Just a reminder about our parent support meeting:

  • Everything said is confidential and we ask that there are no recordings;
  • This group is to share with and support fellow caregivers;
  • The sessions are for caregivers only, but we will have a guest DIR Expert Training Leader with us the first Monday of each month to support us if anyone has questions or would like this additional support;
  • This is not a clinical treatment program. This is a parent-led support service. ICDL strongly encourages parents to also obtain professional clinical support from a DIRFloortime provider. You can search for providers HERE or access the DIR Home Program for virtual coaching.
  • Feel free to send feedback, suggestions, etc. to me anytime

Here are the usual resources to check out:

If you have any questions about the notes or suggestions for next time, feel free to email me!

December 13, 2021

We started with a brief Covid discussion as someone’s child tested positive (but is fine).

A parent had a stressful experience at school drop off twice in the last week. The child was flopping their body when they arrived at school, communicating they didn’t want to go in. A new aid said, “Stop giving your parent a difficult time” and poked the child’s cheek to say good-bye and basically yanked the child away. The parent was in such shock, they didn’t react. They have contacted an advocate and were curious if other parents knew if these disrespectful methods are a part of ABA and why would they not understand autistic communication when it’s an autism private school?

A few parents gave input. I suggested the podcast with Colette Ryan about documenting your child’s cues and producing a document for the school and we are eager to hear Dr. Tippy’s thoughts next month.

I gave a few announcements:

A parent is worried that their 4-yr-old won’t be ready for academics in a year or two and hearing all these horror stories of what other parents go through is scaring this parent! In fact, when touring schools, the specialized autism school seemed worse than the regular public schools for pushing academics. We talked about how every school district is different, let alone every state and even every year in the same district can change. Another parent offered that what changed things was when they stopped coming in with guns blazing and instead cried and said how scared they were for their child. The staff was compassionate and now they are working as a team.

Another parent received a video of their child with the SLP where the child was reading and correcting the SLP’s spelling, and could distinguish between safari and farm animals! The parent was blown away. It’s an indication that academics will come, so not to worry too much about them. However, the schools are so focused on shoving facts down our kids throats. The parent said that what they learned about advocating was that you’ll always have to advocate with good and bad people, and you want to keep the good ones on your team, and figure out how to agree with something with the bad ones.

See you back on Monday, January 10th with our DIR Expert guest, Dr. Gil Tippy. Have a wonderful holiday season, whatever holiday you celebrate or don’t and please stay safe!

December 6, 2021

For the first week of the month, we had our guest DIR Expert, Colette Ryan, Infant Mental Health Specialist and DIR Expert Trainer joined us for the meeting. Next month’s expert will be Dr. Gil Tippy on Monday, January 10th.

We started with the question we left off with last week. A parent wondered how to talk to therapists when you don’t like what they do? A therapist held back a bottle of bubbles when the young child pushed them, which is the child’s way of communicating that they wanted the bubbles. When the parent expressed concern about this, the organization switched the therapist, and now they are waiting for the new sessions in the new year. There was no discussion. The parent asked Colette, “Where is the boundary? Was it ok to complain?” Colette guessed that the young, new SLP hasn’t learned Floortime in their training. What if the parent were to write down what’s important to them to share with the new speech therapist to find common ground? We have to learn language with our bodies, heads, faces, etc. and learning an AAC device should be ‘in addition to’ and not ‘instead of’ language. The parent doesn’t want it to replace her child’s language, but to supplement it. We talked about meaning making with the AAC device.

The parent watched the recent podcast with Maude Le Roux about going slower to move faster and was grateful to hear that it’s ok that they aren’t moving fast. Colette loved that they brought up speed. We want to build neuropathways and the processing speed is important so our kids absorb the entire journey. Maude gave us permission to just relax and not rush.

Another parent is in the process bouncing between denial and hope after their child’s recent diagnosis. This weekend their child came up and kissed the parent on the forehead; mimicking what the younger sibling does. They are doing Floortime with both kids. They brought their child on mini pony ride and the child wanted to do it again so signed “more” and it was heartbreaking when it was time to go because the child enjoyed it SO MUCH. A tantrum followed.

Colette responded that it is important for us to remember that every single baby is born premature; the brain is not fully developed; the first few years of life is about supporting development through relationships, which is why Floortime works so well. The significance of the kiss for this parent is that it is a gesture of affection; the child initiated it, rather than being instructed to give a kiss. It was spontaneous because the child wanted to.

As for the pony ride, you get proprioception, vestibular, visual system stimulation as you are higher, the smell of horse, the feel of the main, the sounds the horse makes. It’s a very sensory experience. Moving from such a rich sensory experience to nothing is hard! Using a sensory experience for the transition away might help such as having a squish ball or a textured pillow, etc., Colette suggested.

I talked about how as parents we also tend to avoid the meltdown, so even though the child loved the experience, we might want to avoid it again because leaving was so hard, but instead, let’s try to provide it again and talk about it. Talk about next time, maybe look at photos, create a social story. Colette added that it might be hard if it’s a week away and you’re talking about going with a child who isn’t yet at Capacity 6, but you could talk about it the day before.

Another parent said that their child has a toy horse to sit on, that’s furry on a stand and you press a button and it moves and sings. Perhaps such a toy for this child might be enjoyable.

Another parent thanked Colette for session with their child during the pandemic and for her recent ICDL conference presentation and comments at other conference presentations, then asked about tips for an upcoming birthday party. Colette said that the more sensory experiences we use, the easier it is to understand, so if it’s time for cake, holding the cake for the kids to see it and making some noise might grab their attention away from the fun indoor playground.

Another parent asked about making a choice between a non-Floortime speech therapist or a Floortime therapist when they can only get insurance coverage for one. Colette suggested a Floortime therapist looks at the whole child and might be a better option for what this parent said they were looking for.

We discussed how it’s been hard for our kids who need movement and input into their bodies just being stuck indoors during the pandemic. Colette likes the pantry organization game where we take all the canned goods out of the cupboard and put them into another, then the next day decide you liked it better the other way, and put them all back. Another parent suggested pulling a weighted blanket, and I shared how I have my son carry the hamper of dirty laundry down to the laundry room so our children get that input their sensory systems might require. (Check out a podcast about this.)

Another parent has been searching and searching for a parent support group and found us. But they were a bit overwhelmed with the Floortime and sensory terms we were using, so Colette said to email her and I put some links in the bolded text throughout these notes where the parent can look to read up on what we were talking about.

We’re back again next Monday, December 13th for our last session of the year. Hope to ‘see’ you then!

Also, in case you’re interested, this week only: Get $15 OFF purchases over $50 using this link all week, or use the promo code FINISHLINE to get 25% off until Dec 7 at 11:59 PM sitewide at Redbubble if you’d like to purchase items with the ‘We chose play‘ logo, such as the journals we discussed a couple months ago where we keep a list of positive things our kids do, mugs, stickers, magnets, cloth bags and more!

November 29, 2021

We started with a long discussion about how frustrated parents are with schools being completely behavioural in their approach. ABA is everywhere. Even when parents share their preferences for a developmental approach and sharing what works at home, they are continually disappointed, and find themselves fighting to advocate for their child. They get pushback including the professionals saying that they “have all this data” for ABA, which we of course know is not true*, and they ignore the parents’ concerns.

* see these podcasts about this topic:

Why are there not more Floortime schools?” parents asked. A parent said that it feels lonely. It’s tough when you try so hard to do Floortime, with success, at home, only to have a child in school for 7 to 8 hours per day receiving a behavioural approach that the child finds stressful, and thus causes challenges for the school and the child.

A parent was adamant that someone has to lead the charge to change. We need a ‘war on ABA’ for the educational system! I suggested contacting the Autistic Self Advocacy Network (ASAN). Behaviourism has been dead for more than 20 years, so why haven’t educators caught on? We also got into a discussion about how much has been done, but that progress is always slower than we want. Alfie Kohn’s Punished by Rewards came out in 1993! Work by Alfie Kohn, Ross Greene, Gordon Neufeld, Stuart Shanker and more have been informing education practice for years and pockets of successful implementations have been reported but the norm remains behavioural practices. Dr. Tippy has done podcasts with me on this topic: the Foundation Academics podcast and the Good Education podcast. Another parent said Jean Clinton is another person to look up.

A parent shared that their son is speaking using echolalia (repeating back what the parent says). Another parent’s son is babbling with different consonants and sounds. We briefly talked about how this is a celebration because they are both early stages of speech and language development.

A parent wondered how to talk to therapists when you don’t like what they do? A therapist held back a bottle of bubbles when the young child pushed them, which is the child’s way of communicating that they wanted the bubbles. When the parent expressed concern about this, the organization switched the therapist, and now they are waiting for the new sessions in the new year. There was no discussion. We decided to pick up on this topic next week when, as the first week of the month, we will have our guest DIR Expert, Colette Ryan, Infant Mental Health Specialist and DIR Expert Trainer join us for the meeting.

November 15, 2021

I reminded participants that TONIGHT at 10PM Eastern is the last chance to register for ICDL’s virtual conference. You can watch the recordings of presentations and see the rest live (and access those recordings after the fact). Parents who have been attending the presentations were overwhelmingly grateful for having registered. For parents it’s only $49 US for the entire conference. Also, note that the Father’s Autism Parent Support group is again this coming Saturday at 11:00 AM Eastern.

A parent came for the first time today and shared their experience and struggles and how Floortime is what they are looking for, and was happy to have found the ICDL conference, and our group. With the emotion that came from sharing the story, we talked about the emotion that the conference has brought out in so many parents from Saturday’s keynote presentations and in the Fundamentals discussion from this morning at the conference. Parents feel seen, heard, and understood by DIR/Floortime.

Another caregiver understood the importance of affect, but didn’t realize HOW important affect is until attending the conference and was regretting not using more affect with the loved one on the spectrum. This led in to a discussion about the conference keynote presentation from Alfie Kohn on the weekend that absolutely slammed ABA and behavioural strategies, including praise (with research to back it up), and Jarilyn Conner’s presentation that followed. I told everyone I’d share the Good Job Habit PDF, which was a document created to give alternatives to telling our kids, “Good job”. See these articles on Alfie Kohn’s website that he covered at the ICDL conference:

We shared our tendencies to use praise and how we can instead use affect to explain what we see and share in the moment without it being praise that is contingent on the behaviour being repeated, so the child complies to please us or get a reward, which goes entirely against the intrinsic motivation we want to instill. I shared the link to Dr. Tippy’s For on the Floor about making our children think there is a ‘right’ answer rather than promoting their creative thinking.

A parent’s son is tolerating so much more than before, and even successfully sat through a 3-hour school evaluation. We talked about how the parent was more anxious than the child and how it’s so hard to stretch and challenge our children as a parent because we can’t bear to see our children suffer at all. We tend to speak for our child because we understand them but then they don’t have to learn how to communicate with others since we do the work for them. We are often so scared and overwhelmed. Another parent validated this parent and said to trust yourself and pointed out that often times our kids are telling us to relax. We are more worried than them, sometimes.

We talked about how we can feel so judged by others that we can jump the gun with defensive comments to staff and can sound rude and pushy, but it’s because we’re so traumatized by what we have to put our children through. This parent felt they were rude to a therapist and apologized and told the staff person they were feeling traumatized and not handling things well and the staff was overwhelmingly compassionate and empathetic. It was a good move forward when they connected at this emotional level.

Another parent who had told us a few weeks back that their child was struggling with bathing and crying non stop was ‘doing better’ now, so someone asked what happened to make it better. The parent said they were now showing something the child likes that they would be doing after the shower and this helped the child to get through the bathing process. The parent reflected that they had been doing this before, but somehow had forgotten to keep doing it and had stopped doing it. I pointed out that we talk about Floortime as a process, and we’re always talking about being in the moment, but sometimes that ‘in the moment’ is hard for our kids, so we need to help bridge that gap for them to what comes after the thing that is so hard for them. I know my son gets stuck in a negative feedback loop ‘in the moment’ frequently.

A reminder that our next meeting will be in two weeks as next week there is a time conflict with the ICDL conference. See you on November 29th, same time, same link. Please attend my presentation Saturday, November 20th at 10:00 AM Eastern if you can!

November 8, 2021

Resources for this week:

We had some international parents attend so we talked about DIR courses offered in other languages (see DIR 101)

I pointed people to the podcast with Joleen Fernald about using AAC devices for those who are non speaking and suggested catching the recording of her ICDL presentation from Saturday.

A parent has a baby and their autistic child is pushing the baby away, perhaps because they are jealous of the time and attention spent on the baby? The parent doesn’t want to separate them. A parent of multiple kids said they spend 5 minutes with each child and it helps because they get that devoted attention each day. I suggested the podcast on Floortime with Small Groups and Siblings. Other parents said they have the same issues with their children and then the parent said that the child is actually now holding their hand up and looking at the parent before pushing. I suggested the Little Scientist podcast which discussed these kinds of experiments our kids do with cause and effect! I also suggested the podcast where O.T. Maude Le Roux talked about responding differently to our children–not having to have the exact same response each time and how it promotes their thinking and learning.

We talked about how kids want to experiment with limits and I referred to the Critical Core podcast where they discussed how kids experiment with who they are and by playing powerful mean characters, they are experimenting with what they can’t do in real life.

I also suggested these posts that covered things discussed by Vancouver developmental psychologist Gordon Neufeld:

A parent said that with each new sibling, their autistic child followed their development.

A caregiver mentioned listening to self-advocates and wanting to learn more and asked where to find them. We talked about the Autistic Self-Advocacy Network (their GALA is Nov 17th weekend–highly recommended!), The Autistic Advocate website, and to see the Resources on my website for the self-advocates listed there. I said that as far as I know most are on twitter and if you look, just search the hashtag #ActuallyAutistic. A parent also suggested the Unashamed voices of autism group on Facebook.

I gave links to the Autism Canada conference (Kieran Rose at 1:31:00) from a couple weeks back and an Australian conference.

Another parent shared a success story about their child doing well at school and how they are doing less–just focusing on Floortime at home and school with services. I mentioned the latest podcast with Maude Le Roux called Going Slower to Move Faster and how often we try to do too much and it puts unnecessary demands on our child.

Someone mentioned starting music classes with their child so I mentioned the Music presentation coming up this Friday at the ICDL conference and the podcast I did with Dr. John Carpente about Floortime and Music therapy as well as the other podcast about music therapy. Also ICDL will offer a DIR 433 course on how to do music therapy with your child on December 3rd.

November 1, 2021

As this was the first week of the month, we had a guest DIR Expert Training Leader, Bridget Palmer, an SLP. I reminded everyone about the ICDL 2021 virtual conference in November and suggested registering for great presentations! It starts tonight!

A parent had a wonderful experience on the weekend having joyful interactions with their son and he sang Baby Shark and then laughed when the parent’s friend sang it, too, to their baby. Bridget asked what the caregiver thought gave the child that opportunity? The caregiver responded that it was one-on-one because friends were watching the siblings, that it was a big open space, with carpet and a slippery floor on another part and they were moving and having fun. Bridget described how the child’s ‘I’ (Individual diffferences) was respected, the ‘R’ (Relationship) was strong, and the parent had the synchrony and flow for the child’s ‘D’ (Developmental capacities).

Parents asked to clarify if the child is non speaking. The parent responded that yes, the child is non speaking, but has a few words, so they were surprised the child sang Baby Shark. I referred attendees to the scripting podcast that discussed that scripting (including songs) should not be considered “non-functional”. Bridget added that what she loves about songs, is that we often enjoy it so it’s fun! Someone gave an example of a parent who said their child’s first language was singing. Kids will sing familiar, loving songs as the beginning of language development, Bridget said. Music activates the whole brain whereas language is usually just in one hemisphere.

Another parent brought up that their child has apraxia, but when the child is highly engaged and responsive in Floortime, “words slip out so easily” for them. Bridget added that when we think about the Functional Emotional Developmental Capacities (FEDCs) we think about going from Self-regulation…to engagement… to FEDC 3… to 4… etc. As a child is getting into those FEDCs they are able to sequence more speech sounds, their intentionality increases. They are able to show higher capacities with the caregiver, the most important person. ‘Apraxia’ of speech is a motor speech need where children might have trouble producing vowels and consonants then sequencing them into words and sentences, but being engaged really supports that. There are self-advocates who use AAC devices who talk about this, Bridget says.

Another parent’s child grunts and vocalizes and they understand it. Bridget offered that playing with sounds and voice comes first before words, which don’t come until FEDC 5 in typical development, so it’s important to know where your child is developmentally. Bridget also pointed out that in ‘speech therapy’, you need reciprocity and relationship. Working on speech sounds on their own isn’t how DIR works.

She also said that a music therapy evaluation is something to consider as some children really respond to music. See these podcasts about DIR music therapy:

  • https://affectautism.com/2018/04/16/music/
  • https://affectautism.com/2021/09/18/arts/

Bridget also says to put it all in writing on the IEP to add natural gestures, sign language, photographs, and AAC in a Developmental way. Pointing is to request, to show, to tell; always join them in their echolalia, in their scripting, in their pointing, Bridget urged us. Examine what is that gesture. If pointing, are they grabbing your hand, pointing then showing you something? If so, maybe they are at FEDC 4; If they are just pointing, maybe they are in an earlier FEDC.

Another caregiver is struggling with a child who cries for hours, and wants to wear the same clothes all the time. What used to soothe the child isn’t working anymore. For Bridget, she always goes back to a medical concern if child is inconsolable. She’ll first look at medical issues, then emotional and the sensory system, which are combined. You always need to co-regulate to help soothe the child.

We ended on a conversation about how important it is to focus on THE CURRENT MOMENT. You can think your child is at one FEDC, but in any particular moment, they can be at FEDC 1 and need that co-regulation. You MUST make sure they feel safe as the most important priority.

Hope to see you at the ICDL conference throughout the month! Thank you, Bridget for joining us today!

October 25, 2021

I reminded everyone about the ICDL 2021 virtual conference in November and suggested registering for great presentations! I also had a few other links to share of parent resources, non Floortime-related:

A parent had a bad week and missed last week then received a great video from school and shared the success. Another caregiver said that our kids develop over time! They surprise us!

A newcomer to the group shared that their culture is one that is close with extended family and they struggle to teach the family how to interact with their child so they don’t drive up the child’s anxiety. Self-reg is not part of their culture so they’ve given up and have just tried to do everything themselves and the child has learned to cope and has retreating from the extended fam because of how they’ve treat them. This brought a rich discussion about how to get family to interact in a way without judging and the expectations of family members.

Another caregiver said they might get emotional if asked, so if family asks about their child’s differences, they will say to google it or look it up on YouTube. Another said they don’t share everything about their child with their family. A few people said that we can’t know what others go through and similarly we can’t expect others, including family, to really know what we go through. As hard as it is, we have to cut them some slack. We can model a Floortime approach for them and we can Floortime everyone, but we can’t change them.

A parent asked advice for aggressive behaviour of their child on the spectrum who is pushing the younger siblings off the table when they climb. Other parents said they’re seeking stimulation/arousal, etc. and that it’s not aggression. Behaviour is communication (communicating what they need). The child might need some sensory input as a proactive response. Check out these posts, too:

Shameless self-promotion of my new series We Chose Play for parents. See the preview and the Extended trailer for free. Season 1 is only $49 US through ICDL. Affect Autism members check your Patreon messages for your PROMO CODE.

October 18, 2021

I reminded everyone about the ICDL 2021 virtual conference in November and suggested registering for great presentations!

A parent is struggling with their child who has multiple diagnoses including complications in the brain and is wondering how to cope when it feels like they’ll never know what’s going on. The parent’s heart is breaking watching the child struggle, and the child being aware of the struggling and wondering why it’s happening. I suggested 2 blog/podcasts that might help:

Another parent keeps a book where they write successes and things the child did, all positive, as a future keepsake, but also to remind them of the good things that are happening, and said it’s made all the difference. Other parents LOVED this idea. I just had these books made which are available for order (use code SHOPEARLY until Oct 21st for 20-60% site-wide discount):

Another parent shared the burden of feeling they have to make up for everything child is missing while being home (from Covid) and knows it’s just not possible. We cannot be everything. Other parents shared that guilt is difficult.

Another parent shared their story of how you have to focus on the positive or the rest will eat you up inside and take away from being there for your child. I shared with the group that in putting together my new series We chose play, I reviewed many old videos and found myself seeing joyful moments I had forgotten about because I was in such a place of worry and concern. I had remembered a lot of negatives from that time period. Sometimes what we believe and focus on skews our thoughts and memories.

A parent shared that when on vacation, their child thrived because of having the attention and focus of both parents, unlike at home, when they are busy and can’t pay attention every minute, and how wonderful it was to see the child’s joy.

We spent most of the time talking about how we have to focus on what we can change and let the rest go, and to be grateful for anything and everything every chance you get–even if you just pause to be grateful for breathing. It helps you refocus. One parent brought up the concept of ‘Radical Acceptance‘, but acknowledged that you also need to have your moments and feel your emotions.

Another parent added that we’re able to process here in this support meeting each week and how it’s so important to process our emotions.

A parent shared the joy of learning to spot their child’s cues to help notice before meltdowns of various aggression have happened. Yay! I suggested this podcast: Recognizing and documenting our children’s communication cues

October 4, 2021

Apologies for the confusion with the link for the virtual meeting! We had the setting on a finite number of meetings and so the link was closed to new registrations. We had to reset the reoccurring meetings and create a new link which ICDL sent out. Going forward, if you didn’t receive it, you can re-register at the parents page at ICDL or here on the Events page.

Being the first week of the month, we had our DIR Expert guest, Occupational Therapist, Gretchen Kamke, join us today! November’s guest will be SLP, Bridget Palmer.

A parent’s child started covering their ears sporadically, never having had sound sensitivities before. Gretchen asked what’s the context and environment? The parent has not noticed any pattern of when or why. We gave the parent a bunch of ideas. Could it be a way of communicating, “I don’t want to listen to you?” The parent did not think so. Was the child distressed? The parent did not think so. It might just be that developmentally the child is in a new stage of realizing they can have an impact on the world (agency) and is experimenting with what the world sounds like by covering their ears (cause-and-effect). Gretchen says that sound gives us awareness about our own environment. Also, tactile and auditory sensitivities can go together so since the child has tactile sensitivities as well, the parent said, it is possible. Three other parents’ kids cover their ears like that, too; one’s uses it as a discovery tool and to help regulate when excited; another parent said it’s self-soothing. I suggested the Developmental Growth Spurts podcast.

Gretchen added that our sensory system shifts from day-to-day and between days due to sleep, environmental stressors, etc. Sometimes we’ll see it in one of the child’s systems. Sometimes touch is way more alerting or uncomfortable, other days it might be auditory. It’s not a static system. Also she added that sometimes it’s a sign that the child is getting ready for a sound that is coming, in anticipation of a loud noise. I also suggested the Little Scientist podcast.

A parent asked for any resources about sensory integration. I suggested a few podcasts:

A parent brought up primitive reflexes. Gretchen said that these are movements the brain does automatically such as when you touch baby’s cheek, how their mouth moves that way. There’s a developmental sequence for this to happen. As they develop, primary movement patterns move into the background, Gretchen said. Once they’re integrated, you can develop fluidity of movement and interact with the environment more smoothly. Her colleague calls them the ABCs of movement. Often our vestibular system helps us integrate our reflexes, she says. Lots of autistic kids have W-sitting, arousal difficulties, and low muscle tone, which are all vestibular, so they do not do the movements that integrate those movements.

Gretchen says that these movements on their own to integrate the reflexes are not meaningful to just do them over and over and they are really boring done in that way. We want them to be meaningful, so she thinks about how do we work on the vestibular system that will help support integration. She gave an example of kids who haven’t yet integrated their Moro reflex so when their nervous system fires, they extend their body. I suggested the podcast with OT Keith Landherr, Co-regulation is the Driver for Sensory Integration that talks about doing movements with meaning while interacting.

A parent asked about their child who points to lights or a ceiling fan and says “Mom, Eat that!” They’re wondering what to do. Gretchen asked, “Did you ever try to eat it?” The parent said that the child responds saying, “You eat it!” A few parents thought the child has a good sense of humour and is trying to be intentionally silly which is great, Gretchen says!

Gretchen suggests some Floortime: “The LIGHT??” (pointing) (affect) then pretend to eat it. “Nam nam nam…Mmm… Delicious!” or, “Ewww it tastes like a light!

We also talked about how excitement, too, can be dysregulating. Gretchen say a video with Dr. Porges who said that is can be overwhelming if we’re not connected. She said we need to read the cues – has their giggle become too intense? Let’s think about how do we use our pacing, volume, and speed to slow it down a bit and “Take their nervous system for a ride.” Co-regulation is about practicing going up and calming down. I gave an example of my son talking so fast and non stop about Mario Kart. I can slow it down and ask, “Wait a second? You said Boo. I thought you were Toad driving? What race were you in?” It’s all about getting those prolonged circles of communication.

A parent had a hard time at their child’s birthday party which didn’t go well. Gretchen said that sometimes we have an idea of what something will look like. The parent was quite hard on themself about things they did that made the child uncomfortable. We encouraged the parent to give themself a break because that child knows they are loved and this parent cares so much and does amazing things for that child. We did a virtual hug.

Another parent said they’ve done everything ‘right’ for a decade, yet still things are so hard everyday. What can they do? Gretchen said we can think about these questions: What can we shift? Do we shift our expectations? Do we need an OT? There’s always something somewhere that can be shifted. Find joy in what exists. What makes our child the most successful? When are they their best and let’s work from there. Intentionally reproduce that, then find the just-right challenges and find the opportunities for growth. You gotta keep showing up.

Another parent’s child is climbing a lot so the parent is worried about school where they aren’t in control. Gretchen says that so many things that could play into that. Gretchen suggested an Occupational Therapist to explore what sensory craving the child might be having … is it a need for tactile stimulation? vestibular movement?

Next week is Canadian Thanksgiving. See you in 2 weeks!

September 27, 2021

Apologies for the confusion with the link for the virtual meeting! We had the setting on a finite number of meetings and so the link was closed to new registrations. We had to reset the reoccurring meetings and create a new link which ICDL sent out. Going forward, if you didn’t receive it, you can re-register at the parents page at ICDL or here on the Events page.

A parent mentioned their child is eating inedible objects like rocks outside. Others said their kids have as well. Another parent said it’s called PICA, where kids will actually swallow things like balloons, rocks, etc. and can be triggered by stress and that it could be the child craving minerals or having low iron (eating ice cubes) and that trying a child multi-vitamin and seeing if they still do it is one quick solution attempt. One parent’s doctor ordered blood work to check iron levels and then prescribed the appropriate supplements. It is the only medical treatment the parent has found for PICA.

I cautioned–my own opinion–about pseudoscience that suggests children are low in certain things and need supplements because there are so many scams out there, and many testing facilities that naturopaths use are fraudulent and tests are unnecessary. While PICA is a legitimate medical condition and a doctor may prescribe vitamins, it doesn’t mean every child has PICA or needs supplements just because they put things in their mouth.

A parent’s Floortime consultant suggested finding a safe replacement with a similar texture, like granola for example and trying to redirect while outside and engaging the child. The parent did agree that the child does not eat these things when engaged.

I also reminded parents about my latest podcast on Feeding and Floortime. I wish I’d have asked about eating inanimate objects! For next time!

We also spoke about how there can be sensory seeking as well with chewing on shirt collars and strings on hoodies, etc. Some parents get their kids chewables and some of our kids refuse the chewables and keep chewing on their shirt. One parent said their boss would always chew his shirt to focus and concentrate, so it’s not just autistic kids! I showed everyone that I’m a chronic nail biter!

We also talked about how some of this kind of behaviour is just developmental but our children are doing it later than neurotypical babies who crawl and grab fistfuls of dirt as a normal part of development.

A couple of us pointed out that doctors have told us they look at the clinical presentation of the child. As long as they aren’t throwing up, or have a fever, are pooping normally, and otherwise acting like their usual selves, there isn’t cause for concern – usually.

Someone suggested playing with the child who eats dirt in the mud, like in a big sensory bin of wet mud. This reminded me of the great podcasts with Robbie Levy about sensory play and its importance:

A couple of parents had great news. One’s friend, upon hearing of their struggle to figure out homeschooling, gave them some money as a gift to help out, and another parent finally got Medicaid insurance coverage for DIR/Floortime services! Yay!

Another parent’s child started speaking in 3-to-5-word sentences at home! They wondered if it was due to being with a new therapist at school, and I offered what Dr. Gil Tippy told me when I relished in my son’s advancements due to twin girls my son adored coming to the school a few years back: “Or maybe the child was just developmentally ready for that.

I shared a tweet from a self-advocate about a child whose mother thought they didn’t speak, but who could speak and spoke with an adult autistic, and shared that the DIR Home Program recently had a client whose parents through they couldn’t speak, only to find that the child began speaking up a storm when they coached the parent to engage the child in a Floortime way. I shared that you can view all of my tweets (and retweets) on the side of the page of each of my blog posts. I share a lot of great tweets from self-advocates and referred parents to listen to the recent podcasts with Kieran Rose and Virginia Spielmann.

The last topic was about whether parents inform teachers and therapists about what their child can do/says/knows, etc. I referred to the podcast with Colette Ryan on documenting cues. A parent said rather than list what their child knows, they try to shape moments for the teacher and their child to connect. Another parent sends a small photo album to the teacher of things their child likes so the teacher can see for themself how the child reacts and to help create a connection between them. I loved the phrase the parent used: “to mould opportunities for connection.” Sometimes teachers don’t believe it unless they see it, one parent said. Another parent said they make sure new therapists know how to approach their child and know how to give the child space to regulate.

A reminder that next week is the first week of the month and we will have a guest DIR Expert joining us for Q & A! 

I reminded everybody of some announcements from last week:

September 20, 2021

I reminded everybody of some announcements from last week and a new announcement:

I announced that next weekend’s podcast here is all about feeding and that the O.T. gives fabulous information. A number of parents discussed their struggles with feeding and mealtime and are looking forward to the podcast. A parent who mentioned their child won’t eat at school was asked by another parent if the child would eat if they went to school and fed their child. The parent said yes, but that at the school they won’t have that much patience with him. This was an important point to me and is a point discussed in the upcoming podcast in 2 weeks as well: people are not educated and informed that our children need more time. When we are patient, our children can thrive.

This lead into a long discussion about frustration with public schools where our children are not understood. Parents who have seen their children thrive in DIR environments are now having to face the reality that schools using behavioural methods are not working for their children and it’s tough. We all shared stories.

There was a desire to have more DIR schools. I brought up that ICDL now has DIR Accreditation so that places offering Floortime can be certified so we know that they are indeed applying the model as it is meant to be (because there are many saying they do Floortime who are not actually doing Floortime).

This lead a parent to ask if any of the other mothers work. Most do not. We need to be there for our children. We talked about how a parent was given advice that nobody will teach our children better than we will, so if you have to teach them yourself for half a day and just have them in school half a day, do that. The point was also brought up to be persistent with the teachers at school and get them on our side to help them understand how to support our children. It’s a never-ending challenge, and it’s exhausting and unfair.

A parent emphasized how much development happens on its own timeline with our children, but the schools try to force teach the skills before our children are ready. One parent heard that a person they know kept their autistic child in Kindergarten for 3 years because he wasn’t ready to move on yet. He’s now 25 and in college.

A parent asked if there is a virtual school anyone knows of for their child? We didn’t, but I did suggest that the DIR Home Program could be very helpful in setting up some routines at home that will benefit the child. Other parents who have done or are in the home program agreed that it’s been very helpful.

September 13, 2021

Dr. Kathleen Platzman, psychologist at Floortime Atlanta was our guest DIR Expert today. I suggested listening to my latest podcast with her and Colette Ryan from the DIR Home Program entitled, Constrictions in Developmental Capacities.

We started with a caregiver asking about a child who screams in a very disruptive way when they don’t get what they want or don’t like something requested of them; the caregivers have tried ABA, redirection, and discipline but none worked. Dr. Platzman said that one of the myths about DIR/Floortime is that you can’t tackle problem behaviours, which is not try. We look for the Why? behind the behaviour. WHY is he doing that? Then we have 500 ways to address it vs. ABA-style ignoring and rewards.

A parent added that behaviour is communication. I added that as parents, we feel really on edge when our children scream or show distress or act defiant. We are in such a rush to ‘make things better’. But we have to be able to sit in that chaos and really let the child feel heard. I suggested we stop, come to the child’s level and calmly and warmly say something like, “Oh, you don’t like this. That is not what you wanted. I hear you.” Allow them to see that you understand their distress. It might take months of doing that for the child to realize that you aren’t trying to force them to do something that is hard or painful for them, and for them to trust you enough to stay calm and not scream.

Kathy adds that it’s a way to validate to your child that their feelings are legitimate and that you respect them and can put your agenda aside. Kathy mentioned looking at the Autistic Self Advocacy Network‘s website or YouTube channel where you can hear accounts of autistic adults talking about their experiences as children. Kathy also referred to the book
No More Meltdowns by Jed Baker, who is not DIR but talks about the four causes of meltdowns which Kathy discussed in this podcast: How a caregiver’s regulation affects the child’s regulation.

Kathy also affirmed that a child feels most comfortable and bonded with the caregiver so they’ll ‘let it all out’ with them and can hold it in with strangers, oftentimes. She gave the example of being in school with nuns as teachers who were so strict that children feared them so much they behaved.

Kathy is also reading an interesting book right now called, I have been buried under years of dust by Valerie Gilpeer and daughter Emily Grodin where they give examples of things that helped and didn’t in therapy.

Another parent shared that their non verbal child started in a promising private school only for it to not work out by week 3 when they were throwing things so often it was dangerous for others. The parent says the child understands everything and can do academic work, but struggles to regulate. Kathy reminds us of the foundational ‘wedding cake’ analogy where there are ‘top heavy’ children who can have higher capacities, but can’t stay regulated. She says we can take a break and figure out what it is about the environment, the demands, that is dysregulating the child and how can we co-regulate with them? Movement also helps emotional processing, as she knows from her trauma work.

Another caregiver is worried about a new preschool because the first one didn’t work out. It’s a mix of neurotypical kids. Other parents shared their fears and successes as well. Kathy added that while we might expect the best and it doesn’t work out, sometimes we expect the worst and it does work out.

A caregiver brought up an opposite example of getting so dysregulated from a super positive experience where the child is super excited. Kathy said it’s like a happy meltdown. From a DIR perspective, she says to co-regulate the happy affect that is over-the-top; find out what will do that. It might be narrating the experience, “Ok…here we go… 1..2..3…” and I added to that my blog post about stretching out and slowing down the interactions to co-regulate. Kathy added that this gives you more circles of communication and gave a great example of a story from DIR trainer, Cindy Harrison in Ottawa who would say that she had 2 mothers inside of her: the good mother and the Floortime mother. One day her child asked for marshmellows for breakfast. The good mother would have said no, but the Floortime mother said to herself that this could get her 50 circles minimum. So she started with, “Marshmellows? Really?” then wondered about what plate to put them on, etc. and on and on until she got to about 100 circles and gave him the marshmellows to enjoy! I added that it’s around the circles you can learn to regulate.

We ended off with a few announcements:

August 6, 2021

We started off with a few announcements:

A few parents shared some success stories:

  • One parent’s child started drinking from a cup!
  • One child started saying, “No!” and asserting independence!
  • My son is now singing along with his favourite songs, lyrics and timing all accurate! He is even creatively adding in new characters from Mario Kart into the PJ Masks songs to have fun with it!
  • Another child requested a snack for the first time when asked at their day-program!

I mentioned the podcast with Dr. Tippy about the changes that happen once a child develops a sense of self and moves from the concrete world to the abstract.

A parent found a wonderful autism self-advocate to work with for advocating for their child: Robin Roscigno’s Auteach. She also has a TikTok account @auteach. I also shared the autism advocate’s website whom I did the podcast with for this and next weekend: Kieran Rose’s The Autism Advocate in the UK.

There’s a Facebook Group called Autism Inclusivity, a parent shared. The parents really enjoys the group because you can ask questions to autistic adults who are willing to share their experiences, what they think works for them, and what doesn’t help them.

A parent had great feedback about the DIR Home Program where they’ve been working with Gretchen and the assessment at A Total Approach, where they’ve decided to do an intensive as well, after hearing my experience there and is very happy. They were so pleased that when their child walked in and kept switching on and off the light switch, instead of saying that’s not allowed, they followed the child’s lead and did the same, then used the child’s interest of counting to entice them into the therapy room where they needed to go, in a gentle and playful manner.

There was a question about bringing a child to a birthday party. I referred back to the notes on this page from April 8, 2021 where it was discussed if you search the keyword “gathering” on this page.

A caregiver had a bad experience witnessing a child’s behavioural therapist insisting a child eat lunch, even though the child wasn’t hungry and said the child shouldn’t be allowed to leave the room or go out for their relative visit until they ate. I held back my rage and simply said “Disgusting!” Not only does this scream of compliance, control, and punishment, which research shows does not work, but it also can set the child up for a bad relationship with food. ARGH!!!

Finally, a parent had a question about an upcoming IEP meeting and wondered how to get support. I shared that after last session’s discussion on interest for a course about this, it will more likely be a 1:1 on advocating/IEP goals meeting with a DIR Expert because each school and district is so locally independent and different. Email me if you are interested. In the meantime, there is a course that will be listed soon about Writing Goals for DIR that is designed for practitioners. Keep an eye on the ICDL course page.

A reminder that our next meeting will be after a summer break, and will have guest DIR Expert Dr. Kathleen Platzman, psychologist at Floortime Atlanta on Monday, September 13th. I suggested listening to some of my podcasts with her in advance if you wish:

July 26, 2021

A parent asked about Geminii for speech and language. I don’t know much about it although I’ve heard of it. I reminded them that a child doesn’t magically ‘speak’ unless they are developmentally ready and that there are precursors to verbal speech:

I encouraged them to re-listen/watch the podcasts with Joleen Fernald on this topic:

The next question ended up being our topic du jour. A parent is struggling with the goals of their child’s preschool and their own values and ideas about how their child should be treated. The child was just assessed and the psychologist pointed out all the deficits the child has (according to their neurotypical assessments) and the school is focusing on behaviour rather than looking at the child’s Development, Individual differences, and ignoring the power of the Relationship to make the child feel a sense of safety.

Another parent offered, “Whenever we make decisions out of fear, it’s usually the wrong decision.” Two other parents brought up their similar situations, including a preschool denying services when the parent said they didn’t want their child in the behavioural intervention classroom (because their child has no problem behaviour and they simply want their child to experience being a child with the other kids in a play setting). Due to the child’s diagnosis, they refused. Apparently this is illegal, she was told by a local advocate and is in the process of communicating with the school to view the classroom.

We discussed the struggle and burden that this situation entails for so many of us. We are always fighting for our children’s basic rights. We talked about whether we would trust our child at a place like this, at all, let alone if we have to ‘force’ them to take our children, or treat our children in ways that we demand. What happens when we’re not watching?

I mentioned reviewing this advocate’s website and their twitter feed about why people are wrong when they treat our children this way.

We discussed how if you choose to fight, you have to make your request and if you don’t get what you want, go above their head. If you have to, contact the Director of Equality and Education in your system. You can also get an advocacy rep to attend your child’s meetings with you:

You can get a doctor to say that your child needs a bouncy chair, or a break every 30 min. However, some states won’t take doctor’s orders! You also may just have to rewording things to get it approved. For instance, calling your child’s Floortime approach a ‘behaviour intervention plan’ as long as their guidelines are met. They may not believe in sensory integration, but might approve a medical term like ‘hypotonic’.

Another parent informed us that the Keeping Our Kids Safe At School Act is in the Senate now and is about ending seclusion and restraint in schools. There’s also a hashtag on twitter #StopTheShock protesting the overturning of the ruling to make shocking kids in a school in Boston illegal.

We ended today with a reminder that our kids are amazing. We know their strengths. We went around and each said our child’s strengths. We stressed that the most important thing is that our children are happy and feel LOVED and ACCEPTED and that whatever we do, if the place we leave them at for their care or schooling doesn’t show us that they love them, we might want to rethink it if it’s in our means to do so.

A reminder that next week we meet on Friday, one hour earlier.

July 19, 2021

We had a few first-time parents today who both stated they were not happy with ABA at all–especially the withholding while kids cried–and sought out Floortime. One said while ABA might be helpful for skills like learning to ride a bike, they wanted Floortime for the emotional component. The other parent said that doing ABA made things much worse for their child.

A parent has had an issue with a young male child suddenly starting to grab breasts and buttocks and wondered what to do, and talked about the child’s kicking during diaper changes when younger. How do we redirect such behaviours? We discussed a few suggestions. One parent said the same thing happened with them during diaper changes so they just changed from the side instead of from the front and it helped.

I suggested you could make a game of putting something for the child to kick against and use affect saying, “Kick! Kick! Kick!” and then “Stop!” and then repeat to see if the child can be engaged to pause the kicks. For the grabbing, perhaps having some squeeze toys to redirect to or quickly redirecting to high fives could help, again using affect during the redirect.

Another parent said that their child grabs hair when excited and especially during feeding in high chair. The parent wears a light sun hat now and it has stopped. Another parent’s child would come and bash the keyboard while the parent was working at the computer. What worked was stopping and giving the child full attention and saying, “Do you want some attention?” and then giving the child attention and stating that we don’t touch the keyboard. It has worked so far because the child got what they wanted: the attention of the parent!

I suggested a few podcasts around what we can think about regarding these scenarios:

A parent is struggling with how to convince school they want Floortime for their child all day and hired a lawyer to show why to do this and wondered if we had resources. They believe the school completely misses the sensory portion

A parent asked for information about the DIR Home Program  and how soon it begins once you sign up. A few parents have started it with rave reviews and one is waiting to start.

A parent’s child is in a summer camp and finally starting to turn-take! Yay! The age range of the kids is wide, though. We referred to Teresa’s appearance in my latest podcast and how the DIR Summer Camps thrive with children of all ages together cheering each other on, and speaking for those who are non speaking, really forming a group experience that is wonderful.

Finally, I pointed out 2 new courses with no prerequisites being offered by ICDL that registration is now open for:

A reminder that you can see the schedule for the rest of the summer under the EVENTS menu above.

July 12, 2021

I started out by showing a few resources today:

A parent of a young child started ABA as recommended by their doctor and the parent is wondering how Floortime will help their child be social, which ABA does not seem to do. A number of parents gave their experiences of how they’ve seen their children be more social and I described an overview of the developmental approach and it’s focus on intrinsic motivation, relating, communicating and thinking by making sure the child feels safe and doesn’t have overwhelming (to them) demands place on them that they are not able to handle, feel respected, and on having fun just being together. The “I’ in the model focuses on that child’s profile which gives us information on how to interact to accommodate their profile and then we meet them where they are at developmentally, the “D” by following their lead.

I suggested going to the Start Here link to follow the links at the top about what DIR/Floortime is and how it helps a child progress socially and emotionally and then working through the list under “Guide to…” where you can read how to determine your child’s sensory processing profile and where they are developmentally.

I re-iterated how essential building that foundation is for children to move into academics later on and mentioned these four podcasts:

I referenced the latest podcast about DIR/Floortime Summer Camps where legendary Floortime OT, Rosemary White described many of these processes so eloquently and that this coming weekend, one of our parent participants, Teresa, is featured in the podcast discussing how Floortime has helped her son and her family. These podcasts also describe that process of enabling our child to become more social through DIR/Floortime.

I described how ABA will focus on putting demands on a child to learn skills whereas Floortime comes from the opposite place. Let’s have the child be interested in coming to us and thinking versus memorizing scripts. I referred to the podcast with Dr. Gil Tippy on how Strategies Don’t Promote Growth. I also alerted to an upcoming podcast I’ll be doing on Positive Development with Dr. Joshua Feder and colleagues who are more open to blending approaches to accommodate families, and on how best to do that.

A parent shared that during the pandemic they’ve witnessed tremendous development in their child after reading the book, The Essential Partnership by the Greenspans.

Parents had questions about transitions and about screentime. I said there’s information scattered across podcasts about both but I will try to do podcasts dedicated to each topic independently. In the meantime, I suggested these podcasts:

A reminder that you can see the schedule for the rest of the summer under the EVENTS menu above.

July 5, 2021

Being the first week of the month, we had a DIR Expert training leader guest, Occupational Therapist, Morgan Weissman who joined us and answered questions from parents. You can see the podcasts I’ve done with Morgan here:

The first question came from a caregiver who can get Occupational Therapy (OT) covered by insurance, but it’s more behavioural where they cornered their child, wanted the child sitting, etc. versus finding a sensory integration Floortime OT that they have to pay out of pocket for. The parent was at OT for 1st time, so didn’t know what it ‘should’ be, but it felt uncomfortable watching their child be forced to do things the child was uncomfortable with. Morgan and I agreed that the ‘Occupation’ should be play! If the parent can share with the OT that they want a more developmentally-based approach that includes sensory integration and they are not cooperative with that, perhaps the ‘covered by insurance’ part is not important. We have to go with our gut about what is right for our child.

Another parent asked about ‘hand under hand’ techniques rather than ‘hand over hand’ instead, to let kids be director and Morgan agreed that what we hear from neurodivergent adults and autism self-advocates is that if it’s hand-over-hand, they probably aren’t ready for that skill yet and that’s ok. Joleen Fernald talked about hand under hand in this podcast and Morgan suggested a podcast by OT Meg Proctor called ‘Learn Play Thrive.

What can I expect from our 1st OT assessment?” a parent asked. Morgan says to look for a strong foundation in sensory integration and someone who can think big picture and see things from a developmental framework and who understands the family model. Look for who can incorporate a sensory integration routine into your daily life, someone who’s fun, wants to play, is warm, and whom you feel YOU can have a good relationship with. If you aren’t seeing that in the assessment then it might be an indication to keep looking.

Follow up: “Is there a way to ask for the OT to be more Floortime-y?” Morgan says that yes, most OTs should be open to what works best for your family so tell them what you want, what you see helps your child and have them read up on the items in the above answer.

A parent says that their son loves to lay on floor and roll cars on floor. Morgan says that what we’re hearing from the neurodivergent community is that there are sensations that our kids seek that we don’t understand. There’s something so magnificent and beautiful and soothing for them watching that. It could be a way to control their visual field, or playing around with their eyes and experimenting how they can focus. It could be that laying down gives them proprioceptive input to help them understand where their body is in space. Morgan says that the visual system sends info to your vestibular system, so it could have to do with those senses or even a tactile sense.

A Developmental Optometrist looks at how the eyes work together, depth perception, follow a moving target, etc. that is different than what an opthamologist does in assessing visual acuity. A Developmental Optometrist does Vision Therapy. Morgan says that low tone in the body could be in eye muscles too. I suggested that everyone listen to my podcast with OT Robbie Levy where she discussed low tone. Morgan provided these links for D.O.s in the Manhattan area:

Vision exercises start laying down on the child’s back so you can move your eyes without moving your head. I described how my son’s therapist uses Mario Kart, his greatest current interest, to engage him in his vision exercises so that the flashlight he has to follow along the ceiling is the wand of the Koopaling wizards!

What about a 3 yr old?” Morgan says that yes, developmentally as kids crawl and move closer and farther from something their vision is developing. You can play many kind of peekaboo and other games to work on vision exercises with a young child.

Morgan also points out that accommodation for a child in school is the law and it may be that a Developmental Optometrist can help you identify if  your child needs bigger print, less clutter on a page or in the environment, etc. in conjunction with an OT as well. I suggested my Early literacy blog where our developmental reading consultant provided these kinds of tips for early readers and writers.

A parent asked for sleeping strategies based on the DIR model to make a 3-yr-old almost 4 sleep independently down the road? The parent will lay down with the child at 8:30 PM and they’ll talk about what to happen during the day then do chores then come back to check. Morgan comments on how supportive that is to help the child feel safe and envision what’s happening. Routine and predictability is good for sleep: same time, read the same books, first this__, then this __. For attachment, you can give your child a pajama shirt that you slept in for 2 nights so your scent regulates them. Morgan says to think of the ‘I’ (Individual differences). What type of input is calming and organizing for your child? Some say to avoid vestibular input 2 hrs before bed, for instance, but for some people that might be supportive. Avoid screen time before bed. Massage is great before bed, i.e., deep pressure, and if they can tolerate lotion that helps. There are many ‘sleep sensory diet’ recommendations out there. You can also acknowledge your child with, “I hear you, you want to sleep with mommy, it’s so cozy; I have to prepare breakfast for tomorrow; I can’t wait to see you tomorrow and do something fun; I will check on you while you sleep“, etc. I mentioned how Dr. Gordon Neufeld gives a lot of suggestions about bridging the separation gap by little things like Morgan said, but also putting down paper hearts ever hour during the night so your child finds them all upon waking to know you came and checked on them, etc.

A parent asked if sensory needs change over time as their child suddenly loves being upside down. Sensory systems do change over time; a child knows what their body needs, Morgan says, and puberty really changes lots of chemicals and hormones. I suggested two podcasts that are must-listens!

Is the Rebecca Listener coming back?” a parent asked. Morgan will tell Chris Hernandez there is interest!

Recommendations for OT/DIR in Jersey City or Manhattan?

Occuplay is Morgan’s practice and if you email her she has other suggestions in the area. Please contact AFFECT AUTISM for Morgan’s email.

A parent asked about a child who has a very tough time with transitions in preschool and who won’t sit still for more than a couple of minutes. Only the OT at school is trained in sensory integration. What can this parent do? Morgan says to make sure the schedule is doing processing activities, looking at the child’s FEDCs and if they haven’t mastered the first 6, working on those pre-academics. Do lots of sensory activities and spend time outdoors, rain or shine. Here are a few great Pre-academics podcasts you can use as references for the school team:

A reminder that you can see the schedule for the rest of the summer under the EVENTS menu above.

June 28, 2021

A caregiver just started in person Floortime with practitioner at a clinic and found the information on the sensory profile very helpful. They are now wondering about whether to spend money on an intensive at somewhere like A Total Approach or weekly in-person Floortime sessions and wondered if anyone had feedback.

  • A Total Approach is run by Occupational Therapist Maude Le Roux and these podcasts with her might be helpful:
  • The Floortime Center offers intensives and consultation, based on Floortime as Dr. Greenspan coached it to the Center’s directors
  • Weekly Floortime sessions in person are a great way to stay consistent and continue to learn how to interact with your child to support and promote their development
  • The DIR Home Program can do this virtually and has received fabulous feedback

We discussed how there’s really no correct choice. Each has their slant and focus and it depends what you are looking for. You can get a free consultation with most of them to help you decide.

A caregiver asked about what to say to others in public when your child approaches and touches them. The caregiver explained to the kids that the child was autistic and why they touched them and noticed that the autistic child was listening. We talked about how we want to say anything as if the child understands and can hear everything. We can even check in with the child and say something that conveys, “I told the other kids that you are autistic and explained how you were communicating with them that you enjoyed watching them play and wanted to be a part of it.” You can speak for the child with them beside you and check in, “Was that correct?” If you guessed incorrectly, they will usually let you know! As long as you are respectful and have a good relationship, that is most important.

I gave the example of Carly Fleishmann who taught us the importance of presuming competence.

Another caregiver talked about their child’s compulsion to throw everything. We all chimed in with stories of how our children throw and love banging things on the floor, etc.! I shared how Dr. Tippy encouraged me to make it interactive, so when my son was throwing pinecones on the roof one after another, he jumped in and said, “Hey! I want a turn!” as he reached out his hand. I shared how we found a circle with a net in the middle that looked like a shark with fish beanbags and got our son to throw the beanbags into the shark’s mouth yelling, “Nam! Nam!” then burp them out, to be silly and fun. But I especially stressed my podcast with O.T. Virginia Spielmann called the Little Scientist which is a must-listen!

There was also some discussion around sleep. How do we get our children to sleep on their own? I was not the one to ask on this! I am a very lenient parent around sleep location! But some parents gave some suggestions. One parent puts pillows around their young child so when they kick and move in their sleep, they have that feeling of security when they hit the pillows instead of blank air. Others have put the child’s bed next to theirs in the parent bedroom. I reminded everyone that Dr. Amanda Kriegel mentioned in a podcast recently that she doesn’t care where anyone sleeps, so long as they get a good night’s sleep.

If I forgot anything or if anyone has any suggestions for next week, feel free to contact me!

A reminder that next week is the first week of the month, so we will have a DIR Expert with us, O.T. Morgan Weissman!

June 21, 2021

A parent’s preschool has told them that their child must take the placement they assign, which is like a full-day classroom but the parent wants the child in the regular preschool. They said if you don’t take what we offer, you are out of luck. The parent has contacted an advocate agency and is looking into the appeal, but we also discussed if we’d rather find another school and how we can get a Floortime professional to advocate for them as well.

Another parent had a great experience with their 14-year-old talking while laying beside each other about a wampus. I suggested the podcast with Dr. Gil Tippy about how Floortime is adolescent-led and the parent also asked about his Dirty Hands Developmental Alliance.

Another parent shared that their child now loves the bath after being terrified of it a year ago. Floortime helped.

There was some questions about a Developmental Optometrist and vision therapy and we shared some stories about our children’s experiences with that.

This led to a discussion around going to the dentist. Those who had the best experiences had a dentist who asked which chair do you want to sit in, which flavour toothpaste do you want, etc. and allowed visits ever 6 weeks or 3 months so the child got used to going.

I shared this viral video of a fantastic doctor giving a baby a vaccine in a playful way.

I expressed how we can wonder if we prepare our kids too much if we are making them more anxious rather than going with it in the moment. But a parent said that sometimes bad experiences turn out to be good. The experience of having a cavity made their child brush their teeth regularly to avoid that experience in the future! At the clinic getting blood drawn, the child reassured another scared kid, even though they never talk to strangers!

June 14, 2021

I announced the upcoming Father’s Support Group with Dr. Robert Naseef on Father’s Day weekend, as well as a food resource that an O.T. sent to me and the link to my latest podcast with self-advocate and advisor to ICDL, Emile Gouws. I forgot to remind you to sign up for upcoming talk THIS WEDNESDAY with the CEO and our Self-Advocate advisor, Emile Gouws on What is Autism? Please consider signing up!

A caregiver mentioned still waiting on therapists to come for home visits because they’ve been doing Floortime at home but need support. When the therapist came to the home, they were able to get more words out of their child, more than they have been able to at home. I mentioned this coming weekend’s podcast on WAA (Words-Action-Affect) and hope that it could provide some support until the therapist can come.

Another caregiver had a free one-hour consultation with A Total Approach that was very helpful and made them wonder if there are things they missed that they can remediate. I pointed the caregiver to the podcast Remediation versus Accommodation with the owner of the clinic, Maude Le Roux, about this topic and what they do at their clinic (where I’ve brought my son 6 or 7 times over the last many years). They suggested Tomatis listening therapy so I explained my experience with it, which was that we didn’t notice much at first, but every time, about 6 weeks later as the brain assimilates the new input, we’d see a lot of behavioural challenges followed by a developmental leap.

I also brought us back to the larger topic: What do we expect? If we are trying to ‘fix’ our children, we will feel failure because our children don’t need fixing. When we instead focus on supporting and guiding them to bring out their potential, we meet them where they are at and support. Any ‘treatment’ that aims to remediate or support is never a ‘cure-all’. It’s over time that we see slow progress (and sometimes leaps of progress). Not everyone can afford extra remediation and that’s ok because kids develop over time regardless.

Another caregiver with a young child is enrolling them in a preschool that wants to do ABA, but the parent wants the child to be in a regular preschool experience as the child has no behavioural issues. The parent has voiced their concerns and are waiting for a response. I remembered to ask for this kind of input because ICDL is planning a class on advocating for your child in school and they are asking for what kind of problems you have and what you want support with. I will be passing on any feedback you have for this course (that I might be facilitating with the instructor, Jackie Bartell).

I pointed out that this family is close to The Floortime Center which might be of assistance because they also have a school.

Another parent responded that there is no Floortime where they are either and their child doesn’t get to see or play with other children either. They have found the ICDL DIR Home Program very helpful. After months and months with a speech therapist and no real progress, they’ve seen a lot of progress with only 10 weeks of the DIR Home Program. But similar to the other parent, they are working with the local school for assessment and are at their mercy. They only get whatever they offer, unfortunately.

This sparked some discussion among parents of young children new to Floortime on how to promote speech production and how to start Floortime. I suggested these resources:

Speech and Language and advocating:

Another parent asked about insurance. Many states are working on this. Being in California, I told them to keep their eye on the DIR Coalition of California.

June 7, 2021

Today was the first week of the month and as such, our guest DIR/Expert training leader was Speech & Language Pathologist Bridget Palmer.

We welcomed our new caregivers who attended this week and I announced the upcoming Father’s Support Group with Dr. Robert Naseef on Father’s Day weekend, as well as the new ICDL talk coming up next week with the CEO and our Self-Advocate advisor, Emile Gouws on What is Autism? Please consider signing up! There’s also a great Music and Floortime course coming up this Friday!

A parent asked Bridget a question about their son using the wrong word for things, such as saying “Go!” when they wanted more ice cream. Bridget said that’s a very affective word and to think about the affective intent behind the word. Children pick something that matches the emotion of the situation. Barry Prizant‘s work talks a lot about scripting. If we can connect with the emotion of what someone is saying to us, we can connect with them.

Another parent said that their child says some words that are correct and some that aren’t and wondered if this is the start of language? One word used is the word for father in their language and another word is something they don’t understand. Bridget said that comprehension comes before expressive language and that whatever the words uttered, they’re meaningful words for the child. I gave a few examples. I asked my son to repeat my brother’s name and my son said “bum” then I asked him to say “Grammie” and he said “Bim“. To this day, he calls his grandmother ‘Bim’.

Also, when my son was 18 months old running on the boardwalk in Quebec City he kept stopping, pointing to the waving flags and exclaiming, “Ga!” I pointed out that he may have only been hearing the final syllable of ‘flag’ due to auditory processing differences, but either way, I knew he was saying ‘flag’.

Bridget says to think about what the sounds that the child makes mean to them? Are they expressing frustration, happiness, or something else? What do the vocalizations mean and how are they being used? In DIR/Floortime we are thinking about the emotion and the experience and we synchronize our social referencing which can include eye contact, gestures, actions when we communicate with a partner (our child) as our kids are learning how to synchronize it all.

Another parent said that their child is verbal but keeps repeating the same sentence over and over “The caterpillar becomes a butterfly.” Bridget asks if you said the same thing to me over and over and I didn’t respond, how would it feel?
You’re saying it for a reason, even if I don’t know why so let’s always acknowledge that the child is communicating with us. She asks us to consider when does the child tend to repeat things? The parent said that when the child sees a butterfly, and with things they like, they’ll say it over and over. They can’t get him to talk about something else.

Bridget says that the child repeats the things that they love because they love it, are trying to master it/practicing, or trying to feel calm & organized. They’ll go back to what’s most comfortable and they know if something is new and they’re not sure. It’s great to expand on the phrase, but please join your child so they feel valued and heard. Speaking out loud is often about processing.

I suggested a few podcasts on this topic:

The parent said that they want their child to be able to communicate and have social interaction and are not sure if this scripting is because of their ASD diagnosis (Autism Spectrum Disorder). Bridget says it’s not ‘because’ of their ASD. It’s a neurodiversity experience. It tells us about your child’s profile and about their language and processing. Bridget is cautious about distraction. Instead join, expand and stretch. Think about their emotional and sensory state. Is the child using it to be organized, or is the child is becoming disorganized…if disorganized, why? How can we help them become organized again? Are they tired/hungry/sad, etc.? Before Bridget distracts, she’s asking what they are telling her by repeating and repeating?

She mentioned that Temple Grandin talks about repetition and how she liked to ask her mom to repeat things because she liked the way it sounded. She asked the same questions over and over because it made her feel comfortable. Bridget says meet your child emotionally in that moment. The parent said thank you and finds it overwhelming still, being new to autism with a young newly diagnosed child. They want to let the child be themself and also want to make sure they can help themself. Bridget heard that this parent is wanting to be the best parent they can be.

I emphasized for parents that according to DIR, we get here by building back and forth. I gave an example of trying to tell my Kindergarten teacher that my cousin was in the morning class (I was in the afternoon class). I couldn’t remember the word ‘cousin’ so said ‘friend’. I was disappointed that my teacher didn’t understand what I was trying to say. I also suggested people watch Mark Rober’s video about his son repeating the same questions like my own son does all the time, too.

Another caregiver said that their child is very vocal although non verbal and at the splashpad was running and having a ball, vocalizing non stop and wondered what they can we do to promote language? Bridget asked what the vocalizations meant. The caregiver said it meant joy. Bridget said this is important because it was meaningful, intentional and purposeful and the fact that the child was moving their body, getting a sensory experience and an emotional experience which are all being synchronized was facilitating the most vocalizing. Bridget suggests supporting them by letting them move (for this child, specifically) and provide sensory experience. Dr. Greenspan and Wieder talk about JOY and sharing joyful experiences. Mirror the vocalizations, “Wow it’s so fun!” The child was sharing emotion. Match it.

I reminded everyone that although a child may be older, they might be at the speech stage of an 8-10 month old where they might babble and what do we do? We babble back. You can guess and say, “Oh this is so fun” and if you’re wrong, the child’s body language will tell you then you can guess something else, “Oh! The water is cold! That feels so good!“, etc.

Another caregiver said that their child scripts non stop and they try to match and do all that Bridget said. They made friends with neighbours and the other child asked why the autistic child repeated everything. The caregiver explained that the child is happy to make a friend and is just learning, understands everything, but can’t reply. How we explain our children is going to be others’ perception of them. This caregiver heard Temple Grandin say that as she repeated it, she saw everything fall into place. It’s about accepting and waiting.

May 17, 2021

Just a reminder that there will be no session for the next two weeks due to the holidays in Canada (Victoria Day) and the U.S. (Memorial Day). We will resume on Monday, June 7th.

We welcomed our new caregivers who attended this week. I pointed out how to find DIR clinics providing Floortime through the Services-Others link on this website. I mentioned the STAR Institute in Colorado for Sensory Processing that is also listed on that link. You can also find providers at the DIRectory under the Parents tab at ICDL.

We had many questions about the Floortime Intensives that are offered at clinics. I described our experience with the intensives we’ve had at A Total Approach just outside of Philadelphia and how they’re like a kickstart into Floortime. I described how much it helped us and how the focus at each is a bit different. Maude has a focus on remediation within the traditional therapies to help with disabling sensory challenges, e.g., Tomatis listening therapy for auditory processing, Interactive Metronome within O.T. sessions for timing and sequencing challenges, etc. I shared that I have done podcasts where aspects of these are described:

A caregiver shared a story about how they had an empowering experience of not being overwhelmed by their child’s meltdown in front of strangers, and with strangers in the park pulling their children away after noticing the child was different. Usually this caregiver would be discouraged and affected negatively, but this time, they took it in stride and were ok with it. They shared that their non-speaking child will script from Beauty and the Beast, “I’m not a beast“. Our children can often to be made to feel like they are beasts when other don’t understand them.

Another parent shared a success story with toilet training through the help of another caregiver in the group. Yay! We talked about how you can never know the future and all of us develop. Our kids are toilet trained at different times and in the heart of it, we feel like things will never change, but we can all have hope that things do change as our children are ready.

One of the parents shared they signed up for ICDL’s upcoming music course. I highly encouraged everyone to sign up. It’s taught by Dr. John Carpente, whom I did this podcast with about Floortime and Music Therapy which you can watch/listen to to decide if you’d like to take the class.

May 10, 2021

Psychologist and DIR Expert Trainer with ICDL, Amanda Kriegel joined us today!

We had a few caregivers new to Floortime today with some questions. A few parents gave glowing reviews of the DIR Home Program  and virtual coaching with DIR Expert Trainers. I referred them to the recent podcast with our guest, Dr. Kriegel. There was also some discussion of insurance coverage. Luckily those in NJ can get some coverage under Medicaid for some Floortime services and other states cover Floortime and the PLAY Project.

There was a question about the effectiveness of virtual versus in-person services. Amanda said that it varies. She has also been doing a hybrid for some families of a home visit with some in-clinic sessions and virtual sessions. You can make great strides with the parents during virtual coaching, and depending on the age and developmental level of the child, in-person can be better with some children. Amanda mentioned that Gretchen Kamke is an Occupational Therapist who does amazing virtual sessions. I plan to have her on the podcast in the future.

A caregiver has had success engaging their child with affect and wonders if going forward longterm, “Is it going to be like a door that I’m going to have to tease open all the time? With time, will the door be slightly ajar and eventually (hopefully) open more and more?” Amanda said yes, that is what it is like but it gets to the “I” in the model (Individual differences). Some kids develop more quickly than others. I shared that for me it was much harder in the early days when my son didn’t seem to share attention or be engaged, but that as he develops and gets older, Floortime is much easier. I’ve documented his progress on my blog and in the podcasts with Dr. Andrea Davis where you can really see the progress over time.

A caregiver is concerned about a child’s intense and dramatic swings from being regulated to being dysregulated with screaming and self-hitting. Amanda reminded us that dysregulation can be caused by internal or external things and that autism can have comorbidities as well. A licensed counsellor, psychologist, or psychiatrist with a developmental perspective (ideally DIR/Floortime) might be able to help but also for those with smearing behaviours, a G.I. (gastrointestinal) specialist might be able to help. The idea is to rule out biological reasons that are medical. Amanda also mentioned Interoception can affect soiling and toileting issues.

