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!

January 23, 2023

A return parent talked about how much Floortime helped them so much since they last attended our support meetings a couple years back. What really struck this parent is how much they changed and how they looked at the world. Their child is doing so well and they are still on the journey of changing themselves and the lens they look through in accepting their child for who they are. Another parent said to keep your individuality because people get lost in advocating for their children but our kids need to see you too, as you are.

Another parent said they’re really struggling being consistent, giving their child enough Floortime and that their child doesn’t seem to be doing great. Right away we talked about not being hard on ourselves because we are all doing the best we can and to listen to my podcasts with Kieran Rose if possible which might be so helpful:

I also suggested Dr. Tippy’s For on the Floor videos (especially #5) and the latest podcast at my website, The Dynamic Process of ‘Transitions’ which really gets into the approach of slowing down and leaving that invitational space for our child to respond and initiate to us.

A parent had a light bulb moment about how important using our hands is in showing, giving, back-and-forth, telling moments, etc. to help with joint attention. The way we use our hands helped their child be more interactive. I suggested that not only is using hands the way that this parent made meaning of the importance of preverbal signalling and the importance of using affect, but that visual prompts (which aren’t Floortime, persay) can also be helpful for children who find it difficult to comprehend a lot of language. Seeing a visual prompt can help make meaning for them. The parent responded that yes, they realized they were using way too much verbal language and not enough of the child handling objects such as passing the pull-up to the child as they put it on, passing things back and forth, and looking at each other and at the object. I also talked about the importance of slowing down and how many parents are still going way too quickly when they think they are going slowly.

A parent is discouraged whenever they look at the Facebook groups where everyone’s talking about ABA and the great results they see. They haven’t seen such accolades for Floortime. First, I advised to not compare yourself to others and your children to others’ children especially based on social media posts. You have no idea what their situation is and second, ABA can produce children who present very appealing responses to things they’ve been trained to do, but don’t confuse that with development. A parent put in the chat that Floortime works from the inside out and it might take longer, but you’ll see long-lasting effects versus ABA which works on the outside and results may not work in other contexts. I gave examples of countless cases where parents did years of ABA only to see their children struggle around the 3rd grade because they were never taught how to think, so struggled with comprehension in higher level reading and writing. If you’re only taught how to comply, you don’t realize you can have thoughts of your own, as Dr. Tippy has said. Floortime works on the foundation for academics that is based on social-emotional development. Dr. Tippy has a blog with videos about ‘ABA Detox’ that might interest folks.

In the chat, many parents listed their accolades for Floortime and how helpful it’s been. ICDL made this video about families who did Floortime intensives at the DIR Institute, and at ICDL’s 2022 conference we heard from a parent who did Floortime for years and her adult (around age 27) son who was seen as having no hope as a child, but who is a fully functional successful adult now because of Floortime. There are Floortime stories out there, including my series ‘We chose play‘ (and the upcoming course starting next week, DIR 120: Choosing Play: Setting up for a Lifetime of Success).

A parent mentioned struggling with their spouse because the spouse pushes for ABA person but they want Floortime. This can be a big struggle as well. I mentioned how learning the ‘why’ behind my son’s behaviour –much from Maude Le Roux, as described in Season 2 of ‘We chose play‘– really helped know when my son was incapable of responding in a way that was expected versus him doing something ‘on purpose’ to test boundaries (which he does now at age 13).

Another parent talked about how much they like doing Floortime anytime, everywhere and that they considered ABA for toileting so I suggested reviewing my 2-part podcast on toileting the developmental way where the Floortime practitioner gives many, many tips for how to approach toileting.

A parent asked if anyone knew about PANS. Another parent suggested this podcast Parenting After Trauma with Robyn Gobbel episode 96 about PANS (which I think is this one) and another parent suggested this podcast.

Another parent informed us of a free webinar coming up from the Maude Le Roux Academy on holistic nutrition, being presented by Jenny who comes to our support group off and on.

January 9, 2023

Being the first week of the month, DIR Guest Expert Psychologist Gil Tippy joined us. We had a great turnout and started with a reminder that there will be no meeting next week due to the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday in the United States.

A parent asked about their ‘Little Scientist‘. Their child goes, “Wooo!” loudly in their sibling’s face, sniffs the sibling’s bum (to be funny, after seeing it in a video), and is doing this ’cause and effect’ type play with other kids at preschool as well. The child is also asking if things are funny all the time, after hearing a song or seeing something. Dr Tippy said that it sounds great to him, wonderfully typical and that it’s a good sign to ask if something’s funny because it shows the child is exhibiting ‘the spirit of inquiry’ (i.e., actively attempting to figure out what other people are attending to and thinking about). It’s what we want our kids to do. Also, you want your child to be jealous of their sibling! If you’re trying to ‘extinguish’ that behaviour, Dr. Tippy continued, you have to keep pushing developmentally (e.g., do Floortime) and move the child to the capacity where they begin to think about others.

A parent asked about a girl saying ‘no’ to a sibling doing things like a brother smelling her bottom, wanting to teach a girl that ‘No’ means ‘No’! Dr. Tippy says that you can set a boundary, and be very firm with the “This is just not happening” attitude: “No way!” This is essentially saying, Dr. Tippy continued, that before the child is able to understand them, you’re going to enforce society’s taboos. So if you are separating a child from their sibling and that child really likes to be social, it will break their heart if they’re really into other people. We as parents hate that, Dr. Tippy explains. He suggests the book, Where the Wild Things Are. The theme of the book is how the parent gives a firm, “NO, go to your room!” but when the child wakes up all is good. It’s about enforcing boundaries. We then got into a discussion about the child knowing the difference between the play voice and real or ‘serious’ voice and a few parents mentioned finding it hard not to smile or giggle when we find out child’s inappropriate behaviour cute or funny.

