What is DIR Floortime and How Does it Help?

What is DIR Floortime and How Does it Help?

“What is DIR Floortime?” is often one of the first questions new families at Amy Zier and Associates ask when starting treatment. We love this question because AZ+A’s DIR approach makes our therapy approach truly special. Developed by Dr. Stanley Greenspan and Serena Wieder, Ph.D., DIR is a multi-component intervention to help children with social-emotional, educational, mental health, or developmental differences.

DIR®, the Developmental Individual-difference Relationship-based model (DIR) is the approach and Floortime™ is the process by which we engage children in an emotional relationship during therapy. Floortime is when we activate the occupation of play for children and begin to learn the specifics about their unique profiles. While on the surface it may appear as though pediatric occupational therapists are “just playing” with our young clients but play becomes the language in which children use to communicate their emotions.

“Greenspan made a leap. He realized that these children wouldn’t understand abstractions until they understood their own emotions. He understood that everything a child does and thinks as the child is developing is largely due to his emotions. First the child “gets it” from personal experiences, and then makes connections, and are thereby able to conceptualize abstractions.

Although many of these children’s disorders are biological in their origin, the path to combating them was clear to Greenspan: 

The foundation of cognitive/social development would need to be laid out through an emotional connection with the child. The emphasis on emotional development separates Greenspan dramatically from the traditional behavioral regimen in treating a large array of children suffering from both developmental and/or affective disorders. He argued that the development of the brain and of the mind could be done only in “wooing”-enticing the child into an emotional relationship.”

In the article, Floor Time: An Emotional Developmental Approach to Play Therapy for Children Impacted by Developmental and/or Affective Disorders: An Interview Conducted by Ellen Lacter, Ph.D., and Esther B. Hess, Ph.D., Pediatric Psychologist, and Senior Clinician for Stanley Greenspan, M.D., Drs. Lacter and Hess describe in detail the benefits of DIR Floortime for children with developmental challenges.

What the occupational therapists at AZ+A in Lincoln Park appreciate most about the DIR Floortime approach is the promotion of family involvement and meeting each child exactly where they are at. Focusing on relationship and connection versus compliance is not only more effective, it feels good for everyone involved.