There are many different models and frameworks we use as Occupational Therapists, particularly when working with kids and families. One term that you may hear us use is a DIR®/Floortime™ approach. In this blog, we will break down what the DIR®/Floortime™ approach is, why we use it and what it looks like in practice.
The DIR®/Floortime™ approach is a therapeutic model that provides therapists with pathways and strategies to increase engagement and provides them with the foundational skills to help build social, emotional and intellectual capacities. It is a holistic intervention that considers the individual, their strengths and their current developmental ability.
Who is DIR®/Floortime™ for?
DIR®/Floortime™ is an approach that can be used with anyone. It is not specific to any diagnosis; however, at OTHC, we use it primarily for our clients with developmental delays, autism spectrum disorder or intellectual disabilities.
What does DIR stand for?
DIR stands for Developmental, Individual-differences and Relationship-based, which are considered the core elements for understanding the role of social-emotional development.
At the heart of the DIR®/Floortime™ approach are developmental levels or ‘Functional Emotional Developmental Capacities.’ These levels give insight into a child’s ability to regulate, attend, engage and relate to others. At lower levels, we build on a child’s ability to remain calm and regulate, and from there, we build skills in initiating and responding to communication from others.
The developmental levels then evolve to focus on a continuous flow of interactions, creative play, problem-solving and logical thinking.
These skills are considered to be foundational for social and emotional relationships as well as functional life skills.
Individual differences refer to a person’s specific way of engaging and relating with the world. It considers a child’s unique sensory profile and strengths. This allows therapists to ensure intervention is meaningful, fun and appropriate for the child.
The final core element of the DIR®/Floortime™ model is that it is a relationship-based model. This means that the intervention values strong connections and relationships. It acknowledges that these are imperative to the mastery of social, emotional, and intellectual capacities. The DIR®/Floortime™ model requires significant involvement and responsiveness from caregivers and therapists to model and facilitate meaningful opportunities for connection.
What does DIR®/Floortime™ look like in practice?
DIR®/Floortime™ often looks relatively unstructured in therapy as clinicians will focus on following the child’s lead and responding to their attempts to initiate communication both verbally and non-verbally. It can often just look like ‘play’; however, your therapist will be continually observing, responding and extending your child to regulate, engage and communicate.
Initial sessions will aim to gather information about the child’s current developmental capacity and their individual differences. Following sessions will aim to build the relationship with the child for successful regulation and engagement.
Your therapist will most likely ask you to be heavily involved in your DIR®/Floortime™ sessions as their primary caregiver. Your therapist will work closely with you to ensure you are supported and confident in implementing similar play sessions with your child at home. This will allow you to continue to build on your child’s developmental levels outside of the therapy room.
You can find more information on the DIR®/Floortime™ therapy mode here.
It is also recommended that you ask your Occupational Therapist if you have any questions about if and how they implement DIR®/Floortime™ in their session.
Home of DIRFloortime® (Floortime) – DIR®. (2022). Retrieved 24 February 2022, from https://www.icdl.com/dir
Greenspan, S., & Weider, S. (2022). DIR/Floortime Model. Retrieved 24 February 2022, from https://www.stanleygreenspan.com/swf/The%20DIR%20Floortime%20Model.pdf