child and mum
12/02/2016 | BehaviorBlogPlaySpeech and language

10 things to know about floortime


As a parent of a child with developmental differences, the process of engaging in therapy to support your child’s development can be a daunting task. At the click of a Google search button, we can find tonnes of information about therapy approaches and programs available, all of which have something to offer. Parents thus often find themselves asking – which is the best therapy approach for my child?

Unfortunately, there is no easy answer to this question!  Rather, the real key is to consider which approach fits well with the values, style and personality of you and your child.

To support the decision-making process, here are 10 things to consider when determining whether a DIR Floortime therapy approach is a ‘good fit’ for you and your child.  Our team uses the DIR Floortime framework with many of our clients.  It is a fun, engaging and play-based approach designed to help children build on their areas of strength, while taking into consideration your child as an individual.


  1. DIR stands for Developmental, Individual and Relationship-based.

The DIR approach takes into account where each child is at developmentally, to determine the skills each child will need to strengthen in order to reach the next developmental step. DIR therapists look carefully at each child’s individual differences – that is, their unique set of likes and dislikes, strengths and challenges – in order to determine what will help therapy work best for them. Additionally, the DIR approach recognises the importance of the relationships in each child’s life – with their parents, caregivers, teachers and other support people – and hence, these important people, particularly parents and caregivers, are involved as an integral part of the therapy process from the beginning.

  1. A DIR approach can be used with any child.

DIR Floortime intervention is not exclusive to a particular diagnosis or age-group. This approach is used effectively with children of all ages who are developing differently in any way for any reason.

  1. DIR primarily involves observational assessment.

When first meeting a child, and throughout working with that child, DIR clinicians spend important time observing and getting to know the child through observation. It is through these initial and ongoing observations that a therapist determines what developmental capacities the child has mastered and which capacities will need support.

  1. “Floortime” refers to the set of specific therapy techniques used.

Once a child’s developmental goals are established, a range of therapy techniques are used purposefully by the therapist and caregiver in play and throughout everyday interactions to help a child master their developmental goals.

  1. DIR Floortime is evidence-based.

The DIR Floortime approach is based upon an ever-growing body of research from a range of fields including language development, sensory processing, developmental neurology and mental health. Strong evidence exists to support the effectiveness of DIR in improving the core challenges for children on the Autism Spectrum (e.g. relating, interacting, and communicating) while decreasing caregiver stress levels and improving parent-child relationships ( Additionally, exciting new brain studies are showing increased connections in important regions of the brain following DIR Floortime intervention (

  1. DIR Floortime is a naturalistic, whole-child approach.

In Floortime therapy, developmental capacities are fostered through natural, meaningful interactions. This differs to behavioral therapy approaches which target specific behaviours in isolation. By working on developmental capacities in natural settings, such as in play and daily interactions, the social, emotional and thinking skills that the child develops are more likely to stay with them across a range of situations, and less likely to become ‘therapy-session-only’ skills.

  1. Caregivers and therapists work as a team.

It is well-known that caregivers play a vital role in their child’s development. While professionals are here to help understand and support each child’s development, caregivers are the only people in that child’s world with an intimate knowledge of their child from birth. A DIR approach recognises that a caregiver’s knowledge and years of experience with their child are invaluable to the therapy process.

  1. Floortime uses everyday moments.

While a therapist may work with a child for one or two hours each week, there may be as many as 40 hours each week when caregivers are naturally interacting with their child (getting ready in the morning, driving to school, snack time, dinner time, bath time, bedtime etc.). As development occurs best through natural, daily interactions, DIR Floortime teaches caregivers how to use everyday moments to support their child’s development.

  1. DIR uses emotions to connect the brain.

There is now evidence, including MRI studies, to show that that emotion plays a key role in connecting different parts of the brain. Through Floortime interactions, new brain connections are formed when we join, and expand upon, the child’s natural interests. Because we join what they are interested in, the child experiences natural feelings of being engaged, interested and motivated, and these feelings, in turn, lay new connections across all parts of the brain.

 10. DIR Floortime is fun!

It is well known now that children learn best through play – when they don’t realise they are learning! While joining your child’s play can feel a bit strange at first, with time and practise, Floortime times become an enjoyable and beneficial experience for both caregivers and their children.


Cullinane, D. (2009) Evidence Base for the DIR/Floortime Approach.

Interdisciplinary Council on Developmental and Learning (


Alyssa Mann

Speech Pathologist and Expert Level DIR Floortime Provider

Sensational Kids


  1. Agnes Nanasi — 12 March 2018 — 8:46 pm

    HI there,

    Thank you for this article.

    Are you familiar with the method “Intensive Interaction” ?

    If yes what do you think, what are the differences between these two?

    Your reply is appreciated in forward!



  2. Fran Nicholson — 13 March 2018 — 7:47 am

    Hi Agnes,
    Thanks for your question. I don’t know a lot about Intensive Interaction Therapies however my understanding is that it focuses on the early stages of communication including eye contact and vocalizing. It is for those on the spectrum we would classify as ‘early communicators’. DIR Floortime on the other hand is across the age ranges and stages of communication, from early through to complex communication. It is a framework whereby you focus on communicative intent in any form and build on this with the child’s natural interest driving the therapy. There is further information online for both of these therapy types. I hope this has helped. Kind regards, Fran