Last year’s 3-part podcast with DIR Expert and Training Leader, Dr. Andrea Davis, Using Self-Reflection as a Tool in Floortime, highlighted such an important aspect of DIR/Floortime: the role of self-reflection to foster your own growth-promoting interactions and connection with your child. You saw my Floortime session with our son and sample self-reflect worksheet, as well as heard the reflection about the entire process.
This year, we provide a different example using the video from a few weeks ago where my husband and son are playing with water balloons. Here is that video again but this time with Dad’s self-reflection worksheet.
Reviewing the Video
For your benefit in watching the video and learning about the application of Floortime, I’ve taken the feedback from our Floortime team and placed it accordingly where the yellow asterisks * appear in the video. It can show you the kind of insights you could have when reviewing a session you video tape with your own child, but by no means do you have to document it in this way.
Rather than scrutinize mechanics or behaviour in ourselves, we want to instead focus on self-reflection in the form of curiosity like Dr. Davis talked about in the podcast. The self-reflection insights from the video above are outlined for you below, but first let’s point out what moments we can reflect on.
Matching the feedback from our DIR/Floortime team to the flashing yellow asterisks * in the video
Besides the feedback text that appears in the video, our team thought Dad had a fabulous Floortime session with our son. Our son was somewhat up-regulated from time to time. In other words, he was overly excited to the point of almost becoming dysregulated and unable to share attention with Dad. But Dad’s use of anticipation was a great tool to have the child feel his increased regulation and co-regulate with Dad.
Dad showed great affect, engagement, and anticipation building which stretched out the engagement into longer periods of time. Dad expanded the play by varying the how they popped the balloons. Dad used great pacing and modulation (slowing his movement, getting to his level and using a soft voice tone). Dad gave him plenty of opportunities to problem-solve throughout activity and was able to draw the child back through shared activity (rather than instructing him) when his son became distracted or when the activity became too challenging. Most importantly, Dad and son were having so much shared joy together!
Going forward, our team had some great suggestions for moving our child up the developmental ladder. At the following times in the video, you will see a yellow asterisk pop up. Here are some notes about opportunities Dad could reflect on for future play sessions.
03:12 Here Dad could shake the balloon with the child longer to stay in the moment. This would slow down and stretch out the interaction even longer.
03:49 Here, Dad could mirror the child’s excitement saying “I want to pop it! Pop it NOW!” which would bring the child’s awareness to his emotions and also keep Dad attuned with the child’s emotional state in that moment.
04:04 Dad could wait for the child’s initiation rather than starting to blow the balloon. Holding the child in the moment and waiting will help the child develop the sense that he, and what he communicates, matters because he will have the time and opportunity to pay attention to social cues.
05:00 Dad is really getting great back-and-forth interactions but could wait even longer for the child’s initiation before passing the balloon back, again slowing down and stretching out the interactions.
06:09 Dad could slow down the interaction by pausing, using some non-verbal gestures rather than questioning the child, and using comments and wonderment such as “hmm… broken balloon…” rather than being directive about putting the broken balloon in the garbage. Or, Dad could just pick up the broken balloon and put it in the garbage and instead focus on the child’s interest and focus on getting the next balloon filled.
06:19 Dad could acknowledge or ‘mirror’ his child’s distress when the child thinks the game is ending and gets upset. By staying in that moment longer Dad could co-regulate with the child about what the child is experiencing before moving on. This helps the child recognize, feel, and label his emotions which is the basis for empathizing with others. Dad did help co-regulate with the child by helping the child sequence what would happen (“First…“) which is great.
06:41 Dad could wait on the child rather than give the direction. By waiting a lot more on his son’s cues so the ideas are coming more from his son, Dad can foster the thinking and communicating processes in his son.
07:22 Dad could acknowledge son’s emotion of having fun and slipping around and join in his slipping and sliding around. Rather than saying his son is being silly which might be confusing to his son’s sense of self, Dad could treat his activity of sliding around as something purposeful by joining him and sliding around together.
07:40 Dad initiated the idea but could wait a lot longer for his son to come up with the next idea. Some examples could be getting the child to show Dad how he wants to pop the balloons or having the child locate different items to use to pop the balloons.
11:34 Dad could wait on the child rather than instruct the child so the child has to come up with the idea which is challenging the child more. The child is ready here to be challenged more because he is so engaged. This is what moving the child up the developmental ladder is about: that ‘just-right’ challenge.
11:53 The child got distracted and moved on to the next thing instead of staying with Dad. Dad could say “Ahhh! I’m all wet! Oh no!” to keep the child in the interaction and having the child see Dad’s perspective.
13:45 Dad could really mirror what the child is expressing here: “On my head! Hurry, hurry, Dada! I want it to pop on your head!“
13:55 Dad could wait on the child to initiate the next step rather than directing the child and giving the child the idea of what will happen next. Again, this will promote thinking, relating, and communicating in the child.
14:23 Dad could mirror the child’s eagerness by acknowledging, “Again! Again! I want to do it again, Dada!“
16:00 Dad could mirror, “I want to pop it!” with great excitement. By using more emotional narrative language “I’m excited!” “I’m having so much fun!” and validating emotion such as the shared enjoyment: “We are having so much fun playing together!” or “I can see you are excited” Dad can get him into the vocabulary and acknowledgement of the emotion, in readiness for symbolic understanding and creative thinking at the fifth functional emotional developmental capacity.
16:42 Dad could wait on, rather than direct the child. Again, this would challenge the child to come up with his own idea of what to do next, even if he would repeat what they have already been doing. It gives the child practice in initiating purposeful communication.
As much as there will always be room for improvement, Dad really was able to work up the developmental ladder with his son by expanding one step at a time, and the child was able to follow along. Dad’s pace of change was nice and steady with sufficient time for his son’s processing. Dad clearly didn’t have an ‘agenda’ or ‘direction’ but was simply there to have fun with his son and it clearly showed. This is the spirit of what Floortime is really all about.
Goals for next time:
- Expand problem-solving by creating more playful obstruction.
- Incorporate more emotional content and language.
- Incorporate more sequencing of events (first, then, and finally…)
- Work on a rhythm of conversational turn taking with more give and take. This will require increased self-regulation so as Dad adds variation that will add some stress, he will have to check in with his son more to make sure he is moving up and down the developmental ladder in a way that supports the child’s development from the earliest capacities on up.
Here’s the tough part for us as parents or practitioners: the self-reflection. As Dr. Davis pointed out in the podcast, we want to review with curiosity and interest rather than self-judgment. We want to simply observe what happened and why it might have happened, and then reflect on how we can have those tendencies in our mind’s eye in subsequent sessions.
- Dad might think about why he jumps in rather than letting his child come up with the next idea. What is it about waiting? It might just be that it’s habit. If so, is Dad able to change that habit? If not, what is stopping him from slowing down and waiting on the child?
- Can Dad make his son work harder to get what he wants and possibly upset him? Is Dad uncomfortable with upset? What about emotion in general? Is Dad comfortable labelling his son’s or even his own emotions? How does that impact his son?
- Does Dad like to be in charge rather than following his son’s lead? What would it mean if Dad went along with something that wasn’t expected that his son might have come up with rather than directing his son? Is Dad comfortable with this? The answer might be yes! If so, Dad notices this next time and goes with it. He can then note the differences he sees in his son’s responses.
- Is Dad ok with moving down the developmental ladder when his son needs support? Is it ok with Dad in general to stumble and have to re-group before moving forward again?
- And in general, what growth and development does Dad see in his son and where does he want to see it go? Does Dad see how he can impact this growth and development by employing the Floortime strategies? Is Dad comfortable watching himself on video to continue learning and reflecting on the process?
These are all questions to ponder. The Developmental, Individual differences, Relationship-based (DIR) model challenges us to look inward and reflect so that we can have a greater awareness of ourselves. This in turn gives us a greater awareness of how we can help our children.
Does this video and new self-reflection example give you a better idea about how self-reflection helps you grow and in turn be able to help your child? If so, please share this post by clicking on the Facebook or Twitter buttons below. Do you have any examples of how you’ve used self-reflection to notice how you interact with your child in order to make adjustments? If so, please share them with us below in the Comments section.
Until next week… here’s to affecting autism through playful interactions!