In the fall of 2011, I completed a Basic DIR-Floortime certificate course and three wonderful workshops that outlined principles of Stanley Greenspan’s DIR/Floortime approach relating to children on the autism spectrum.
The book that was referenced during this basic workshop was the following:
” Engaging Autism: Using the Floortime Approach to Help Children Relate, Communicate, and Think”,
by Stanley Greenspan, M.D. and Serena Wieder, Ph.D.
Although this is a wonderful book, I have the best remembrance of Dr. Greenspan’s principles by listening to the audio that I saved off of his video presentations. There is one outstanding, everyday “take away” that he repeated often during the many hours of his lectures, and it was to listen and watch the children. Similarly, we rarely take daily time to “smell the roses”, and when accessing children it may not scale to observe and follow their interests for months before a diagnosis and care plan is made. Dr. Greenspan was criticized by some for allowing the children to “take the lead” with the misunderstanding that there would be some willy-nilly situation where the kids “rule”. However, what Dr. Greenspan was advocating was the investment of time for prompting the children to reciprocate in communication and play. By taking time to position oneself on the sidelines rather than in the spotlight, adults can learn more about their sensitivities and their understanding of the world around them.
I must confess that when our children were young, I had little time to give up an efficient schedule to watch the children’s interactions. They did have lots of hugs and daily “private time” in accordance with the Suzanna Wesley model that I followed. Years passed, and we had 5 teenagers living in our home at one time. I learned through practice that the best way to keep an exciting conversation going was to allow them to lead. So much was learned about their passions, fears, interests, and dreams by asking them a few questions initially that matched their interests. When we took the time to “prime the pump”, we made much more effective progress towards a trusting relationship.
Almost a century before Dr. Greenspan was Maria Montessori. She also saw the value in watching children’s behavior and then entering into their world under their “game rules”.
During the two years that I and the therapy dog were written into the IEP of a child with autism, I watched, prompted, and followed this child daily during those school years. Some of the activities we did together were
- puppets and role play,
- walking with the dog down the busy school hallways, practicing appropriate greetings,
- sitting quietly for book reading with the dog,
- counting and grouping objects
- letter and color recognition
- doing simple errands such as bringing books or snacks to other classrooms
- small motor skills such as putting hair clips on the dog’s fur or brushing the fur.
I learned so much from this child that I later employed with other children. Again, the greatest take away was the value of watching and following the interests of the child with the purpose of understanding better how their mind works. Here is a slidecast I made from that work:
The participants for the Greenspan workshop included parents, psychologists, counselors, occupational therapists, speech/Language therapists,
physical therapists, recreational therapists, and educators. Of all of these professionals, the one who benefited the most from the teachings I believe is the “professional”, 24/7 parent.