This week’s VIDEO presents a new example of Floortime in the car with a link to the BLOG from last year’s post, Floortime in the car! The purpose of the VIDEO blog series is to review the key concepts of DIR/Floortime® in a more digestible format for parents and those new to the DIR® model. To view the VIDEO or full BLOG post, please click on the respective green button above. There you can find the Key Take-Aways PDF as well.

In this year’s example, the setting was a bit different. We weren’t driving, but were parked. We have recently started a new game when we’re stopped at long red lights or when parked. The key here is not what activity we do, but that our son is interacting with me instead of being on his iPad while having to sit in the car.

You can see the progress our son has made in a year’s time. This year his engagement and ability to stay in an interaction is certainly more robust. But note that while our son is now exhibiting the fourth functional emotional developmental capacity (FEDC), he still has some challenges with regulation at the first capacity level, and can from time-to-time lose engagement (FEDC 2) and that flow and reciprocity in the back-and-forth interaction (like all of us can!) at the third capacity level. We are always working on solidifying earlier capacities when doing Floortime.

Here are some of the Floortime strategies used in the VIDEO example above.

Broken down by strategies from the User’s Guide to the DIR® Model book:

From the Core Methods A. Basic Strategies to Promote Social-Emotional and Intellectual Development section of the book

  • I followed our son’s cues (A.1)
  • I was responsive to his communication (A.2)
  • I met him at his current developmental capacity by slowing down and co-regulating using affect and empathy when he became a bit dysregulated, for instance (A.3)
  • I used playfulness to engage him and keep him in a back-and-forth interaction in which we shared joy together (A.4)
  • I used his natural interests of knocking things over to keep him in the back-and-forth interaction (A.5)
  • I presented some problems for him that invited him to initiate solutions, such as putting the object too far for him to reach, or putting the box of tissues on my head (A.6)
  • I introduced a bit of pretend play when bringing the chicken into the game (A.7)
  • I did embrace feelings when I commented that indeed he was disappointed when the train was broken (A.8)

Strategy A.10. Self-Reflect 

  • Although I’m more conscious of it, I still struggle with being directive rather than letting our son initiate more ideas on his own, such as when I suggested putting the egg in the box of tissues, or when I suggested kicking the chicken out of the box of tissues.
  • Although I commented on his feeling disappointed, I could have included more reflection about feelings during the game such as pointing out or asking him if he was excited and/or happy, for instance. I could have also spent more time with him on the disappointment he felt when he brought up how the train was broken (an experience we had recently had over spring break), or explored feelings of frustration when he couldn’t reach the box of tissues.
  • I certainly could have challenged him more during the game rather than continuing to put that object right there where he wanted it every time. By waiting longer and by slowing down, I could have allowed him the opportunity to really think and have to communicate even more with me what he wanted. I could have challenged him into expanding and elaborating on his ideas for making the egg roll away, for instance.

From the Core Methods B. Understanding and Addressing Individual Differences in Processing Profiles section of the book

  • Our son’s sensory processing profile dictates that he needs to move. While he is strapped in his car seat, this activity allowed him to get in his need for movement by kicking, throwing, and stretching and reaching with his legs (B.1.)
  • I know that upbeat activities can be up-regulating for me, and that I can process more quickly than our son, so I consciously paused from time-to-time in the video before rushing into a new interaction when he kicked the box. I used affect as I paused, showing him my reaction to what had happened, such as gasping and giggling, looking to him with anticipation as I waited for his next initiation (B.2)
  • I adapted myself to our son’s specific needs by slowing down some of my movements (such as throwing the egg to him), adapting the tone and affect in my voice to what entices him–being playful and encouraging, I engaged his desire to throw and kick which his sensory systems crave, and I attempted to modify my language so he could follow what I was saying (B.3)
  • I worked on a combination of energizing and calming our son through the activity of kicking to satisfy his underreactive tendencies, and by co-regulating when I slowed down, using more affect and a quieter voice when he became overwhelmed (B.4)

From Capacity 1. Regulation and Attention: Attaining a Calm, Alert, Attentive State section

  • I used many of the attuning strategies from this section (support regulation, notice and adjust, calming choices, lengthen attention) to keep our son calm enough to continue with the activity when he became distressed (when I put the box on my head, for instance), attentive enough when he became distracted, thinking about things that happened in a Curious George or Thomas and Friends episode, and .

From Capacity 2. Social Engagement: Getting Involved and Connected section

  • I used the connecting strategies from this section (joint attention, gaze tracking, share pleasure, mirror emotions, emphasize affect, interact, be necessary, use anticipation) to keep our son engaged and connected with me.
  • I commented on what our son was noticing outside the car, laughed with him, used a lot of affect to share joy, mirrored his distress when he didn’t like the challenges I presented in the game (such as placing the box too far away for him to kick), made myself a necessary part of the game, and used a lot of anticipation to keep him connected with me.

From Capacity 3. Reciprocal Social Interaction: Initiating and Responding Purposefully section

  • I used the responding strategies from this section (invite circles, total communication, wait, sportscaster/narrator, playfully persist, easy choices, communication temptation, consider questions) to keep the reciprocity and back-and-forth interactions going in our game.
  • I enticed our son into interactions and took turns, waited on his responses and initiations, used non-verbal communication such as gestures and facial expressions too (such as when I suggested “up high”), narrated back what I heard him express that he wanted, and/or what he was talking about when another thought came into his mind, persisted with a question by re-wording it or showing him such as offering him easy choices as to where he wanted me to place the box, paused in anticipation to tempt him to let me know what he wanted to happen next, and asked him questions for clarification.

From Capacity 4. Complex Communication: Using Gestures and Words to Solve Problems Together section

  • Although the game we played was fairly simple and did not command much need for problem-solving, I did my best to use what expanding strategies that I could from this section (stretch interactions, don’t judge, devise problems, genuine self, social flow). I could have slowed down and stretched out some of the interactions much longer than I did, but I did make a few good attempts.
  • I expressed curiosity at and followed up on his initiations of ideas, and presented some problems such as placing the objects too far away for him to reach with his foot. In the future I would use the feign ignorance and playfully obstruct strategies here as well to challenge our son up the developmental ladder, as he is showing enough robust interaction to be ready for more of a challenge.

From Capacity 5. Symbolic Play: Creating and Using Ideas section

  • I used a couple of the pretending strategies (use pretend, animate) from this section to introduce some symbolic play into the game when I became the voice of the chicken requesting to go into the box of tissues.
  • Note how the first time I introduced it, our son was not interested and protested. After playing with the box and the egg for awhile, I reintroduced the chicken and this time, he didn’t protest when I put it in the box in order to for him to kick it out.

Please refer to the book Floortime Strategies to Promote Development in Children and Teens: The User’s Guide to the DIR® Model for more detail. It is a wonderful guide for new and veteran Floortimers alike.

Did you find this post informative? Did it give you any ideas of things to do with your child while you’re in the car? If so, please share this post by clicking on the Facebook or Twitter buttons below. Do you have an example of how you did Floortime in the car or elsewhere during your day-to-day routines? If so, please share them with us below in the Comments section.

Until next week… here’s to affecting autism!

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