what is DIR®?

The Developmental Individual-differences and Relationship-based Model

"Let's help our children become the poets of their inner lives." -Stanley Greenspan

What is DIR®?

DIR is the Developmental, Individual-differences, & Relationship-based model (pronounced saying each letter as an initialism: D.I.R.). DIR provides a foundational framework for understanding human development and outlines the critical role social-emotional development has on overall human development starting at birth and continuing throughout the lifespan. It also provides a framework for understanding how each person individually perceives and interacts with the world differently. The model highlights the power of relationships and emotional connections to fuel development. Through a deep understanding of the "D" and the "I" we can use the "R" to promote healthy development and to help every child and person reach their fullest potential.

DIR® is rooted in the science of human development and can sound very technical at times. However, it is also very simple. It is a pathway to promote healthy development in a respectful manner that builds connections, understanding, love, communication, and engagement. Click here for a short one-page "What is DIR?" document.

DIRFloortime® (Floortime) 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 exclusively on skills and isolated behaviors.

  • The “D” describes development from the perspective of the individual, where they are and where they are headed. Understanding the unique developmental process means allowing space for each person to be respected and guided in his or her own personal developmental journey.

  • The "I" describes the unique ways each person takes in, regulates, responds to, and comprehends the world around them.

  • The “R” describes how relationships fuel our development. Humans are social beings and relationships are a key to our human development. DIR harnesses the key affective (emotional) aspect of these relationships to promote development.

Understanding DIR can help us promote healthy development in all children, but it is especially powerful in helping children on the autism spectrum or with other developmental or emotional challenges.

What is the difference between DIR and Floortime 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. Click here to read more.

The DIR Model 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.

The above 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.