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Happy New Year! What better way to start the new year but with another Floortime video? This is part 3 of a series we featured here and here of a young adult and his father. This video example followed the previous two, after Dad received parent coaching in the Developmental, Individual differences, Relationship-based (DIR) model. He continued working on engaging and interacting with his son to facilitate the early social-emotional developmental capacities. In the video below, you will see that again, Dad is creative in how he sets up some great opportunities for back-and-forth interactions with his son!

Family Floortime Update

The young adult’s developmental and sensory processing profiles were detailed in part 1. Discussed there as well was how important these Floortime sessions are to developing the early social-emotional capacities. It is a slow process that happens over time with repeated practice at back-and-forth interactions. But even watching all 3 parts of this video series, you can already see the progress that is being made in Floortime with this family.

Dad was asked how his Floortime is going with his son. Dad said that his son is enjoying it. He reports that he is seeing more circles of communication with his son, but that he has to watch closely because his son always has different ideas and it’s hard to hear what he’s saying. Dad tries to see if his son will initiate interactions on his own by trying to put more opportunities in front of him. This is an important piece and so essential to supporting his son’s social-emotional capacities at FEDC 3, the third functional emotional developmental capacity: purposeful two-way communication.

Supporting His Son Up the Developmental Ladder

Recall from last time that Dad has the goal of having his son participate in more two-way communication (FEDC 3) and we discussed some ways he could begin to support his son’s progress up the developmental ladder into complex communication and shared problem solving (FEDC 4).

Let’s look at what opportunities today’s video show us for doing this.

Dad has again followed his son’s lead by beginning with an activity he knows his son enjoys. Dad is so calm, regulated and patient with his son (FEDC 1), and clearly his son is regulated and showing interest in their shared world. We also see how engaged (FEDC 2) his son is with Dad and we can see a lot of social referencing, especially around the 1:40 mark, for example. What’s clear is that this young adult is very subtle. He relates and communicates with gestures and eye contact, while we are used to looking for language. This requires Dad to be very observant and attuned to his son.

We can also see that the Relationship that Dad and son share is helping with the son’s regulation. He is alert and engaged with his Dad and enjoying their time together. The more Dad is using gestures and affect to fuel the interaction, the more we can see Dad was able to deliver more of himself. It happened more naturally when he got more playful. 

Being silly and having fun brings out a natural affect that allows connection to happen.

We can also see that this is session is geared towards and about his son. What you see here might not be what you do with your own child because everyone has a different profile. This is also not a model for others. This is one father’s journey to being able to interact and connect with his son, and in doing so, supporting his son’s development. There is down time. It is slow moving. Dad could always be doing more. But this is reality. And this is why we film ourselves and use self-reflection.

Each time we see how we interact, we can take notice of how we can foster more interactions in the future. Please see the blog from the last session for more details about the strategies Dad has used again in this video. These strategies outline how it’s not about the magnets or earrings or shirt, but about getting back-and-forth gestural and affective interactions over and over again.

Self-Reflection

The ninth functional emotional developmental capacity is Self-reflection. We can really improve our Floortime sessions by reflecting as parents the way this Dad has done in his coaching and through sharing this experience with us. Here are a few reflections that Dad pondered upon reviewing this Floortime video:

  • His son’s movement patterns are so delicate so even when Dad thinks he’s going really slow, he needs to go even slower. For instance, when his son motioned that he wanted the magnets, Dad could have held them out and asked, “Oh, do you want some?” and then waited. Dad now knows that at this time, his son will rarely say something without Dad’s support, so continuing to use gestures and affect will support his son’s relating and communicating and encourage his son to say more and share more with him.

  • Dad was surprised when his son mentioned planets and stars (just after the 4:40 mark), but we always want to presume competence! Somewhere, his son must have seen something about planets and stars and made the connection that the magnets reminded him of planets and stars. They had a nice back-and-forth interaction around this idea.

  • At 9:50 the young adult initiated handing his father the pink magnet stick, but Dad instead pretended the magnets were earrings, which was fun and fine to do as there was great interest and interaction. However, Dad could have responded by taking the magnet stick and putting that on his ear, following his son’s initiation. Dad reflected that he was busy thinking about what he was going to do next and how to execute the earring idea.

  • Even if Dad didn’t know what he was doing when he offered the pink stick, Dad could have asked, “Do you want me to use some of your magnets or hold the stick?” using affect. He could have put out fists as a visual cue for making a choice to give his son the time to figure out an answer to the question. The visual prompt will also support and scaffold his son’s use of language. 

Suggestions

One of the goals from last time was to begin thinking of ways to move into the fourth capacity of complex communication and shared problem solving. While we didn’t get there in this video, you can see some emergence in a few of the interactions such as just after the 8-minute mark where Dad says, “Uh-oh” as they try to figure out how to lift more magnets with the stick. Here are some suggestions for Dad going forward:

  • By continuing to solidify the earlier capacities, development will progress towards more complex communication so Dad’s work now is to continue to foster opportunities to interact with his son everyday, using affect to facilitate more and more back-and-forth gestural and affective exchanges.
  • Dad could add in other playful bits such as making the magnets talk to each other, or making the magnets growl to stick and push away from each other.
  • Dad can continue to support his son’s challenges with motor planning by putting two hands in front of him rather than up near his ear to support his son working with two hands together. While Dad was clearly watching closely to see if his son could carry out this activity and was there to support him, making it less challenging will scaffold these skills.

Dad talked about his goals at the beginning and part of how he facilitates the interaction is to have some activities ready so that he can see what his son is interested in, and then use that as a springboard to begin engaging and interacting with each other. The affect will drive this process. Affect is not volume, but more about Dad being his playful self and putting more of himself into the play. Being silly and playful seems to foster shared enjoyment between him and his son.

So while Dad can have activities and plans, the goal is to just be with his son, sharing with his son, initiating and following up on his son’s initiations, and using affect through it all to foster the back-and-forth interactions.

Thank you to DIR Expert Training Leader Jackie Bartell for her input into the content of this blog post.

Thank you to this family once again for sharing their experience and growth process with others. If you have any constructive or positive feedback or questions, please comment below and/or share on Facebook or Twitter. Floortime is a process and a journey and it’s great to share our experiences with one another as we support our children’s individual and unique developmental process.

Until next time, here’s to affecting autism through play!

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