DIR® and the DIRFloortime® Approach

Let's help our children become t
he poets of their inner lives.  -Stanley Greenspan (pictured left)

What is

DIR® has a deep foundation in the science of human development and can sound very technical at times.  However, it is also very simple.  It is a way to understand our children and each other that builds connections, understanding, love, communication, and engagement.  Through this approach, the true potential of each person can be discovered. 

DIR is the Developmental, Individual-differences, & Relationship-based model that has become the foundation for understanding child development and providing support and intervention that helps children reach their fullest potential.
  The DIR® model is also a framework that helps clinicians, parents and educators conduct comprehensive assessments and develop educational and/or intervention programs tailored to the unique challenges and strengths of each child.  

® is the application of the DIR model into practice. 

 While the DIR model helps us understand and promote the positive development of all children, DIR and DIRFloortime are most commonly utilized with children with educational, social-emotional, mental health, and/or developmental challenges.  DIRFloortime has become most widely known as an approach to support children with with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD).  You can read more about DIR and ASD in many books including "Engaging Autism" and "The Child with Special Needs" by Drs Greenspan and Wieder. 

The objectives of the DIR® Model are to build healthy foundations for social, emotional, and intellectual capacities rather than focusing on skills and isolated behaviors.

  • The D (Developmental) part of the Model describes the building blocks of this foundation. Understanding where the child is developmentally is critical to planning a treatment program. The Six Developmental Levels describes the developmental milestones that every child must master for healthy emotional and intellectual growth. This includes helping children to develop capacities to attend and remain calm and regulated, engage and relate to others, initiate and respond to all types of communication beginning with emotional and social affect based gestures, engage in shared social problem-solving and intentional behavior involving a continuous flow of  interactions in a row, use ideas to communicate needs and think and play creatively, and build bridges between  ideas in logical ways which lead to higher level capacities to think in multicausal, grey area and reflective ways.   These developmental capacities are essential for spontaneous and empathic relationships as well as the mastery of academic skills. 
  • The I (Individual differences) part of the Model describes the unique biologically-based ways each child takes in, regulates, responds to, and comprehends sensations such as sound, touch, and the planning and sequencing of actions and ideas.  Some children, for example, are very hyper responsive to touch and sound, while others are under-reactive, and still others seek out these sensations. The term "Biological Challenges" describes the various processing issues that make up a child's individual differences and that may be interfering with his ability to grow and learn  
  • The R (Relationship-based) part of the Model describes the learning relationships with caregivers, educators, therapists, peers, and others who tailor their affect based interactions to the child’s individual differences and developmental capacities to enable progress in mastering the essential foundations. 

What is the difference between DIR® and Floortim and how are they related?Floortime® (or DIRFloortime®) is a specific technique to both follow the child’s natural emotional interests (lead) and at the same time challenge the child towards greater and greater mastery of the social, emotional, and intellectual capacities. (additional reading: Floortime,What it is and what it isn't).  With young children these playful interactions may occur on the floor, but go on to include conversations and interactions in other places. DIRFloortime® emphasizes the critical role of parents and other family members because of the importance of their emotional relationships with the child. 

The DIR® Model, however, is a comprehensive framework which enables clinicians, parents and educators to construct a program tailored to the child’s unique challenges and strengths. Central to the DIR® Model is the role of the child’s natural emotions and interests which has been shown to be essential for learning interactions that enable the different parts of the mind and brain to work together and build successively higher levels of social, emotional, and intellectual capacities. It often includes, in addition to Floortime®, various problem-solving exercises and typically involves a team approach with speech therapy, occupational therapy, educational programs, mental health  (developmental-psychological) intervention and, where appropriate, augmentative and biomedical intervention.

Once you're more familiar with the approach, read Guidelines for a Comprehensive Approach for guidance in putting together a DIRFloortime® program. 

This video is an extended version of the video on the home page.  It includes case examples.

A DIR Perspective...

" The essence of motivation is finding out what the natural interest of the child is, what they like they do.  Don’t have any preconceived notions.  Don’t think in terms of “rewards.”  The stimulus/reward approach is a very limited approach, which was based on research done with animal, not human, models and doesn’t encompass empathy and development of thought, etc.  The approach does work, to some degree, but it tends to keep the child in a rote, repetitive mode.  When a child is “stimming,” think of it as an opportunity to identify motivation to deepen his or her engagement.  Motivation is basically a good observer seeing what the child likes and building on this natural interest to help the child learn what he needs to learn.  Thus, motivation is finding out what the child naturally enjoys doing and then building on that interest and motivation". - By Stanley Greenspan, MD, August 2007