DIR/Floortime Model: A Complete Guide

Floortime Model has gained popularity in recent years due to its ability to provide individualized care that focuses on the child's unique needs and abilities. In this article, we will explore the DIR/Floortime Model in detail, looking at its history, principles, and benefits.

judah schiller
Judah Schiller
December 1, 2023
Published On
December 1, 2023

Understanding the DIR/Floortime Model

The DIR/Floortime Model is an intervention approach designed to support children with autism and promote their social-emotional development. It emphasizes the importance of individual differences, building relationships, and fostering communication and interaction. This section will provide an overview of what the DIR/Floortime Model is and delve into the philosophy behind it.

What is the DIR/Floortime Model?

The DIR/Floortime Model, also known as the Developmental, Individual-Differences, Relationship-Based approach, is a comprehensive intervention framework developed by Dr. Stanley Greenspan and Serena Wieder. It focuses on helping children with autism develop the foundational capacities necessary for social, emotional, and intellectual growth.

At its core, the DIR/Floortime Model recognizes that each child with autism has their own unique set of strengths, challenges, and developmental trajectory. It aims to meet children at their current developmental level and support them in progressing through the different stages of development.

The Philosophy Behind DIR/Floortime

The philosophy underlying the DIR/Floortime Model is grounded in several key principles. It recognizes that children with autism have diverse sensory and cognitive profiles and that their development occurs in the context of relationships. Some fundamental principles of the DIR/Floortime philosophy include:

  1. Individual Differences: The DIR/Floortime Model acknowledges that every child with autism has their own individual differences, strengths, and challenges. It focuses on understanding and appreciating these differences to tailor interventions to each child's unique needs.
  2. Developmental Levels: The model recognizes that children with autism may have developmental gaps in various areas. It places importance on identifying and addressing these gaps by supporting the child's developmental progress through individualized interventions.
  3. Relationship-Based Approach: Building strong relationships between the child with autism and their caregivers, therapists, and peers is a central aspect of the DIR/Floortime Model. It emphasizes the role of warm, nurturing relationships in promoting social-emotional growth and overall development.

The DIR/Floortime Model highlights the significance of engaging children with autism in interactive and playful experiences on the floor, known as Floortime. This approach allows therapists, parents, and caregivers to join the child's world, follow their lead, and promote social interactions, communication, and problem-solving skills.

Understanding the foundations and philosophy of the DIR/Floortime Model is essential when exploring the components and benefits of this intervention approach.

The Components of the DIR/Floortime Model

The DIR/Floortime Model is a comprehensive approach that focuses on promoting healthy child development, particularly in children with autism. It consists of three key components: developmental levels, individual differences, and a relationship-based approach.

Developmental Levels

In the DIR/Floortime Model, developmental levels refer to the unique ways in which children progress and grow. This model recognizes that children with autism may have challenges in certain areas of development, such as communication, social interaction, and emotional regulation. By understanding a child's specific developmental level, parents and therapists can tailor interventions and activities to support and facilitate growth in these areas.

Understanding a child's developmental level requires careful observation and assessment. It involves identifying the child's strengths, weaknesses, and areas where they may need additional support. Through this understanding, parents and therapists can provide appropriate interventions and create an environment that encourages progress at the child's individual pace.

Individual Differences

Another important component of the DIR/Floortime Model is recognizing and respecting the individual differences of each child. Every child with autism is unique, with their own set of strengths, challenges, and preferences. The model emphasizes the need to consider and appreciate these individual differences when designing interventions and interactions.

By embracing a child's individuality, parents and therapists can create a supportive and accepting environment that fosters their overall development. This may involve modifying activities or approaches to suit the child's interests, sensory sensitivities, or communication style. By tailoring interventions to the child's individual needs, they are more likely to engage actively and make progress in their development.

Relationship-Based Approach

At the heart of the DIR/Floortime Model is a relationship-based approach. This approach recognizes the significance of building strong emotional connections between the child and their caregivers or therapists. By establishing a trusting and nurturing relationship, parents and therapists can effectively engage the child in meaningful interactions and interventions.

The relationship-based approach encourages parents and therapists to actively participate and join the child in their world. This involves getting down on the floor with the child during play, following their lead, and engaging in activities that interest them. Through these interactions, parents and therapists can promote emotional engagement, communication, and social interaction skills.

By focusing on the developmental levels of the child, embracing their individual differences, and adopting a relationship-based approach, the DIR/Floortime Model provides a comprehensive framework for supporting the development of children with autism.

The Floortime Approach

Within the DIR/Floortime Model, the Floortime approach plays a central role in supporting children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in their development. This approach focuses on engaging children in interactive and meaningful play sessions, building emotional connections, and promoting communication and interaction. Let's explore each of these components in more detail.

Engaging in Floortime Sessions

Floortime sessions involve parents or caregivers actively participating in play with their child on the floor, hence the name "Floortime." During these sessions, the adult follows the child's lead, entering their world of play and joining in their activities. This approach helps to create a safe and nurturing environment for the child to explore and interact.

By engaging in Floortime sessions, parents can encourage their child's creativity, problem-solving skills, and social interactions. This child-led play allows the child to take the lead, while the parent provides support, encouragement, and opportunities for growth. It fosters a sense of connection and trust between the child and the adult, laying the foundation for further development.

Building Emotional Connections

Emotional connections play a crucial role in the Floortime approach. By actively participating in play sessions and showing genuine interest in the child's activities, parents can establish a strong emotional bond. This connection provides a secure base from which the child can explore and learn.

During Floortime sessions, parents focus on attuning to their child's emotional states, recognizing and responding to their feelings. This attunement allows parents to understand their child's unique emotional experiences and helps the child feel seen, heard, and understood. Through this emotional connection, parents can support their child's emotional regulation and development.

Promoting Communication and Interaction

Another key aspect of the Floortime approach is promoting communication and interaction. By joining in the child's play and following their lead, parents can create opportunities for meaningful communication. This might involve using gestures, facial expressions, and simple words or phrases to engage in back-and-forth interactions.

Floortime encourages parents to be responsive to their child's attempts at communication, even if they are nonverbal or at an early stage of language development. By acknowledging and responding to their child's communication attempts, parents can foster the child's language skills and encourage further engagement.

Through the Floortime approach, children with autism can develop essential social, emotional, and communication skills. By engaging in Floortime sessions, building emotional connections, and promoting communication and interaction, parents can provide a supportive and enriching environment for their child's development.

Implementing DIR/Floortime at Home

For parents of children with autism, implementing the DIR/Floortime Model at home can be a valuable way to support their child's development. By creating a supportive environment, incorporating Floortime into daily routines, and collaborating with therapists and professionals, parents can effectively apply the principles of the DIR/Floortime Model.

Creating a Supportive Environment

Creating a supportive environment is essential for implementing the DIR/Floortime Model at home. This involves setting up a space where your child feels safe, comfortable, and engaged. Consider the following tips:

  • Designate a designated play area: Dedicate a specific area in your home where you and your child can engage in Floortime activities. This area should be free from distractions and provide access to a variety of toys, games, and materials that promote interaction and play.
  • Establish a predictable routine: Children with autism often thrive in structured environments. Establishing a predictable routine can help your child feel more secure and provide a sense of stability. Try to incorporate Floortime sessions into your daily schedule, ensuring they occur at a consistent time and duration.
  • Provide sensory-friendly surroundings: Some children with autism are sensitive to certain sensory stimuli. Create a sensory-friendly environment by considering lighting, noise levels, and the texture of the play area. Adjusting these factors can help your child feel more at ease and engaged during Floortime sessions.

Incorporating Floortime into Daily Routines

To maximize the benefits of the DIR/Floortime Model, it's important to incorporate Floortime into your child's daily routines. By integrating Floortime activities throughout the day, you can promote continuous engagement and learning. Here are some strategies to consider:

  • Morning routines: Begin the day with a Floortime session to establish a positive and interactive start. Use this time to engage in play, promote communication, and strengthen the parent-child relationship.
  • Mealtime and snack time: Use mealtimes as an opportunity for Floortime interactions. Encourage your child to participate in meal preparation, such as setting the table or assisting with simple cooking tasks. During meals, engage in conversation and encourage turn-taking to promote social interaction.
  • Bath time and bedtime: Transform routine activities like bath time and bedtime into Floortime opportunities. Use these moments to engage in play, read books, or engage in calming activities that promote relaxation and connection.

Collaborating with Therapists and Professionals

Collaboration with therapists and professionals is an important aspect of implementing the DIR/Floortime Model at home. These experts can provide valuable guidance and support to both you and your child. Consider the following:

  • Regular communication: Maintain open lines of communication with your child's therapists and professionals. Share updates on your child's progress, challenges, and any observations you have made during Floortime sessions. This collaboration ensures that everyone is working towards common goals.
  • Seek guidance: Consult with therapists and professionals to gain insights into specific Floortime techniques and interventions that can be applied at home. They can provide you with customized strategies that align with your child's unique needs and developmental goals.
  • Training and workshops: Take advantage of training opportunities or workshops offered by therapists and professionals. These sessions can provide you with additional knowledge, practical tips, and techniques for effectively implementing the DIR/Floortime Model at home.

