this address to your approved email addresses:


Every month your newsletter should arrive the first Thursday of the month. If it does, GREAT! If not, let me know.

Also, if you have an email program that does not seem to format the links properly, so they are not "clickable", know that a day or two after the newsletter comes out, you can view it online by going to the back issues page (a link off of the newsletter sign up page which is the newsletter button on my site). Here's the direct link if you want to save it somewhere... The SPD Companion Back Issues


Thanks again for your support!

Take good care.

Michele Mitchell

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