A Useful Floortime Technique

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I have previously posted about the basics of The DIR Floortime model for Occupational Therapy, one that I support wholly, but now I’ve had a chance to research it more and observe it in practice I would like to share a useful tip with you therapists out there who are interested in using the Floortime approach in the future.

So, one of the main emphases of the Floortime model is taking the child’s lead. But, this doesn’t mean just asking the child what they want to do and going along with it – this wouldn’t be helpful to their developmental growth. If a child who enjoys isolated play is asked what they would like to do the answer will probably be to play on their own, and as we are trying to encourage them to involve others in their play to enhance social skills this is the complete opposite of what we want to achieve. Following the child’s lead is about making the child feel like they are making the decisions themselves, by giving them options that you want them to pick.

Firstly we need to establish the options we want them to pick. An easy example of this is using dessert options, as children’s go to dessert is usually something extremely sugary. Instead of offering the child a choice between some fruit and some ice cream (obviously the fruit stands no chance) think of two healthier options that you know your child likes. We used to have fromage frais when I was a child, and we loved them! The options would always be to pick a piece of fruit from the fruit bowl or have a fromage frais – obviously either one would make my parents happy, as neither contained a large amount of sugar but still left us satisfied that we had eaten something sweet. And the fromage frais were amazing, as they had animals on them and we could choose which animal we wanted to have and which flavour we wanted. (Look out for these, they’re called ‘wildlife’ and kids love them!)

Like the dessert options, when your child wants to play try and find a way to tailor what they like around what you want to encourage them to do. It’s very important for this model to be effective that the child feels like they’re in charge! For example, if your child likes to play with finger puppets on their own, and not include other people, you could give them different options of finger puppet games you can play together. “What shall we play with the finger puppets today, princes and princesses or soldiers?” Try to use two games that you know they love playing so that they are definitely choosing something they like to do, and put emphasis on the ‘we’ – the main aim of this is to encourage them to play more socially, remember.

Another way you can use these options effectively is to teach your child to think, and process the two options before picking one. When giving two options, pick one sensible option that you know they will want, and one silly option. MAKE SURE YOU OFFER THEM THE SENSIBLE OPTION FIRST! This way you can be sure that they have heard you, and that they have thought about both options before answering. With children who suffer from learning difficulties it is very easy for them to simply regurgitate the options you give them, and it is more likely for them to remember the last option you offer. This doesn’t really show any growth or understanding if your child is simply repeating the last thing you say. So by offering a silly/impossible option last, following a plausible one that the child will want to do, you are making sure they listen to you and process what you are saying before making a decision.

It is very likely that this wont always work straight away, and they may still simply repeat the last, silly, option you give. But this is easy to tackle. For example, say the options were between eating a banana and driving a banana, your child may simply say ‘drive’, repeating the last option. To this you could reply “do you really want to drive this banana”, don’t forget to make car noises and wave it around in the air, and then repeat the options again “do you want to eat the banana or drive the banana?” It’s a pretty simple and effective way to encourage your child to think about, and learn, different concepts as well as still feeling like they’re making the decisions.

So this is my latest update on the DIR Floortime model, if you have any questions feel free to ask me (if I don’t know the answer, I know an OT who will definitely know). And I still encourage you to try this approach yourselves, as it is extremely beneficial.

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Written by: Philippa Berry
Photograph Source

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