I mentioned Canadian psychologist Dr. Gordon Neufeld’s way to describing setting limits as being the ‘agent of futility’ while being an ‘angel of comfort’ and creator of DIR/Floortime, Dr. Stanley Greenspan’s emphasized that successful limit-setting “melds warmth and empathy with rock-solid resolve” (Building Healthy Minds, page 353).

A parent offered that when their autistic child runs out of ideas then doesn’t know what to do and acts out, they will redirect and say something like, “Hmmm I wonder what else we could do that’s funny?” and then offer a new suggestion. Dr Tippy said this is a good solution if the child is stuck. Dr. Tippy also said that that is not necessarily Floortime, though. Floortime is, “I’m leaving enough time and space for you to come up with something. I’m here for you.” so that child can begin to refer to thought processes, versus helping the child out of something which is not Floortime. Rather, DIR/Floortime is about holding the space, he emphasized.

There are situations when you are parenting and things have to happen so you can’t do DIR/Floortime in that moment, Dr. Tippy offered, but that struggle–the ‘I don’t know what to do nextis ‘the work’. The child needs to think, “Hmm… why do they keep making me wonder?” That frustration and tension leads to development, he explained. I gave the example of my son having a hard time when he doesn’t know what to do next when presented with a problem. He will often give up and act out. But if I say, “Hmm… we have a problem here” and convey that I’m here to be with you to figure it out, he might start to problem solve with me rather than become dysregulated.

A parent’s child has an upcoming dental surgery but they said the parent(s) will not be allowed to enter with the child. The child is non-speaking and a runner, so the parent is terrified that the child will be terrified with strange adults forcing them into sedation without the comfort of the parent being there and asked Dr. Tippy for suggestions. Dr. Tippy empathized with the horrendous situation that puts the parent in and encouraged the parent to realize that they have the right to say something like, “That won’t work for my child” and then inform them what will work. “Let me explain why this won’t work and what could work is…” saying, “I would love to have your support. Here’s what I want.

I suggested also debriefing the child, explaining what will happen and that it will be scary, but the parent will be there waiting and all will be fine, which Dr. Tippy called a ‘social story’. He said that if it pulls on a developmental capacity the child is used to it can help, but again, that’s not developmental, it’s a strategy. And if the child isn’t at that capacity yet to imagine the future, it might not have meaning. Dr. Tippy emphasized not to give up the expertise on your own child. They might be the dental specialists, but you are the expert on your child.

The parent shared that their teenager likes to stare at the clock. They like numbers, time, calculators, the clock in the car, microwave timer. The parent is concerned about their eyes being fixated on something for so long because the child can stare for an hour! How can the parent join the child in this? Dr. Tippy would approach this with wonder. There must be a world in which this makes sense. If I can figure that out, I can find out what interests the child. The parent said that it is only with digital clocks, not clocks with hands. Dr. Tippy pointed out that digital clocks don’t keep time in the way we count; they count to 60 over and over then add a number to the front. It’s not like actual counting. If you type in :90 on the microwave, it switches to 1:30, for instance, as well. So it must not be about time. Perhaps the child is just imagining the numbers, or maybe they’re internalizing what a second is, or what a minute is. Maybe they’re trying to figure out what it means and feels like when the parent says, “Wait a minute!” Maybe they’re trying to learn the passage of time. Maybe they’re not yet thinking abstractly and are struggling to understand the passage of time or it could be a fascination with how the numbers appear: after 59 it’s going to be zero–which is not time, Dr. Tippy continued.

If you want to engage with this, and use it for DIR/Floortime, get between the child and the thing they’re interested in, i.e., playful obstruction. It makes the child interact with you. Protest is still an interaction. You could sit there and stare with the child and talk about it: “I wonder what number is coming next.” You can suggest an idea, “Why don’t we turn the timer on and watch it run down?” You’re basically thinking that as boring as this is to me, I deeply want to understand you. Please let me in. You can say, “I think it’s going to be 51 next!” and the child might say, “No, it’s not!

I suggested trying a stop watch and different types of timers to experiment with. Another parent suggested it might be the child’s way of stimming. Another parent suggested introducing a sand timer that tracks 1, 3, 5 intervals to add another element to it to figure out if it’s time versus the sequencing of numbers. Another parent uses the oven timer to predict when food will be finished, which is fun with the kids.

Another parent’s non-speaking young child had a very bad case of hand-foot-mouth disease and now the child is no longer interested in the usual things and is now obsessed with signs: stop signs, etc. while driving, which was a behaviour from when the child was much younger. The parent is worried about the child’s regression and lack of interest in the usual things and how the child is now scared to even go outside or do anything anymore. Dr. Tippy suggested spending time on regulation and getting back to tactile stuff the child used to love. The child had a developmental setback and now thinks there’s no predicting the future, which is very scary. It’s not forever; they lost the experience of things being safe to do, Dr. Tippy explained. It’s not a major roadblock; it’s a temporary period. The child is basically in the state of, “This was awful for me; how can I trust the world again?” You need to convey the message, “You’re safe. I’m with you.

I ended the meeting with 3 announcements of resources parents might be interested in:

See you back in two weeks!