Last week we helped you determine your child’s sensory profile, or individual differences. We need to keep these differences in mind in every step of setting up a DIR/Floortime program for your child and especially in implementing it.
The next step in implementing a program for your child will involve using the DIR/Floortime checklist to determine where your child is developmentally. This will help you target your interactions with your child.
Recall that these functional emotional developmental levels are capacities that neurotypical children acquire from birth through to age 4 or 5, but in children with developmental delays they happen at a much slower rate and usually much later.
Take a look at the basic checklist by clicking the link in the green box and it should give you a general idea of what levels your child is capable of, at least for some of the time. Children with developmental delays can have some capacities in many of the levels but not all of the time, so there are gaps in development that we aim to fill in.
Click here to see the Functional Emotional Developmental Levels basic chart
Look at the first functional emotional developmental level (FEDL). We want to see your child having shared attention with you and being regulated. In order to do this, we need to know in what environment the child is most comfortable.
If certain sensations are unpleasant for your child, they will find it too difficult to share attention with you because they will be distracted and won’t be able to regulate their emotions. They will be unavailable to us.
This stage is often the greatest challenge for parents. However, Dr. Greenspan never met a child they couldn’t engage in some way. You should know best how to comfort your child and avoid what sets them off. If you don’t, you need to keep searching, as described in detail a few weeks ago.
Shared attention and regulation is the cornerstone of working with a child in the DIR® model. We need to have shared attention and regulation before we can move any higher in the developmental levels.
This does not mean that if your child is always having meltdowns, you cannot work on higher levels. This means that you need to work on higher levels only in the moments when your child is available for shared attention and regulated.
So for many of us, the bulk of time with our children will be finding ways to help them keep shared attention with us and help them feel regulated. For now let’s just note how often you get moments of shared attention with your child and how often you notice that your child seems to feel regulated.
* Please note that information on this website is not meant to be taken as professional advice and is for illustrative purposes only. Please consult with a professional for specific recommendations for your own child.
I want to stress how important FEDL 1 is in DIR/Floortime. Constrictions at level 1 will follow children with developmental delays throughout their school years and will make it very difficult for them to function in a school setting and other social settings.
It should be the cornerstone of all of the work you do with your child at home and the most important factor raised with your child’s school so they can also have the tools to help your child each day.
Please don’t let this overwhelm you, but rather empower you. Once you learn how to help your child at level 1, you will gain confidence and it will become a routine in your life.
The photo for today’s blog is of our son with one of his therapists who chose to have him sit on a swing.
This keeps him regulated enough to get the shared attention she requires to push him up the developmental ladder. This gives him the vestibular input his body is craving in order to feel at ease so he can focus on other things.
In the coming weeks, we’ll show you many examples of how to help your child stay regulated. The key here is to keep in mind that this is always your main goal in DIR/Floortime.
See the photo of our son playing in the sand. He seems very at ease and regulated, however this is not what we are looking for in FEDL 1. He is in his own world and it would appear he’d remain just as happy playing if anyone were with him or not.
Rather, we want to child to be in a shared world where he would be interacting with us to share what he’s experiencing while he’s regulated.
Many parents leave their child playing on their own immersed in an activity not realizing that they are missing out on fostering rich interactions.
But with developmental delays, you can never spend too much time interacting with your child and in fact they require this to address the core deficits of relating, thinking, and communicating.
As Dr. Gil Tippy likes to say, we want to invite them into our world and say “Hey! Come join us! It’s fun here!” without taking no for an answer. It is the only way we can help them out of their own world.
Dr. Greenspan suggests getting a neighbourhood teenager or other family members to play with your child if you are busy with chores or dinner.
Until our developmentally delayed children have mastered the core capacities, they really should not be left alone to play because you are losing valuable time in helping them to develop these core developmental capacities.
With our busy schedules it is overwhelming to feel you can get on top of this everyday, but we will help you. Slowly, you will build these new skills into your daily routine.
We won’t get into details of the other functional emotional developmental levels until we begin to talk about what to do in Floortime. But for now you can make note of what capacities you see your child exhibiting in each level from the checklist because that will be important going forward.
In the coming weeks we’ll talk about actually doing Floortime. We’ll start next week by using the information about individual differences and shared attention & self-regulation to start a Floortime session.
Until next week, here’s to affecting autism!