The challenge to create and implement effective educational programs for preschool children with disorders of relating and communicating is more compelling than ever given the apparent increase in the number of children diagnosed with these disorders in recent years. These disorders include pervasive developmental disorders (PDD), autistic spectrum disorders (ASD), multisystem developmental disorders, and severe regulatory disorders.
Education is one of the central components of comprehensive intervention programs based on the DIRFloortime™ model. Services may be provided directly by education personnel in regular and special educations schools, in home-based programs, or through some combination of home, school, and related services in the continuum of inclusion services. Because educational services are both mandated and funded by law from birth, they provide essential resources to families.
There are three types of developmentally appropriate interactions and practices that need to be part of the child's daily routine at school:
1. Floortime™, spontaneous interactions during which the teacher, teacher assistant, caregiver, or another peer follows the child's lead and helps him or her elaborate
2. Semistructured, problem-solving interactions, during which specific learning objectives are worked on through the creation of dynamic challenges that the child wants to solve.
3. Motor, sensory, perceptual-motor, and visual-spatial physical activities to strengthen important processing foundations.
Individualized Educational Plan (IEP) Models
The IEP provides the best opportunity for parents, educators and therapists to identify the specific goals, approaches, and implementation methods for each child. The IEP depends on collaboration and has mandated requirements for joint agreement and timetables for assessment, review, and modifications. The most significant aspect of the IEP now is that parents can use the IEP to indicate their goals and to hold the educational program accountable for meeting all these goals.
The following table suggest goals for each developmental level that can be incorporated into the child's IEP. These goals are organized with the idea of helping children move from one level to another. Although this list of goals are organized by core functional developmental capacities, they can also be included under major instructional headings regularly used by school systems (e.g. language and communication, cognition, social-emotional).
There are several ways to quantify both the amount of time and the expected outcomes for each goal:
- Indicate change in the percentage of response. For example, for a child who may be closing the circle of communication 30% of the time, the specific goal would be close circles 50% of the time at the next time interval.
- Indicate change in number of responses. For example, if a child is opening and closing 20 circles, the next goal would be 50 circles or that the child will respond 3 out of 5 times.
- Indicate the time interval designated for that goal: for example, over a 1-week time period or during the next 3 months.
- Indicate the amount of time to be spent on the goal, such as 10 minute periods, 8 times a day.
- Consider the use of the functional emotional assessment scale (FEAS) measures, which have established reliability and provide specific examples for each level. The FEAS could be scored at pre and post-intervention intervals.
- Indicate the context in which the child will demonstrate each developmental capacity, such at school, on the play-ground, or at home.
- Indicate whether the child will demonstrate the developmental capacity spontaneously (nonscripted) or with natural prompts, such as questions during interactions.
- Indicate whether the child will demonstrate the developmental capacity independently.
The following boxes give examples of IEP goals based on the DIR/Floortime model: