In Floortime we talk about meeting the child where they are Developmentally (‘D’) and taking into account their unique sensory profile and Individual differences (‘I’), all within a safe, warm, and nurturing Relationship (‘R’). We then follow the child’s lead, challenge, and expand. Caregivers and new practitioners often struggle with the latter two. The key to challenging and expanding is using affect and being playful.
Recall that the goal in Floortime is to get a continuous back-and-forth flow of interactions. This capacity to have these continuous circles of communication is a pre-requisite for humans to move into social problem-solving, symbolic and logical thinking which are capacities that prepare us for higher learning–namely, academics, and for participating in the world which is a social place.
We’ve discussed many times before how we move up the developmental ladder to a continuous flow of interaction, and how challenging and expanding are a part of that interaction. Whether it be slowing down and stretching out the interactions, being playfully obstructive or playing clueless, or applying process-oriented learning, we can respectfully connect with our children and motivate them to willingly interact with us.
“The most essential principle in fostering a child’s initiative is the following: Respect everything the child does or says, including self-stimulatory, perseverative patterns. The only exceptions are behaviors that can hurt the child or others or that are disruptive in a particular setting. Treat everything the child initiates, even seemingly aimless wandering, as a creative act deserving of your engagement and interaction. Use the child’s ‘initiatives’ to create opportunities for more initiatives through your enticing, playful, loving, and respectful interactions with him or her.“
It’s a job of parents to help their children develop and grow. All human beings need to be put out of their comfort zone or you go stagnant. No one knows what they can do until they are pushed to do it. In the case of Floortime, we have the wonderful practice of giving our children new opportunities in the safety and comfort of our own home rather than in the stress of the real world, in the moment. That’s the whole point!
Until next time, here’s to affecting autism through playful interactions!