The DIR Floortime model, developed by the late Dr. Stanley Greenspan and Serena Wieder, PhD, is focused on enhancing social-emotional development of children and families to foster lifelong connection and learning.
Frequently children with special needs are challenged by neurobiological factors, which make it difficult to fully participate in and enjoy emotional interactions with others. This program identifies core capacities needed for strong social-emotional development. Therapists meet the child where they are in the social emotional developmental levels and create interactions that facilitate growth within each of the levels. This program improves social skills and emotional well-being.
The Functional Emotional Developmental Levels addressed are:
Regulation and Interest in the World
The child’s ability to regulate his or her attention and behavior while being interested in the full range of sensations (sights, sounds, smells, their own movement patterns, etc.). The child’s ability to enter into a state of shared attention with another person, to process their environment, filter out distractions, engage with others, attend to play or tasks and pay attention in the classroom.
The child’s ability to engage in relationships, including the depth and range of his pleasure and warmth, the related feelings, such as assertiveness or sadness, that can be incorporated into the quality of engagement and the stability of the child’s engagement.
Intentional Two-Way Communication
The child’s ability to enter into two-way purposeful communication. At it’s most basic level, this involves helping a child open and close circles of communication. This is a child’s ability to be intentional in interactions and activities (e.g., a child is able to initiate with another person to keep activities going)
Two way purposeful problem solving interactions/Development of complex sense of self
The ability to string together many circles of communication to support problem solving with others. This is necessary for negotiating many of the most important emotional needs in life (being close to others, exploring and being assertive, limiting aggression, negotiation safety, etc.) This is the stage where the child begins to develop a sense of self, self esteem and independence.
Using Representational Capacity to Understand the World/ Elaborating on Ideas
The child’s ability to create mental representations. The ability to do pretend play or use words, phrases or sentences to convey some emotional intention. The child begins to have their own ideas and share them with the people around them. This is the ability to share ideas with others and represent ideas and real life through play.
Building Bridges Between Ideas/Emotional Thinking
The child’s ability to make connections between different internal representations or emotional ideas (“I’m mad because you don’t understand me.”). This capacity is a foundation for higher level thinking, problem-solving and such capacities as separating fantasy from reality, modulating impulses and mood, and learning to concentrate and plan.
Multi-causal and Comparative Thinking
The child is able to explore multiple reasons for a feeling, comparing feelings, and understanding triadic interactions among feeling states. Finding an indirect road or new way to solve a problem. This type of thinking is more expansive and even a little manipulative. He learns to “work the crowd” to satisfy his social needs. It is a good sign when a child becomes manipulative in a triangular way. At this level the child becomes interested in all facets of their world: sex, death, where did I come from?, etc..