By creating a supportive environment, incorporating Floortime into daily routines, and collaborating with therapists and professionals, parents can create an optimal learning environment for their child with autism. Remember, the aim is to foster meaningful interactions, emotional connections, and overall development through the principles of the DIR/Floortime Model.

Benefits and Success Stories

The DIR/Floortime model has shown numerous benefits for children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), as well as their families. By focusing on the child's individual differences, developmental levels, and fostering a relationship-based approach, the model promotes healthy development and meaningful interactions. Let's explore some of the positive outcomes of the DIR/Floortime model and hear real-life stories of families implementing this approach.

Positive Outcomes of DIR/Floortime

The DIR/Floortime model has been associated with several positive outcomes for children with ASD. Here are some of the key benefits:

Benefit Description
Improved Communication Skills Through Floortime sessions, children learn to engage in back-and-forth interactions, express their needs and emotions, and develop more effective communication skills.
Enhanced Social Interactions The relationship-based approach of DIR/Floortime helps children build emotional connections and develop meaningful relationships with their parents, caregivers, and peers. This can lead to improved social interactions and increased engagement in social activities.
Development of Emotional Regulation By engaging in Floortime sessions, children have the opportunity to explore and regulate their emotions in a safe and supportive environment. This can help them develop emotional regulation skills and cope with challenging situations more effectively.
Promotion of Cognitive and Problem-Solving Skills The DIR/Floortime model encourages children to think flexibly, problem-solve, and engage in imaginative play. This can lead to the development of cognitive skills and creative thinking abilities.
Progress in Developmental Milestones By addressing the child's individual developmental levels, the DIR/Floortime model aims to promote overall development. This can result in progress across various areas, such as motor skills, language development, and self-care abilities.

Real-life Stories of Families Implementing the Model

The DIR/Floortime model has made a significant impact on the lives of many families with children on the autism spectrum. Here are a few real-life stories that highlight the positive experiences and outcomes of implementing the model:

  1. The Smith Family: The Smith family, whose son was diagnosed with ASD at a young age, embraced the DIR/Floortime model as part of their son's intervention plan. Through consistent Floortime sessions, they witnessed remarkable progress in their son's communication skills and social interactions. His ability to engage in meaningful conversations and form connections with others greatly improved.
  2. The Rodriguez Family: The Rodriguez family integrated the principles of the DIR/Floortime model into their daily routines. By creating a supportive environment and engaging in regular Floortime play sessions, they observed significant advancements in their daughter's cognitive abilities and problem-solving skills. Her confidence and independence also flourished.
  3. The Thompson Family: The Thompson family collaborated closely with therapists and professionals trained in the DIR/Floortime model. By incorporating Floortime techniques into therapy sessions and daily interactions, they witnessed gradual improvements in their son's emotional regulation and self-expression. His social interactions and engagement with peers showed remarkable growth.

These are just a few examples of the positive impact that the DIR/Floortime model has had on families. Each child's journey is unique, and the model can be tailored to meet their specific needs.

By implementing the DIR/Floortime model, families can unlock the potential within their children and support their overall development. Through a combination of Floortime sessions, a relationship-based approach, and individualized interventions, children with ASD can thrive and reach their full potential.


How long does therapy using the DIR/Floortime Model typically last?

The duration of therapy using the DIR/Floortime Model varies depending on the child's individual needs and progress. Some children may require ongoing therapy for several years, while others may make significant progress in a shorter period of time.

Is the DIR/Floortime Model covered by insurance?

Many insurance companies cover therapy using the DIR/Floortime Model, but coverage varies depending on the specific plan and provider. It is important to check with your insurance company to determine what is covered under your plan.

Can parents use the principles of the DIR/Floortime Model at home?

Yes, parents can use the principles of the DIR/Floortime Model at home to support their child's development. Therapists can work with parents to develop strategies for incorporating play-based interactions into daily routines and activities.

What age range is appropriate for therapy using the DIR/Floortime Model?

The DIR/Floortime Model can be used with children of all ages, from infants to teenagers. Therapy is tailored to meet each child's unique needs and abilities, regardless of their age or developmental level.

How do I find a therapist trained in using the DIR/Floortime Model?

To find a therapist trained in using the DIR/Floortime Model, you can search online directories or contact professional organizations such as The Interdisciplinary Council on Developmental and Learning Disorders (ICDL). It is important to choose a therapist who has received specialized training in this approach to ensure they have the necessary skills and expertise.


The DIR/Floortime Model is a comprehensive approach to therapy that focuses on building relationships, addressing underlying issues, and providing individualized care. It has many benefits for children with developmental delays and their families, helping them to reach their full potential and improve their quality of life. If you are a parent, teacher, or therapist working with children with developmental delays, the DIR/Floortime Model may be worth exploring further.