What is DIR/Floortime?

DIR/Floortime is a comprehensive, evidence-based, therapy approach, for guiding intervention for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and other developmental challenges. 

DIR stands for the Developmental, Individual-differences, & Relationship-based model. It was developed by the late Dr. Stanley Greenspan to provide a foundational framework for understanding human development. 

The D describes development, and this is where we look at how the child is developing, emotionally and cognitively. Establishing a firm understanding of how the child is performing in relation to the six Functional Emotional Developmental milestones that a child needs to master, beginning at birth.

The I describes the unique ways each person takes in, regulates, responds to, and comprehends the world around them. Understanding the child’s particular pattern of challenges is essential for helping them.  These challenges may include differences the child shows in:

  • Sensory modulation (the ability to stay calm, alert, and focused and process information without being over-reactive or under-reactive to sensory information from the environment)
  • Auditory processing (the ability to take in and figure out what you are hearing)
  • Visual-spatial processing (the ability to take in and figure out what you are seeing), or in
  • Motor planning and sequencing (the ability to organize your body or thoughts and to act on what you have seen, heard or want to do)

The R describes how relationships fuel our development.  Humans are social beings and relationships are a key to our human development.  The approach assists caregivers in developing their relationship with the child, so they can be effective in helping the child learn and grow. The approach also aims to ensure that the child is developing meaningful relationships with peers and siblings.

The objectives of the DIR® Model are to build healthy foundations for social, emotional, and intellectual capacities rather than focusing exclusively on skills and isolated behaviours. 

This model can help us promote healthy development in all children, but it is especially powerful in helping children on the autism spectrum or with other developmental or emotional challenges. 

Floor time literally refers to getting down on the floor and playing with your child in a way that provides opportunities for him/her to advance.  Children with special needs require a tremendous amount of practice in linking their intent or emotions to their actions and behaviours.  Floor time is your child’s practice time.  Each time you get down on the floor and interact – spontaneously, joyfully, following your child’s interests and motivations - you help him build that link between emotion and behaviour, and eventually words, and in doing so move forward on his or her journey up the developmental ladder.

Floor time takes a child back to the very first milestone he or she has missed and begins to build from there.  By working intensively with parents and therapists, the child can climb the ladder of milestones, one rung at a time, to begin to acquire the skills he or she is missing.

Additional information on the DIR / Floortime model can be found at the following websites: ICDL and Profectum