There was a lot of discussion in the chat about our kids getting EEGs or hearing tested and our anxiety for getting through the appointment which will be traumatic for our kids. Parents gave their experiences and I gave some strategies I’ve used with my son like preparing him for all the steps that will happen, letting him know he will be scared, but that I’ll be there to support him, what the doctor will look like–the headband thing the ENT doc wears, and what they will do (look in his ears with a wand), and tried to relate it to cartoons he’s seen (Suzy sheep is a doctor–I think? on Peppa Pig, etc.). Then we say that he will need to be brave and it will be hard, but he can do it. Then we can go to the toy store after to get a new toy to help him focus when it’s hard. For the EEG and dentist we used video games or cartoons to get through it as well. All of that did not make it easy, but it helped us get through it.

A parent asked if it’s harmful to have ABA or Early Start Denver Model ESDM alongside of Floortime. It’s definitely a personal decision and Amanda and I both agreed it depends on the therapist and how warm they are with the child and how safe the child feels with them. Amanda doesn’t have a problem with a warm ABA person working on toilet training, for example, if the child is ready developmentally. This led to someone asking how to get buy-in from family members for Floortime and many parents shared that they brought family members, including siblings, to O.T. appointments to see Floortime coaching in action.

A caregiver asked about how to be more playful with a child. I mentioned that it’s about having fun, being silly, and ‘nonsense’ and laughing together around their interests. There are some good suggestions in these podcasts:

Someone asked about redirecting their child back to online schooling when they aren’t focused. Amanda said in general, we want to find the kid you love in your kid and develop that a little more by finding that rich connection and doing things together over directing your child to comply with your ideas. See last week’s parent notes below for how to incorporate Floortime in with academics.

May 3, 2021


A theme of today was people misunderstanding us or our children and how infuriating it can be–other people’s ignorance. One parent had a social worker tell them they cannot argue in front of their child or the child will get brain damage, almost accusing them of being bad parents. Another parent brought their child to the park for the first time in a year only to have a parent snap at their child for approaching their own child’s stroller. Another parent’s child was happily screaming at the library and another parent asked the librarian to kick them out. It can be so discouraging when people aren’t empathetic and understanding to our situations and to our child’s differences.

I gave a reference to check out: A self-advocate professional working with autistic adults in England who is an autism consultant have a great twitter feed (most active) and blog (less active) with research and information, pointing out errors in how people mistreat and misunderstand autistics:

A couple of parents expressed difficulty in finding a place at school for their child. Special education isn’t appropriate, but there really isn’t the proper support. A parent was frustrated with the school working on the alphabet with their child when they have explained that their child reads and understands. No, the school insisted the child present their skills in a particular way. Pointless exercises in compliance can really wear us down when others don’t presume competence with our children.

Another parent was excited their child was communicating with strangers at a visit with neighbours, but the child is still speech delayed, so the other child and parent didn’t really understand. The parent asked for some ideas. A few of us suggested just commenting on what’s happening as it happens: “Oh, my child is really excited to play with you and tell you something!” for the benefit of the others and so your child sees that you understand them.

I have a few podcasts about working on academics in a Floortime way, including an upcoming podcast with Robbie Levy coming in the next two weeks (part 1 and 2). It would be great if all educators had and used this information!

April 26, 2021

I made an announcement the DIR Coalition of California is asking for help as an important bill just got passed in California. Please put a comment after the article. You could also add your name here for support.

One parent expressed trying to find a Floortime practitioner to come to their home since the schools are closed during our lockdown in Ontario, Canada, and how difficult it is to find. They have a helper, but the person is not a Floortimer. I suggested telling them about the Start Here link on this website and watching a few of the intro videos near the top.

Someone said they heard that you get Occupational Therapy (OT) for children at the first and second of the Functional Emotional Developmental Capacities, a Speech and Language Pathologist (SLP) for the third and fourth developmental capacities, and a Clinical Psychologist for the fifth and sixth capacities and asked for my thoughts. I said that I can understand that someone would say OT is important because regulation and engagement might be hard if the child has sensory integration challenges, and an OT can help with this, but that OT is important through all the capacities. As for an SLP at the next capacities, they might have said that because these are the capacities that work on circles of communication, but that an SLP also works on pre-linguistics and that is a precursor to speech. And SLP works on communication, not just speech! Finally, the reason they might have said you wouldn’t go to a psychologist until the later capacities is because psychologists usually engage in symbolic or abstract concepts and your child would require emotional and logical thinking. This might be the only thing I’d agree with of this rumour, but a psychologist also works with parents.

Someone asked what is the difference between joint attention and shared attention, so I gave Colette Ryan’s example from our recent podcast where she said she went to a concert with her husband, so they had joint attention, but because her husband didn’t like the band and music as much as her, they didn’t share the experience.

I mentioned that I would be recording a podcast with SLP Joleen Fernald this week who specializes in AAC devices for communication so a few parents gave me questions I could ask her, about comparing Spelling to Communicate versus picture-based devices. Someone else remembered that at the ICDL Conference in November, Joleen recommended LAMP due to the kinesthetic aspect of having the symbols always in the same spot so the child can memorize the motor plan which makes it easier to communicate and gave us two links about it: here and here. Be sure to watch for that podcast because I will ask Joleen to share this information on this site more specifically and her reasons for recommending one AAC device over another.

Another parent wishes to find support for her husband to embrace Floortime. He is the only parent he knows with an autistic kid. I of course suggested Dr. Naseef’s group for fathers as a first step, even though it’s not explicitly about Floortime (but Dr. Naseef was the keynote speaker at ICDL’s conference a few years ago and is in some Floortime circles). Another parent was interested in this information as well. I emailed Dr. Naseef and he said the next support meeting, which happens monthly, will be on Saturday, May 15th. You can find out the details by emailing the address in the link here.

In looking up the support group information, I came across this upcoming event that some parents might be interested in, and it reminded me of ICDL’s upcoming course, Let’s Talk About Race on Sunday, May 16th (which I took in March and I recommend it). Children of colour are diagnosed years later than white children in the United States and many other inequities exist. Eyes are opening up and Drexel University has an upcoming talk entitled, Navigating Race and Autism – Black Mothers’ Advocacy for Kids on the Spectrum which will be presented by Elizabeth Morgan who is an educator and mother of an autistic child.

Another parent shared a celebration. Their non-speaking child saw a group of neighbourhood children and joined in, saying hi and played with them. The child did do some scripting. Then on the weekend said a few words that the parent was able to extend until the child said “want” “Mama” “bed” indicating the child wanted to sleep in the parent’s bed, not in their own bed. The parent was so excited that the words are coming and the child is trying so hard to communicate. We all celebrated!

Another parent shared how quickly their child learned to communicate “more” and “stop” during a fun experience at daycare. I reminded this parent that the child was so motivated to communicate these two words because the child was so engaged and that this parent could replicate that at home by finding an activity of interest to the child and doing Floortime.

Another parent shared that they found through a parent support group on Facebook a young man on the spectrum who is also hearing impaired and a college teacher offering sign language coaching. He is 35 years old and uses a board to communicate. The parent hired him right away because it was such a relief to find someone who knows their child’s experience and this parent expressed interest in getting to ask this young man’s mother how she helped him communicate. I suggested just asking the young man himself! I also suggested watching the podcast with ICDL’s newest advisor, self-advocate Emile Gouws.

Another parent listened to the recent pre-academics podcast and said it reinforced their approach on the importance of repetition in play so was pleased to share that with the group.

April 19, 2021

I made an announcement that Mike Fields, expert training leader and parent who has attended the support meetings, is now a part of the DIR Home Program along with another expert trainer, O.T. Gretchen Kamke. Both are a fabulous edition to the home program, which I highly recommend to anyone looking for virtual weekly DIR support.

A parent was concerned about the child who is super attached to Mom and even when Dad is available to play, still wants only to have Mom play. Another parent had the same experience and tried to redirect the child to Dad by facilitating an activity the child enjoys saying, “See! Daddy can do it, too!” This has started to work over time. Another participant offered that it is on the Dad to engage the child, giving an example of seeing a relative fully engage the child in their family who usually only wants Mom. I echoed that yes, I experience the same here. When my son wants Mama, there’s no way around it (especially at bedtime). It is hard, but each parent has to find a way to connect and engage with the child in their own way that they are comfortable doing. One participant said you have to be playful like a kid again.

This led to a conversation around intense interests of our children. When our child loves cars, trains, fruit, or some other topic, it’s an easier starting point to engage them from. But a parent asked, “How do we know what our kids love?” I suggested we need to expose them to different experiences and that is a lot harder to do during the pandemic. Toys, books, and especially movement! I suggested moving with the child–running and hiding games, swinging, etc.

This led to a discussion around expanding during play. A parent mentioned that if they don’t do things the same way, the child gets frustrated and they don’t want the child to scream, so they give in. I brought up Mark Rober’s recent YouTube video about his autistic son and how he explained how predicting is comforting for his son and why, due to the unpredictability of sensory input. If you heard my latest podcast about our brains predicting and the possibility that our children have problems predicting, this makes sense.

I suggested listening to my podcast on Why Floortime is Child-Led where they gave numerous examples of how you can flex your child’s flexibility, playfully, when they are in a good mood. A parent said they have tried this with songs, which their child loves. They change up the gestures and the child has enjoyed it. I suggested making the seeming inflexibility a Floortime game where you can play the “I’m not doing it the right way game” by giving a response you know your child doesn’t think is right, then saying, “Oh no! I forget what it is!” or slowly approaching the idea of not getting it right, the way Mike Fields described in the child-led podcast. Little by little your child will get practice at it not turning out their way.

A parent is concerned about their 3-year-old’s excessive mouthing. We reviewed how mouthing is a very normal stage of development for babies and our kids often go through developmental stages later. There’s not so much you can do to stop it persay because the child is doing it for a reason. One parent said that their therapist told them the child is preparing for speech by awakening the muscles in the mouth. We know that babies take in information orally. Other parents suggested various sensory toys including vibrating ones (from here), or different textured foods to give your child’s mouth the input they’re seeking. Another suggestion was a lot of oral massage for the same reason.

A parent is struggling to find a DIR therapist who will do a home visit. Everyone is doing virtual learning now. We made some suggestions about filming as much as you can at home so the therapist can really get a feel for the child and the environment as if they had come to the home. With Covid restrictions, things aren’t opening up until June or so.

We ended off on a high note with a parent sharing that they actually put in a full 20-minute Floortime session with all four kids and how much fun they had. They were following this blog post. The non-speaking child actually verbally requested to continue the play so the parent was absolutely thrilled! We all celebrated with the parent. Woo hoo!

April 12, 2021

We began with a brief debriefing about last week and how we are here to support each other. Sometimes some of what we experience requires support beyond what this group can offer and professional guidance is suggested. We can offer a safe place for one hour/week where you can share your experience with other like-minded parents in a safe, confidential space.

Next, continuing from last week we talked about phases of ‘behaviours’ that our children can go through that we can work around developmentally, but sometimes need to let our children work through them with our best support. I gave the examples of my son’s licking everyone phase, his hitting everyone phase, to his new name-calling phase. Another parent’s child is going through the ‘sticking fingers in other people’s nostrils’ phase.

There were some good suggestions from the group such as having a toy that has holes next to their face when the child tries to do it and redirect the finger to the toy, then using affect to make that the game. Some examples were to use a puppet, or the popping toy like this one or this one, where the child can get a fun sensory experience by poking the hole. I remembered this crocodile toy I’ve had where you can play a fun anticipation game of pressing down the teeth one-by-one until the mouth closes on your finger.

I thanked one of the parents who suggested a course about advocating for your child at school and shared that ICDL is going to make it happen! Jackie Bartell and I will be presenting it before the next school year, late summer, so I asked for suggestions and will continue to take suggestions for the next few months. I suggested reviewing the podcast I did with Jackie Bartell about DIR in public schools. Some suggestions included the following:

  • It depends on the people at the school. Some are helpful, and others aren’t as helpful
  • Schools tell you, “He was good today“, but what does that mean? We want details!
    • Our kids are different at school so we want to know what they did more specifically
  • Not knowing how much to ask, how frequently to ask the school, or what’s appropriate
  • A parent suggested that in this course we provide a strategic message all parents can give to the schools everywhere so the schools everywhere hear the same thing
  • One parent took a parent advocacy course offered by a local community service and found it very helpful
    • They suggested connecting with one person at the school so they can be your eyes and ears
    • They suggested buying a notebook and writing a question or request and give it to the school via the child’s school bag and they can respond (e.g., “When he ate lunch today, did he stick his finger in the sandwich?” or, “I’d like my child to communicate with two other kids today.“)
    • It taught how to communicate effectively while being heard by the school

Next a few parents were discussing daycare options and trying to find something that wasn’t behaviourally-based. I suggested looking up Reggio Emilia, Waldorf, Teacher Tom, and even Montessori, which in some cases may be an ok fit. A parent said starting for just a couple hours might work best. We also heard warnings that even ‘special education friendly’ centres can seem great but then you find out they strap kids to chairs; you don’t know what they do when you’re not there! Another parent responded that they are trying to make the children ‘school ready’ since they will need to know how to sit at school so on some level it can be helpful to prepare them for that, but it’s a shame that that is the school system that exists in their future.

