Information on Floor Time, Autism and Aspergers syndreome - common Autism Spectrum Disorders


While interventions such as Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) and the Lovaas program have proved effective as interventions for Autism Spectrum Disorders, new types of developmental interventions are emerging in response to criticisms that the rote learning involved may not always result in generalized learning.

Floortime involves meeting a child at his or her current developmental level, and building upon a particular set of strengths. Floortime is child-focused - the parent or therapist follows the child's lead, with playful positive attention and tuning in to the child's interests. By entering into a child's world, support can be given to climb the 'developmental ladder' despite an Autism Spectrum Disorder.


How did Floortime develop?

Beginning in the 1980s Greenspan built upon research into social-emotional development to create a proprietary intervention for children with deficits in relating and communicating. This method is known as Developmental Individual Difference Relationship Model (DIR Model). Floortime, which is a specific therapeutic technique also developed by Greenspan, is often confused with the DIR Model.

The basic premise of Floortime is that children learn skills from the relationships which they have with their caregivers and other people significant in their lives. It was developed in response to the needs of the increasing population diagnosed with disorders on the Autism Spectrum, who were then being either served by behavioral methods or cognitive skills, and other impairments of development and learning.


Six milestones of development

Relationships, according to Greenspan and Wieder, are essentially developed in playful interactions. Greenspan's theory of development is that children grow, from birth to 4 years, in six different milestones to succeed in further learning and development.

1 Self-Regulation

The dual ability to take an interest in the sights, sounds and sensations of the world and to calm oneself down.

2 Intimacy

The ability to engage in relationships with other people.

3 Two-Way Communication

The ability to engage in two-way communication with gestures.

4 Complex Communication

The ability to create complex gestures, to string together a series of actions into an elaborate and deliberate problem-solving experience.

5 Emotional Ideas

The ability to create ideas.

6 Emotional Thinking

The ability to build bridges between ideas to make them reality-based and logical.

His focus on individual differences is meditated through the sensory system, the processing system and the motor system. His focus on relationships means that the parents work with the child directly on creating an emotional relationship.


how does Floortime work?

Floortime is based on interactive experiences, which are child directed, in a low stimulus environment, ranging from two to five hours a day. Interactive play involves the adult follows the child's lead, and aims to encourage the child to 'want' to relate to the outside world. Early intervention is encouraged as soon as possible as the child is likely to become more withdrawn and difficult to reach with time.


During the preschool program, DIR/Floortime includes integration with typically developing peers. Greenspan contends that interactive play, in which the adult follows the child's lead, will encourage the child to 'want' to relate to the outside world. Furthermore, Greenspan (1998) stipulates that the program should begin as soon as the child is identified as the longer children are uncommunicative, the more difficult parents find relating to them and the more the children withdraw. According to Greenspan (1998), intervention must transform perseveration into interaction. Once this occurs, he theorizes that the child becomes purposeful, and can imitate gestures, sounds, and play.


what does the research say?

Greenspan (1998) claimed that "We have worked with a number of children diagnosed with autism or PDD-NOS between the ages of 18 and 30 months who, now older, are fully communicative (using complex sentences adaptively), creative, warm, loving, and joyful" (p.3). Anecdotal evidence suggests that a number of parents find Floortime to be an effective intervention.


To date, no independent, peer-reviewed, published studies of Greenspan's DIR/Floortime's effectiveness for children with autism are identified (Roberts & Prior 2006) so Floortime would not currently be regarded as an evidence-based treatment.


Click here for the next fact sheet on how to use Floortime.


Click here to download a Powerpoint presentation about Floortime.


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Developed by Dr Greenspan, Floortime is a developmental intervention that is child-focused for Autism Spectrum Disorders such as Autism and Asperger's syndrome.