Directly from the DIR® Fact Sheet on the website of the Interdisciplinary Council on Development and Learning (ICDL), the home of the DIR/Floortime® model, “The R 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. These relationships enable progress in the child’s overall functional and emotional development.”
Let’s break this down. Relationship is the most important part of the DIR/Floortime® intervention. There has to be a good relationship with the person doing Floortime™.
The saying “it takes a village…” didn’t come out of nowhere. The village was an attachment village of community where people of all ages—relatives or friends—had a relationship with each new baby born. The mother had help raising children where others would hold and get to know the baby so that as the child developed, the child was familiar and felt safe with those in the village. Feeling safe meant that children would allow themselves to be guided by those in their village.
Today, however, our society is set up in a way where adults are not only not in relationship with our children, but they are also not guiding, but rather directing them. Imagine us as adults being told what to do by strangers, say, at a grocery store. What is your instinct if someone you don’t know walks up to you and tells you to stop talking so loudly, walking too slowly or quickly, or to stop touching items on the shelf?
And yet, just because children are young, today’s society expects them to follow commands from adults they don’t know simply because the adults are in a position of authority. This is disrespectful and is what developmental psychologist Dr. Gordon Neufeld calls “form over function”. In fact he goes so far as to say that our brains are wired to not take direction from or to be guided by anyone to whom we are not attached, i.e., do not have a relationship with.
Now how does this relate to DIR/Floortime®?
We don’t direct children. We follow their lead within safe, warm, nurturing and well-established relationships to find what interests them in order to meet them there with genuine affect, respecting their individual differences and developmental level. Then, we can guide them.
We need to have a safe, warm and nurturing relationship with a child before doing Floortime™. You can build this relationship over a number of sessions if you are a stranger. If you are a parent, we will assume you have a good relationship. If not, please refer to Dr. Gordon Neufeld‘s work to repair the relationship between you.
To meet the child where they are at developmentally, we consider the stages discussed two weeks ago regarding their functional emotional developmental capacities (FEDCs). If a child is not in a regulated state nor attending to us (FEDC 1), this is where we have to work first: observing the child and joining him/her in his/her interest to gain shared attention with the child in a regulated state.
Once all of these conditions are met, we have a safe, warm and nurturing relationship with the child, we use genuine affect to interact at the child’s developmental level, tailored to the child’s individual differences and can help the child move ahead in their development. How do we do this? Using Floortime™.
That is next week’s blog topic: Floortime™.
Until next week, here’s to affecting autism!