In this conversation, a parent shared that they were excited to see that their son was sitting on the grass with the other kids at preschool, which he would never do with them, and is now saying ‘hi’ and learning to say ‘bye’ to the other kids. I shared that my son and I were walking to the car at school pick up recently when said my son spontaneously said, “Hi, ____” to another student, new to the school. I was so happy to see that! He would have not done that even a year or two ago! I shared my amazement in the progress my son has made and shared that I went through all the phases like many parents in the group from diapers and behaviours to now.

This made another parent ask about getting diapers large enough for a growing child who is not yet toilet trained. I recalled my son wearing XL pull-ups long past when they were already too small on him. One parent found a site to get larger sized diapers but warned that it has two separate audiences: those who need larger diapers for toileting, and those who use larger size diapers for ‘fetishes’, so to beware of the site in case you get targeted with sexually explicit email or ads! I did go to the site and did not see anything offensive on their main page, so I think it’s OK…perhaps just don’t look too hard. Haha.

Someone asked about toilet training and that reminded me that Occupational Therapist and DIR Expert Training Leader, Maude Le Roux, has a toilet training course coming up for those interested. Another parent shared that Kelly Mahler has a shorter interoception toilet training course as well.

Someone in the chat asked about Early Start Denver Model. Please see this podcast comparing the approaches where you’ll see that ESDM is behavioural. Although it has elements of play in a natural setting, it is quite prescribed.

April 8, 2021

Thank you to Mike Fields who filled in as facilitator for me last week when my son was ill and home from school and thank you to him again for being our guest DIR Expert Trainer today!

We began with a bunch of kids on screen, so Mike held up various toys and stuffed animals, including a stuffed character from the book Hey Warrior, which is a book about anxiety that we discussed in this podcast.

I shared a new parent resource from the Autistic Self-Advocacy Network (ASAN). Mike Fields shared that when his son turned 18, he found the ASAN resource on guardianship very helpful to have a discussion with his son about his feelings around guardianship and what to do. We talked about the value of listening to self-advocates, including on this podcast.

A parent’s child is having a gathering and they are worried because the child has had meltdowns with so many people around. The child wants a lot of people to attend, and will be upset if they don’t come, but is overwhelmed when they do come. The child likes gifts but will say that they don’t like the gift in front of the guests if they don’t want it. The parent’s anxiety is high.

Mike said you can think about it like a haunted house at an amusement park. It’s an approach-avoidance thing: you want it but you don’t. We want to think, “How do I emotionally navigate that?” and “How can we make it a little bit uncomfortable but not too overwhelming?” Another parent offered making a schedule and reviewing it in advance. Mike agreed, predictability is important and offered a bunch of suggestions to consider:

  • Consider the child’s praxis/motor planning where you have an idea, have to know the steps, the sequence of those steps, and how to adapt if the idea fails; when you’re stressed, the ability to do all that goes down
  • You get to define what success is for this gathering
  • Check in with him before each transition: next we’re going to do this…is that ok with you? are you ready for that? Try to read your son and make each step predictable and set up every part of it, including the environment to support success

The parent mentioned they’ve been practicing the ‘oops’ concept in play. When something doesn’t go as planned, they say, “Oops!” and wondered if this might work at the party. Mike mentioned that therapists tend to go “Oh no!” in play when car crashes but maybe the crashing wasn’t an ‘oh no’ to the child. “Oh no” is a value judgment, he says. If you instead make a checklist about the gathering you have items to check off. Once it’s checked, it’s done without the value judgment.

The parent mentioned that in play with their child they might make a recipe and say “Oh no! I put in the wrong ingredient! What do I do?” Mike said that the child feels safe when they’re the director. Perhaps you could play out a gathering in advance. He also suggested having a sign of VCR type stop/go/pause controls so they can stop. Mike uses that in gaming groups he does.

There was a discussion around shared custody. Mike suggested being open and transparent as they can with the children. Say you’re going to miss them and answer their questions without putting them on the spot or bad-talking the other parent. You can let kids know what the plan is and if that changes on you end, you’ll be sure to let them know. It’s about the ‘R’ in DIR, which is connection. Make the most of the time you do have and remember that it is scary for them too.

I also added some examples from Dr. Gordon Neufeld‘s attachment teachings. You can bridge the separation by talking about what you can’t wait to do when you see the children next. You can mention that you’ll have their favourite dinner read, for example. You can mention that Saturday at lunch time when you’re eating lunch you will be thinking of them.

Another parent has a pre-teen who has started saying that they are angry and want to kill themself. The child heard this being said on a television documentary and has been saying this kind of thing to get out of online school. They have consulted a psychologist who is working with them. Mike agreed that any talk of suicide needs to be taken very seriously and was happy to hear there is a psychologist involved. He said to consider the child’s developmental level and ask why it is hard for the child to sit at virtual school and how challenging this pandemic is for everyone.

Mike also suggested that besides making sure you know about the child’s intent and whether they have thought of a plan to carry this out, you might focus less on processing what it means to end your life, and more about connecting around what’s difficult to the child: “You know when you say that, that makes me think something is hard or scary. I wonder what is hard for you?” Mike shared that developmentally, we start thinking about the concept of separation with the game Pee-a-boo. It evolves into hide-and-seek and then into Mom and Dad going away for the day then coming back later, etc. It’s playing with separation gradually. It’s about the child reaching the understanding that Dad is there at work even though you can’t see him. Death is the ultimate abstract concept for all of us.

Another parent mentioned that their child scratches the wall for hours and there are many marks on the wall. They suspect it is sensory and anxiety-related. Mike says it could also be boredom or not knowing what else to do. They are working with an occupational therapist to figure out how to help the child replace this behaviour with another more constructive one.

We ran out of time, but today was heavy! We made sure to suggest that parents seek professional help for serious concerns and a reminder that this parent meeting is not a clinical treatment program. This is a parent-led support service and after such intense discussions we suggest seeking out a friend or significant other to reflect with around your own sense of safety and coping. It was a helpful to have Mike with us to discuss these difficult topics.

The next six weeks we are back to our usual time on Mondays at 1pm Eastern.

March 22, 2021

A parent commented on the ICDL DIR 431 course yesterday which was presented by Occupational Therapists about Motor Functioning and Affect, and Neurodevelopmental movements. The parent came away feeling discouraged because they were describing all the motor movements that an infant should do by certain ages and it made them feel that they failed since they didn’t work on that with their child who is now around age 9. Another parent shared their story of diagnosis and still figuring out other medical conditions with their child and how overwhelming it all is.

I spent some time describing that Floortime is a process, reassured participants that they’re doing the right thing by supporting their child with Floortime and that grief is a normal process that we go through as parents. Here are some blog/podcasts about this topic that were helpful to many:

A newcomer asked about the DIR Home Program and about those new to Floortime. Another parent shared how helpful it’s been for them and the progress they’ve seen. The parent explained how at first they didn’t understand the process because it was just play but how they now understand there’s a method to the play they were using. I suggested that yes, you can take DIR 101. It is an intro to what DIR/Floortime is all about. There is a discount code here. But I also suggested browsing the beginning links on the Start Here page. I suggested taking your time and assimilating a little bit each week. Floortime is a process and a journey for our kids, but for us as well. Take your time.

A parent was told her child was being selfish because he wasn’t participating. Another was told they will be fined because their kid isn’t attending virtual school even though they can’t sit still and attend. The parent advocates and is taking notes and recording and has talked with the school a zillion times to advocate but they continually let them down. The teacher yelled at her kid over virtual to sit up, which made them realize the teacher probably does that at school, too! This parent asked if they could use the sensory processing checklist to show the school. I said YES! Absolutely! Another parent said to look at SPAN which provides advocacy to help parents.

March 15, 2021

A parent completed DIR 101 and shared that they had to look at affectautism.com to find out what motor planning was. We had a discussion about the affect diathesis hypothesis where Dr. Greenspan explained how affect isn’t connected with processing capacities/learning. It was the topic of my first blog post. A parent asked for a blog I have done on motor planning so I suggested the one I did with Occupational Therapist Maude Le Roux.

A parent shared their child started feeding therapy (as a follow-up to a previous week). Now that the child is settled in a preschool program and regulated, they decided it’s a good time to begin. Another parent shared that it really helped their child.

Another parent asked how to approach the topic of upcoming death of a family pet. A parent suggested the movie Coco. This parent said that it’s a movie about death the way that The Ant Bully movie is about bullying or Inside Out is about emotions, how you feel, and how brain works. We brought up The Lion King as well to approach death. I shared my son’s reaction and process to the news that the dog of a person we know passed on. I also mentioned it might be too vulnerable for the child to talk about feelings around death so you could use stuffed animals or characters as well as movies to broach the topic without putting the child on the spot. You could also make a photo book about the pet and talk about how much you love the pet and miss the pet, once they’re gone so the child knows it’s ok to feel sad and to try to remember the good memories with the pet.

A parent asked how to find practitioners in their area. I pointed them to the DIRectory under the Parents tab at ICDL.

A parent asked about a Floortime way to do deep pressure with their child because the self-regulation activities provided by the O.T. are being rejected by the child. We talked about being playful and ‘moving together’. How you could play music they like and ‘dance’ to it by doing the movements the O.T. suggested to the child then to yourself and see if they copy you. I suggested listening to two very recent podcasts I did with Occupational Therapists who describe these sensory issues so well:

March 8, 2021

A few parents commented on my NYC DIR Conference presentation last Friday available for viewing on my Patreon page, which is $5 USD per month to support my efforts of maintaining and improving Affect Autism as well as adding new content every week, including bonus content for Members. Much appreciation to those who have become members.

One of our ESL parents is interested in translating DIR/F resources for parents in their native country and was asking about the P.L.A.Y. Project. If you do a search on this parents page (Alt-E, then F on a PC), you will find many instances where we spoke of PLAY Project in past meetings. Another parent who participated in it with their child expressed how helpful it was and how it allowed them to come into Floortime really understanding what it was about from what they learned from doing the PLAY Project, which is an application of DIR/Floortime that is organized into lessons and practices that are very good for beginning parents.

I mentioned that I see it as a stepping stone to Floortime because it focuses on young children (up to age 6) and focuses on the first 3 Functional Emotional Developmental Capacities of the DIR Model. Although it is a bit scripted and DIR/Floortime is not scripted, it really helps new parents understand the main principles of how to play with your child, follow their lead, let them be the director, etc. The parent mentioned that they love how DIR/Floortime really does allow for such creativity.

A parent asked about how to claim services on their taxes, which a few people talked about but it is different everywhere and you need to speak to your accountant. You can usually claim services if you receive DIR/Floortime from a licensed professional such as an O.T., an S.L.P, or a Psychologist, etc. but you have to speak with an accountant about it.

I reminded everyone that last week’s “homework” was to watch last week’s podcast with Keith Landherr about regulation and sensory integration. I shared that I just had a meeting with my son’s O.T. about his screaming during playing video games. The O.T. suggested he might be screaming to self-regulate, which I had not thought of before. She suggested it helps filter out auditory input as well as gives him proprioceptive input. She suggested turning down the video game volume, and taking breaks where he could do heavy work and move.

A parent shared that their child has a high tolerance for pain which becomes dangerous when the child pokes a pen into the side of their head and bangs their head on the wall. Another parent shared that a compression vest helped their child who did the same. Another used a weighted blanket and that stopped the child from bumping into the wall on purpose as they went to sleep. This child also will squeeze and scratch their hand and say OUCH to communicate that they need proprioceptive input. An O.T. mentioned to them that once the child is getting to the point of scratching themself, etc. it’s too late. Intervene before by preventatively giving sensory input. Last week, Jackie Bartell mentioned wearing tight under armour clothing a size too small to provide that input. Another parent uses a foam roller for massage that they purchased from Fun and Function. See my Sensory Lifestyle podcast.

March 1, 2021

Our guest DIR Expert Training Leader Jackie Bartell joined us today and so our first question was about how to get the school to use DIR with our children. Jackie said that it’s a lot to ask because they don’t understand it. She showed us the Learning Tree (from Dr. Greenspan’s last book):

Jackie suggested explaining that our kids need to have the roots and trunk before they can learn the branches (which is where the schools operate).

Another parent shared that they are in Florida for a vacation and the child is so much more regulated, communicating more, and finally attending virtual school from back home! It came up how much so many of our kids love the water and swimming! See the two podcasts on Floortime in the Pool and a Deeper Dive!

Another parent said they put a PVC pipe so their child can go underwater in the deep end and the child LOVES the input then they are regulated all day! Jackie says it helps them organize how to take in the other senses in the environment. It gives them the deep pressure into their body they are craving. Jackie says you can buy your kids tight-fitting spandex Under Armour shirts to give them deep pressure all day. Some parents do deep pressure massages before bed, or a long bath or shower and Jackie said when we are organized we are able to give off positive affect. She suggested seeing an occupational therapist about how best to help our own children and I recommended this week’s podcast on sensory integration as homework so we can discuss it next week!

