To make a real difference for children and their development we must deeply and intensely engage their emotions. Stanley Greenspan and John Dewey told us, and now an increasing chorus of brain researchers, psychologists, and educators are telling us that it is indeed emotions and affect that drive learning and development. I contrast this deep engagement that’s the focus of Floortime with my observations of other strategies being used with children (including discrete trial training, although not exclusively) in which the child’s engagement is often superficial and fleeting (except in instances in which the child is in distress because the adult’s expectations are not at all in sync with the child’s current regulatory, processing, or communicative needs, a very counterproductive situation).
DIR®/Floortime™ focuses on fostering essential social, emotional, and intellectual capacities. These fundamental capacities are the key to meaningful and rewarding human relationships and are the building blocks of development. They include sustaining attention and self-regulation, engaging in a continuous flow of back and forth interactions (called circles of communication), social problem solving, imaginative play, and logical and abstract thinking. DIR® practitioners seek to support and enhance the child’s current capacities and abilities and facilitate growth, not through changing the child in a fundamental way, but through tapping into, respecting, and honoring their individual differences, interests, and passions. This is an approach that is fully attuned with the concept of presuming competence and respecting neurodiversity.
Through this model parents and professionals are supported to deploy affect and challenge the child in ways that are attuned with the child’s interests and engagement but that also encourage growth and climbing the developmental ladder. Coaching by a professional such as myself can significantly aid parents, teachers, and therapists to incorporate these strategies into their everyday interactions with children. Over time as adults learn to incorporate these methods they become a very natural part of their interactions. The very naturalness of these techniques adds to the powerfulness of the model.