Floortime Therapy for children with autism

Floortime therapy - drawing of Lucy SanctuaryAlthough I love working with children who are on the Autistic Spectrum, it can be challenging. It can be equally hard to support families at times. I recently went on a weekend introductory course to an approach called Floortime. This approach was created by the late Dr Greenspan, and his advocate in this country is Sibylle Janert. Sibylle ran the course that I went on, and I would recommend this to parents and professionals as it is easy to understand and carry out and it supports children in a gentle, but effective way.

I have found Floortime very helpful in my practise and it has been met with a fantastic response by young children who are on the autistic spectrum. Using a Floortime approach has enabled me to enter the child’s world, which means you reduce feelings of anxiety about interacting, and eventually to share interactions and build connections. I have found that using this approach has produced more language as children are regulated (i.e. calm) and they can focus more. I would also use this approach with pre school children who have severe learning difficulties.

 How Does Floortime Therapy Help Children With Autism?

In a nutshell:

Floortime teaches you to help your child climb the developmental ladder. There are 6 levels:

  • Level one: the child is focussed, can share attention and is self regulated in order to be interested in the world. If the child is not able to function at this level, even for a short time, they will not be able to climb the ladder. This level can easily be overlooked owing to a desire for children to speak. This level is the first rung, if it is not in place then the child can’t climb the ladder. Examples of level one: the child is calm, not running around or flapping his arms or spinning round and round. He is able to focus on an activity or object with you, e.g. pouring water, putting sand in a bucket, completing a simple jigsaw puzzle.
  • Level two: The child engages socially, is interested in and relating warmly with others. The child is enjoying the interaction, he is vocalising, laughing, showing you that he wants you to keep on doing an activity, e.g. playing peek a boo.
  • Level three: the child is initiating two-way conversation using non verbal language with gestures and copying. For example, in water play with toy animals the child copies animal sounds that you make. You pour water over the animal that the child is holding, or squirt water at it, the child laughs and holds the animal out for you it again, or takes the bottle of water and squirts it over the animal you are holding.
  • Level four: Complex shared problem solving using connected patterns to communicate in continuous flow, first words. For example, naming pictures and posting them, naming objects and matching them to the same object or to a picture.
  • Level five: Shared meanings and symbolic play using imaginative and speech about the here and now. The child uses language in play to describe what he is doing, to comment on what he can see, hear, feel, etc. and to interact with you. Symbolic play is when a child can use objects, actions or ideas to represent other objects, actions or ideas, e.g. he can use a brick as a phone, pretend a chair is a car, etc.
  • Level six: building bridges between ideas, story-telling using emotiona/logical thinking, talks about past and future. The child can use language to tell stories. They can change verb tenses and describe feelings, i.e. use complex language.

In a session, the child can go up and down this ladder. For example, a child I see usually climbs up the ladder from one to four. We don’t spend long at level four, but each week we are there a little longer and a little more often. We can’t go straight to level four, we have to climb the ladder. The reason why I love this approach so much, is that it really reduces stress on the child and it helps parents see what steps we need to take with the child on their journey.

If you would like to discuss floortime therapy for your child, please call me to discuss or email via the contact form.

For more information on Floortime therapy, see Sibylle Janert at  www.mindbuilders-consulting.org

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