A new parent has a few children and the one on the spectrum has progressed with ABA but now they are looking for the social piece. We suggested the Profectum Parent Toolbox, the  Start Here page here on Affect Autism (especially the Intro and Beginner and Guide sections at the beginning), and ICDL’s DIR 101 course (for which you can use PROMO CODE Affect18 to SAVE $25 on your tuition) that starts tomorrow! There’s also the DIR Institute and DIR Home Program at ICDL which is covered by Medicaid in NJ, but is affordable as well if you don’t have coverage.

A reminder that I will be presenting at the upcoming NYC DIR Conference THIS FRIDAY! I encourage you to attend as it’s only $40. You can see my presentation listed on the link.

For those affected: Holland Bloorview’s guide to funding options in Ontario, Canada

February 22, 2021

Thank you to Mike Fields for filling in for me 2 weeks ago!

After a week off for the holiday last week, we had a student observer join today for a paper she has to write on observing a parent group! She chose our group because she has worked in schools with autistic children. I hope we recruited a new Floortimer! She will share her report with me and for those interested we can take a minute to discuss it in 2 weeks.

I shared that I will be presenting at the upcoming NYC DIR Conference and encouraged parents to attend as it’s only $40. You can see my presentation listed on the link.

A parent shared that their child won’t sleep and it’s been hard. Luckily, they connected with a parent from this support meeting two weeks ago who helped out via email. This parent has found it challenging during quarantine with the children and no help to take a break, but on the bright side the child has been verbalizing in scripts. Another parent mentioned the book and movie Life Animated that is about autistic scripting to communicate.

This parent also shared that the child’s anger has been tough. The other parent let this parent know that the child may not understand even if everyone else does, thus their anger. This parent found that idea to be an eye opener and very helpful and so has tried to communicate back by understanding the child’s scripts, and it has worked well.

This parent would like to look into resources on the ICDL website. I suggested the Start Here page here on Affect Autism as well and here are a few suggestions on the ICDL site:

The parent was also told about the DIR Institute and DIR Home Program at ICDL which is covered by Medicaid in NJ.

I suggested the Stumbling blocks blog post for struggles with aggression/regulation and for this parent’s struggles with the school, I suggested asking Jackie Bartell next week (see below)!

I also suggested this week’s podcast about emotion-seeking and saying ‘no’. It’s a very helpful discussion!

A parent talked about their child not wanting anyone to watch what they’re watching on YouTube and not wanting others in the same room. I suggested Dr. Greenspan’s methods for “frustration tolerance” which is discussed here:

Pre-Linguistics are Pre-Social Abilities

Facilitating process-oriented learning with developmental level in mind: the just-right challenge

Slowing down and stretching out interactions

Another parent talked about parent guilt about not having done more when the child was younger and how they could be doing more now. Every other parent in the session echoed this awful feeling. Here are a few podcasts where this was discussed:

Avoiding the blame in Floortime

How a caregiver’s regulation affects the child’s regulation

From Ambiguous Loss to Acceptance

Parents Living with Grief About Their Child’s Support Needs

We also talked about how although we might regret things we didn’t start sooner, it is never too late. Gene Christian described this so nicely in this podcast.

Just a reminder that next week will be the first week of the month, which is our guest DIR Expert Training Leader week and our guest will be Jackie Bartell whom you can learn more about here:

February 1, 2021

For the new participants joining today, we had some introductions. Being the first week of the month, it’s also our guest DIR Expert Training Leader week and our guest today was Bridget Palmer, speech and language therapist in Buffalo and her grad student shadow Shannon Wilk.

One caregiver shared that they’ve noticed a big difference in their videos from a year ago. They didn’t see much interaction before and now they are seeing lots of back-and-forth interaction between parent and child. Floortime coaching has helped. Yay!

A caregiver asked about food. They watched the DIR/Floortime conference presentation on playing with messy food and my podcast about FOODTIME and took from it to have no pressure, make eating enjoyable, and make it social but wondered if anyone else had suggestions. I added that the Foodtime podcast suggested giving children many choices and letting them play with food. Also, it may take many attempts before they eat a food. Another point made was to let older children help plan their meals and days for treats, etc. One thing that’s helped this family was putting a family-style portion of what the child likes at family dinner so the child sees there is something they like at dinner and witnesses the family sharing this meal together. Great idea!

Another parent has taken many food courses for both kids in general, and specifically for neurodiverse children. You can never really tell why they aren’t eating. It could be a fussiness or a sensory thing. One thing they learned that helped was to model eating in front of your kid. This parent was never eating with the child and would just eat leftovers when the child was done even though they sat with the child during meal time. The child can’t copy eating after you if you don’t model it.

Another caregiver said their child won’t chew and can only swallow, so eats mushy food. The child is not comfortable with it if it’s solid food. At least the child is getting all the nutrients because vegetables can be blended in the puree. Our guest Bridget offered that you’re having an emotional and a sensory experience with every bite of food. It can be very complicated. There is a developmental progression of feeding that starts with a suck-swallow response when they get nourishment with attachment during breastfeeding, she said. We move our tongue, jaw, etc. and do an up-and-down chew before we can rotate food with our tongue. You have to have control of your tongue first. It’s a gradual process. It takes time.

She offered trying puffs or soft cookies that dissolve and if the child isn’t interested in eating those, try to use the soft biscuit as a spoon alongside the usual spoon. You can playfully offer one spoon then the other and see if the child takes it and model eating it yourself. If that isn’t working, just let the child hold the cookie and play with it. You don’t want to force the ‘cookie spoon’ and lose the trust of the child though, so you can playfully introduce it slowly. Maybe once every few days at first. It may take many times before the child will accept. Some children don’t eat solid foods until age 6 or 7. Every child is different, but it’s great that the child is at least touching food, as reported by the parent. Bridget said to give yourself permission to go at the child’s pace and let them lead/choose what they want, always.

Another caregiver had a question about speech with a 20-month-old who just started babbling a few sounds and had a tongue tie and lip tie when born. The child was pretty silent until the past few weeks. Bridget asked and the parent said that the child is using the sounds meaningfully rather than just to babble and points when they want something, and has a good back-and-forth interaction. Bridget suggested practicing making sounds and seeing if the child joins in (e.g., lots of “Oooo… ahhh” and “D-d-d-d-down“, “woo-woof woof” if you see a dog, and making silly sounds when brushing teeth, etc.)

Bridget said that every child goes at their own pace, so they might be building other skills and these skills that parents are concerned about will come later. While Dr. Greenspan would say, “Word-Affect-Action”, Bridget prefers “Words-Sounds-Affect-Action” because we want them to play with sounds and their mouths making sounds.

A caregiver pointed out that their child had only a few words and recently started saying a word they taught him for many months that the child finally just said. I pointed out that sometimes we think our children didn’t learn something but then they surprise us months later! We have to assume they are taking in everything.

Another caregiver asked if Bridget had recommendations for how to introduce an Augmentative and Alternative Communication device (AAC) in a Floortime way. Bridget said that you want to be a  communication partner with your child. Look at what vocab they have. What do you want them to produce? Model the use of the AAC device such as pressing the “Hi!” button then saying, “Hi!“. Model, join, and participate. The caregiver currently has a Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) so Bridget suggested pairing the new device with the PECS as a bridge between communication systems which expands what the child knows.

We pointed out a good resource: Joleen Fernald in Florida who presented at the DIR/Floortime conference in November and explained that it can take up to a year to use a new device, just like it takes a long time for a child to learn to speak. Doing this in a Floortime manner is doing it with you, the parent, and with emotion. Let the child know that you’ll be doing it together and you’re learning it, too, Bridget suggests.

Thank you to Bridget and Shannon for being our guests and thank you, caregivers, for your attendance! If you have any questions about the notes or suggestions for next time, feel free to email me!

January 25, 2021

For the new participants joining today, we had some introductions and I gave a tour of this website.

First, a parent shared their frustration with their child being let down by services and school systems which we discussed for awhile. The ‘R’, or relationship is the most important piece, and if you have revolving doors of services and therapists, it makes it really difficult to form a relationship with the child and family. We mentioned two DIR/Floortime schools: the Rebecca School and Celebrate the Children in the NY/NJ area. Another parent offered that not only are schools failing our children, but since the pandemic they are now not working for typical kids either! They are just focused on scores, not on the human factor. This coming week’s podcast here will be about this topic with Dr. Gil Tippy! Stay tuned!

Another parent wondered how much benefit Occupational Therapy (O.T.) for once/week does and is it worth the cost if it’s out-of-pocket expenses. I shared that ideally, DIR/Floortime is a multidisciplinary team approach where everyone working with the child is on the same page. If it’s a one-off, at least you can get tips from the O.T. on how to implement their suggestions each day with your child. If the child enjoys it and it becomes a weekly event that lasts, the child might enjoy the relationship with the O.T.

Another parent asked if 20 minutes of Floortime per day in the evening even if it is the best is enough to combat a wounding 8 hrs/day at a less-than-ideal school. We talked again about the ‘R’ being the most important piece and if the child has that safe place to retreat to each evening it’s a safety zone for them and it’s important to give them that, and share joy by having fun moments together as much as possible. This can be hard if they are venting with behaviours from their tough day. We have to try to understand and not blame them and be there for them as their safety net.

This brought up self-care for us as caregivers. How do we handle our own frustration and take care of ourselves? I started a ‘ritual’ in our group last week that I’d share something I did for myself that made me feel good. Last week, I wore a new necklace I got that made me feel good. Today, I brought a Snickers bar that I was looking forward to enjoying. It’s something little, but we need to take moments to feel good. On a more serious note, another person said their spirituality helps them and another said they started attending church to have time to reflect and feel grateful.

We discussed trying to feel grateful for what we do have and see in our children that make us happy, and how things could always be worse and to remember to feel grateful, even in the hardest moments. Some parents shared how they are enjoying moments of happiness when they notice what their child does now that they couldn’t do when they were younger. I commented that a transformation occurs at some point where we stop trying to change or ‘heal’ our child and are focused on all the therapies and learn to accept our child and enjoy them for who they are. It took me about four or more years, myself.

In terms of helping ourselves when we are frustrated, here are a few blog/podcasts about our own regulation:

Someone asked about ADHD blogs here. I don’t have any but Occupational Therapist and DIR Expert Training Leader Maude Le Roux does.

Another caregiver expressed great difficulty getting accommodation from work due to lack of sleep because of their child and anxiety. The workplace was not at all understanding nor empathetic.

Thank you for your attendance! If you have any questions about the notes or suggestions for next time, feel free to email me! Next week is the first week of February which is our DIR Expert Training Leader week and our guest will be Bridget Palmer and her graduate student shadow.

January 18, 2021

For the new participants joining today, we had some introductions and I gave a tour of this website and the ICDL parent page and announced tomorrow night’s free intro to the DIR home program and the Virtual Support Consultation.

I shared a couple of old blogs of mine that I thought help with implementing DIR on your own:

Based on questions and comments from caregivers in the group, I suggested these two blogs:

I also shared an upcoming training (starting TONIGHT) that was really helpful for our son for about five years until we moved. I am considering signing up to revisit. The sessions are all recorded and you can attend either time zone and flip from one to another if the schedule suits you. It’s best to attend live with your child to get the most of the direct virtual coaching for your individual situation. Here is their YouTube channel so you can see the types of movements they do with special needs populations that are so beneficial to physical development, co-ordination, balance, and motor planning.

We also shared experiences of struggling with choosing a relationship-based approach when what is funded and offered and available is a behavioural approach, which in some cases might be better than nothing for some things. We also laughed about how we can discuss poop incidents with each other but not with other friends and parent groups. This group is a supportive place! One parent celebrated that their own butt is the only butt they’ve wiped in the last year as their child is finally toilet trained! Haha!

Thank you for your attendance! If you have any questions about the notes or suggestions for next time, feel free to email me!

January 11, 2021

For the new participants joining today, we had some introductions and I briefly discussed the difference between other approaches and Floortime.

One caregiver shared that the pandemic has been an oddly healing time during which they’ve focused on understanding where their child is, who the child is, and what the child needs. They heard of Floortime through the TILT podcast interviewing DIR practitioner Sherri Cawn in Chicago. Since then they’ve been going slowly and taking each day as it comes.

Another caregiver discussed how challenging and difficult the process has been since the autism diagnosis and it led to a conversation around ambiguous loss and grief. I recommended my podcast with psychologist, Dr. Robert Naseef, who also does a Dads support group and a has a helpful blog. Another caregiver provided another resource about grief from Eileen Devine. I also alerted folks to my Grief Recovery Method service that recently became available for online support.

I shared a wonderful YouTube channel and website Special Books by Special Kids which features children with various differences and is hosted by a natural Floortimer, although Floortime is never mentioned! In the video about his partner’s mental illness diagnoses, I mentioned how they talked about there being tough moments in every day and also joy, which I felt was similar in our lives parenting our kids. He also has videos with autistic children that are great.

I also shared a recent email from Dr. Robert Naseef’s mailing list with tips for talking to kids about the violence in Washington D.C.

A caregiver in NJ has qualified for Medicaid and is seeking Floortime services. I mentioned ICDL’s DIR Institute and Home Program that one can use Medicaid for.

A caregiver in OH wondered how to navigate the autism grants that are offered for kids as the government website is so complicated. Some parents offered tips of finding parent advocates in your area and contacting school boards. There is a lot of frustration with finding appropriate services for our kids!

Thank you for your attendance! If you have any questions about the notes or suggestions for next time, feel free to email me!