Autism Therapy Method Focuses On Play

A lesser-known treatment method for children with Autism is now gaining acceptance and being recognized by national Autism organizations and medical experts. The Developmental, Individual-Difference, Relationship-Based Model, or DIR/Floortime, is a multidisciplinary approach that centers on each child’s natural emotions and personal interests.

DIR/Floortime was developed by the late Dr. Stanley Greenspan, a psychiatrist and professor at George Washington University Medical School. The focus of this method has been not to change inappropriate behaviors, but to meet the child at the level where they are emotionally. The method takes the child’s feelings, relationships, and individual differences, into account and it builds multiple skills while connecting with others.


Many children with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) have a very detailed focus. For example, a child may spend an hour playing with a string. In Floortime, the therapist will also begin to play with the string, and will pretend the string is a snake, or play hide-and-seek with it. The goal is to help the child learn through playful fun, increasing the rate of their intellectual and emotional development. The method aims to focus on what the child is interested in, as well as plays to their strengths, to make them feel comfortable and more willing to participate in an activity.

The method has seen success in several children with ASD, including first-grader Hayden Widner. Hayden has been attending Floortime therapy sessions for over a year, and has been developing motor skills, as well as ways to express himself. Recently, Hayden had a hard time sharing toys with his 3-year-old brother, so Floortime focused on teaching him how to cope with his feelings, and not to take them out on his brother. His mother has seen much improvement in how he treats his sibling, as well as the fact that he no longer feels the need to throw things out of anger.

With Floortime, all of the child’s actions are assumed to be purposeful. It is the caregiver’s or parent’s role to follow the child’s lead and help him develop social interaction and communication skills. This method has been incorporated in the educational programs of several school systems, as well as in the families who prefer play-based therapies as a primary treatment for young children with ASD.

The ICare4Autism International Conference will be discussing current Autism treatments and educational strategies on July 2nd in NYC. Speakers include Dr. Dana Reinecke, Chair and Assistant Professor of Applied Behavior Analysis at The Sage Colleges. Dr. Reinecke has done extensive research on the use of play and games to teach social behavior in students with Autism. She will be discussing the current practices being used to treat children with ASD, as well as where the road is headed for future treatments. To hear Dr. Reinecke speak, please select tickets here.

As Autism Awareness Month continues, ICare4Autism will be sharing more information about the latest treatments for children with ASD, as well as significant research findings. We will also be highlighting several self-advocates and stories of hope. We hope that you will share these stories, and use the month of April to spread awareness about Autism! Please make a difference and donate today!

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