In honour of the May long weekends in North America, what better topic to discuss than travel? During our travels to see model train layouts with our son, I had the opportunity to practice some Floortime in the car!

Dr. Stanley Greenspan spoke about doing Floortime all the time, anywhere, once you get into a Floortime way of life. It’s all about connecting with your child and being able to self-reflect in the moment. And being in the car doesn’t have to restrict you.

Over a year ago, DIR/Floortime trainer Dr. Gil Tippy encouraged me to use Floortime during our long car rides rather than giving our son the iPad. Dr. Tippy suggested we throw the iPad out the window (we lived in a high rise) but if absolutely necessary, only to use the iPad if we were busy cooking, etc. and required our son to be occupied for his safety.

So here we are doing Floortime in the car. Let’s watch the video then discuss…

Become a member to see the Floortime video here

What did you think? Nothing special, right? Just chatting with our son… But let me point out some of the Floortime aspects in this video example…

There is no such thing as a perfect Floortime session… Just have fun!


Taking the time to self-reflect (A.10), I can see that, of course, there are areas of improvement to think about for next time:

  • I can ‘play confused‘ a bit more rather than responding with what I know my son is thinking about, even though he isn’t making it clear. I’m relying to much on my memory of our shared experiences. That is, I could have presented more challenges and pretended I didn’t remember what he was referring to.
    • For instance, when he says “Berkshire train!” in response to a question about something being under construction, I could have said “Berkshire train?” all puzzled… “Where?” or “What about it?” 

  • I could have used less language. Some of my responses were far too lengthy than need be. I also made a lot of comments that included a lot of language.

  • I was pretty good at following his cues and staying with his interests, but I did on occasion persist on something I was talking about regardless of keeping his attention, such as when I talked about how last time we turned around to take a different route to avoid waiting for the train.
  • We could have reflected a bit more on his emotions and what made him so excited (wanting to see the mountain train on the track), surprised, or upset (such as when I suggested we’d have to wait for the train or would pass by the train yard).

Broken down by the labels provided in the User’s Guide to the DIR Model.

A1. Follow cues:

  • I tuned in to my son and saw he was eager to talk about the model train shows and trains, and I followed his interest by responding accordingly.

A2. Be responsive & 3.3: Wait:

  • I responded to his initiations and waited, giving him time to respond back.
    • e.g., “It’s pulling something…” There was a pause and he said, “logs.” I replied, “I wonder what the logs are for…” and he replied “Construction!”

A8. Embrace feelings:

  • I tuned in to my son and saw he was excited
    • e.g., “Are you excited? I think so!” and later narrating for him, “Yes! I am excited!”

2.5. Emphasize affect:

  • I used a lot of expression and affect in my voice, emphasizing certain things he would be excited about or to capture his attention.

3.4. Sportscaster/narrator:

  • I repeated back or paraphrased what he said to assure him I heard and understood what he was saying.

3.8. Consider questions:

  • I often commented in my responses rather than asking a lot questions.
    • e.g., “Maybe we will see a no. 6 train.” rather than “Do you think we’ll see a no. 6 train?”
  • When I did ask questions, I tried to make them relevant and clear for him.
    • e.g., “What are the logs for?” He replied, “Construction!” and “What’s that on that picture?!” (pointing emphatically to the billboard) He replied, “Hotdog!”

3.6. Easy choices:

  • When my son couldn’t respond to the questions, I offered easy choices to help him answer the question.
    • e.g., “Are you counting hopper cars or tanker cars?” He replied, “Tanker cars!” and later about the train he was talking about “What colour were they?” He replied, “a different kind…” so I followed up with “Were they pink?” and he said “Blue!”

4.1. Stretch interactions:

  • I expanded the topics we discussed in our conversation whenever I could to keep the circles of communication going.
    • e.g., “Hmm… maybe some other things… maybe some bicycles…” and “I wonder who is in the house…” and “Hmm… I wonder if they’re going to go fast or slow?”

6.6. Build bridges:

  • When I could, I logically connected two ideas we talked about.
    • e.g., I validated when he made the connection between the construction we saw on the road in that moment and the bridge construction we saw earlier in the day at the model train club. When he brought up a “Northern train”, I prompted him to make the connection about where else there was a northern train. He responded when I further prompted him by asking what was on his shirt and he responded, “Northern train!”

6.8. Incite thinking & 3.1: Invite circles:

  • I used “Hmm…” statements to peak his interest to elicit a response, and also to keep the conversation going. I also initiated some new ideas by pointing out things he could see out the window to keep some interaction going.
    • e.g., “Hmm… I wonder what else could be in that garage?” and “Look, a green tractor” He replied, “and a black truck” and “truck’s dirty!” I responded, “Hmm… I wonder how it got dirty?”

I’m sure there are many things I could have done differently, better, or more…or less! But the point is that I made my best attempt to connect with my son when we had some time alone, rather than turning on the radio and giving him his iPad. Whenever we can find a few minutes here and there, Floortime is a great tool to have in our back pockets! Perhaps next time we’ll try some carpool karaoke!

Please comment below with your examples of doing Floortime in the car, suggestions for Floortime in the car, or constructive comments or questions about my Floortime in the car video. What if your child isn’t as verbally communicative as our son? What other techniques have you used? 

Until next time… here’s to affecting autism through playful interactions!

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