My sixteen year old son, Corey, is diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome. While to most people he would just seem a little quirky, I do have some major concerns about some of the issues that affect him. I don’t have a problem with his obsession on certain subjects – the weather, for instance – but I do worry about his lack of social skills and his difficulties with relating to his peers. So when I ran across an article in the NY Times last week that talked about a special school for teenagers with autism spectrum disorders, I was very interested. In fact, I posted a blog on the 5 Minutes For Special Needs site about the article, and I asked readers for their opinions.
The NY Times article and several other articles I found in my research led me to believe that the teaching technique was relatively new. Readers told me otherwise. And, most readers spoke of using the technique, called DIR/Floortime, with much younger children, not teenagers. Yet the NY Times article raved about the success of using Floortime with teenagers.
So, I was still left confused and wondering if Floortime would be an approach to consider. Then I got an email that really cleared things up for me. The person who sent the email is diagnosed with Asperger’s herself, and in addition to the information in her email, she has also sent me some other articles. I’ve included the text of her email (with her permission) below, and based on her comments, I believe I will pursue Floortime as an option for Corey.
Hi. My name is 'Ekie'. I was reading 5 Minutes For Special Needs and you asked for people to tell you what they know about floortime. I was intrigued by your post because you are the mother of a teenage Aspie. I am 24 years old and I have a non-verbal LD/Aspergers syndrome.
Last year in graduate school I took a class called Introduction to Floortime and I fell totally in love with the whole idea. I now say that I am a total Floortime convert. I just love, love, LOVE it. The whole idea of it is so very right, as compared to more traditional methodologies such as ABA, applied behavior analysis. You know how adults with autism say how much they hated ABA? Well, they will not be saying this about floortime.
The basic premise of floortime is to get the child to recognize that 1, I am a human 2, you are a human also and 3, these human people are useful, kind, and fun. It works to build an emotional connection first and foremost, to get the child to *want* to please you because they get an emotional reward for it - not an external reward as with ABA. Often in the beginning this is a lot of imitation and just going with the flow, but at the same time forcing the child to interact with you. For example if the child is running around the room you might stand in the path of where they are running so they have to go around you. Or if they are lining up blocks over and over you might insert a new block that goes in a different direction. There are a lot of levels - I think they go up to 12 or even higher - and only once a child has mastered one level (and I can't remember the levels enough to explain them properly, sorry) you go on to the next, but you keep reinforcing all the old stuff they learn.
Unfortunately the Floortime/DIR (Developmental, Individual, Relationship-based) is kind of a monopoly controlled by Stanley Greenspan. Getting certified in it is a very hard process because they only do the trainings in CA. I took my course via my university. They do classes for parents and professionals, but they are mostly geared towards working with younger children.
I can't quite explain my feelings about floortime except to say that it makes me all warm and fuzzy inside, unlike ABA, which makes me feel like people are training their kids like dogs or seals are trained. Floortime is completely child-centered, and it is about using the child's strengths that they already have to teach them new things. It acknowledges the inherent dignity and abilities of all kids no matter how young.
Thank you, Ekie, for your comments!