When my children were growing up, I spent a great deal of time on the floor playing with them. At the time I was not as aware of the many levels of development it was helping them with. Now with my 17 month old granddaughter,
I play with a different perspective, one of understanding how it helps with social connectiveness, logical thinking, and emotional regulation.
We are learning from the children in the autism spectrum about the problems with social and emotional relationships, the problems with abstract language, and why some people fall into narrow patterns of interest and routines. The late Stanley Greenspan, who developed the Floortime/DIR model of intervention, understood this and had worked tirelessly to teach as many professionals as possible his method of intervention.
Research is now beginning to catch up with proving what his method was doing in the central nervous system. The Floortime/DIR method helps to develop the pathways needed for full engagement in our world with improved communication abilities, tolerance for change and difference in opinion, and handling of different emotions. He was the first to admit that his method was not an end all but part of the puzzle for intervention. But it is an important piece to helping children in the autism spectrum, and other developmental challenges, live a fuller life.
Two good books that he wrote at the end of the 1990s and the early 2000’s were The Child with Special Needs, and Engaging Autism. He has a new one out, that I am looking forward to reading entitled The Learning Tree, which was published just after his untimely death in August 2010. In it he and his wife look at how we need to approach children from the earliest moments to nourish their beings and helping them advance through not just the developmental milestones but also the social and emotional milestones.
At Springtides, the nonprofit side of my practice, we applaud the work that Dr. Greenspan has done. We are using the concepts he developed for Floortime to be part of our Parents as Therapists Program, teaching parents of children in the autism spectrum or having other developmental challenges between ages 3-7 how to maximize their potential and connect to their world fully. We have found measurable positive changes in autism behaviors and social and emotional behaviors in as little as 9 weeks.
There is no downside to taking time to play with children. Take their lead and help them expand on ideas, themes and skills. It will keep you young.