ICDL’s CEO, Jeff Guenzel joins us this week to introduce their new DIR Institute in Livingston, NJ. Jeff is a Licensed Professional Counsellor and joined the not-for-profit Interdisciplinary Council on Development and Learning in 2013. ICDL is the home of DIR/Floortime: the Developmental, Individual differences, Relationship-based (DIR) model and the associated intervention, Floortime. It’s where I took all of my Floortime certificate courses. In 2017, Jeff made me the Parent Advocate of ICDL in our partnership for Building Floortime Families, so I am thrilled to have him on the podcast this week!

Floortime Therapy at the DIR Institute

by Affect Autism

About ICDL

Jeff says that ICDL was founded by Dr. Stanley Greenspan around understanding infant and early child development, where this development can have challenges, and how to intervene when those challenges take place using the framework of the DIR Model and Floortime as the intervention. 

ICDL’s certificate program trains professionals and caregivers to be able to use Floortime in their practices, the community, and in their homes. ICDL added direct therapy services after receiving so many international inquiries for a place to connect with Floortime experts and ICDL. It’s also a way to expand training as the center becomes another place of learning.

A DIR Approach

What makes the DIR Institute unique is that everything it does is using the DIR Model, whether it’s Floortime, occupational therapy, speech therapy, psychotherapy, etc. using a developmental perspective. This involves promoting development from the ‘inside out’, or ‘bottom up’ which is different than focusing on changing behaviours like many of the ‘top down’ approaches. It’s about understanding the core capacities essential for engaging, relating, communicating, and thinking.

Expert Clinical Professionals

The DIR Institute has access to experienced, expert professionals including the Clinical Advisor, Dr. Gil Tippy and Clinical consultant, Dr. Gerard Costa, as well as many other practitioners. The center provides intensive Floortime sessions where families can come from one to four weeks at a time with involved family members who are supported and trained in Floortime. Jeff oversees the center, having years of experience working in child development as a professional counsellor and finds Floortime powerful, respectful, loving and very successful in supporting and helping those with developmental differences thrive.

Virtual Coaching for Parents

The DIR Institute also offers virtual coaching for parents called the DIR Home Program. ICDL can provide guidance and reflection on how to use Floortime and get support. There are also Floortime professionals available to do home visits in the general area of the Center. Parent coaching helps families through relationships and play to interact in supportive ways so the child is more motivated to interact, relate and communicate with you.

Some parents are brand new, some know about Floortime, and some have differing views from each other–mother from father, or parents from grandparents, as I’ve discovered in our ICDL-Affect Autism Online Parent Support Drop-In. Reflection is such a rewarding experience through coaching when parents submit videos of them playing with their children and learn to see how they interact with their children and how that affects how their children will interact with them and others.

Often, we think about playtime with our children as an opportunity to teach them. But developing the early social-emotional capacities is a priority so the child can learn. Then the learning becomes much easier. Sometimes our well-intended teaching gets in the way of our child figuring out how to interact with the world in their own way. ICDL supports children in this developmental process. 

Parents are a part of therapy

Parents being a part of the therapeutic process is another key feature of the DIR Institute, where they create the opportunity to explore the interaction between the parent and child, and enrich that interaction. The emotional world of the child is a cornerstone of Floortime, and sometimes promoting our child’s full range of emotions can be challenging for parents. Many times when we play with our children it’s about us playing with a toy, whereas we want the toy to be secondary. The focus is on enriching the interaction.

Jeff says that part of the Floortime intensive is providing emotional support to the parents in their own process. In all therapies, the emotional aspects of both the parent and child are supported very carefully and respectfully. They help parents sort through their emotions to make the journey as joyful as can be. On the ICDL website there are case studies about parents being coached to promote interactions with their child which are very helpful.

Floortime is about how you interact with your child all the time. See some of the past podcasts that demonstrate this:

Evidence Base for DIR/Floortime

DIR is evidence-based! See ICDL’s research page for research, science and evidence to back up DIR/Floortime, including a Quick Facts reference sheet, a white paper with highlights, and many more goodies for all of your advocacy needs!

Jeff is especially interested in helping fathers connect with their children, which is why he invited psychologist and father Dr. Robert Naseef to speak at the last ICDL Conference. Jeff says there’s plenty of stress to go around, so to improve family relations and help families find joy can only help.

Floortime services

You can find a full listing of DIR umbrella services and Floortime centers that can supplement the DIR Institute and DIR Home Program under our Services link, including A Total Approach and the STAR Institute mentioned in today’s podcast.

DISCLAIMER: People might skeptically think, “What’s she trying to sell us?” I’m as skeptical as anyone and know that anytime you have a diagnosed child, you are bombarded with people trying to sell you their products. This is different. I trained in DIR/Floortime and created this website to help caregivers who are interested in the DIR Model, which I personally found to be most in line with what fit with our family’s beliefs and wants for our family and child.

I believe in the developmental and client-centered approach that are based on Relationships. I’m going to share services here that I personally believe in because I have found them to be life-changing and respectful to our child. I have found that working with clinical DIR experts who have years of experience seeing children flourish with DIR/Floortime gives our children the best chance at reaching their desired potential. That is why I am endorsing the new DIR Institute.

Thank you to Jeff for taking the time out of his busy schedule to share ICDL’s mission and new DIR Institute that helps fulfill it. If you enjoyed this post, please consider sharing it on Facebook or Twitter and if you have any related comments, questions or experiences to share, please Comment below.

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

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