What is DIR?

DIR is a comprehensive, interdisciplinary approach that focuses on the emotional development of the child. It takes into account the child’s feelings, relationships with caregivers, developmental level and individual differences in a child’s ability to process and respond to sensory information.  It focuses on the child’s skills in all developmental areas, including social-emotional functioning, communication, thinking and learning, motor skills, body awareness, and attention.

The goal of treatment is to help the child master the healthy emotional milestones that were missed in his early development and that are critical to learning.  Building these foundations helps children overcome their symptoms more effectively than simply trying to change the symptoms alone.

Floortime, a vital element of the DIR/Floortime model, is a treatment method as well as a philosophy for interacting with children (and adults as well).  Floortime involves meeting a child at his current developmental level, and building upon his particular set of strengths.  Floortime harnesses the power of a child’s motivation; following his lead, wooing him with warm but persistent attempts to engage his attention and tuning in to his interests and desires in interactions. Through Floortime, parents, child care providers, teachers and therapists help children climb the developmental ladder.  By entering into a child’s world, we can help him or her learn to relate in meaningful, spontaneous, flexible and warm ways.

– ICDL Website

DIR/Floortime is an approach to supporting the learning of children with autism.  It’s based on the idea that these children are delayed in social and emotional development, and that they can be helped to proceed in their growth through the stages that all children experience.  Social and emotional development are foundational to all areas of learning, and so as the child progresses in emotional regulation, communication and the ability to connect socially, they are able learn in other ways as well.

D – Developmental – the child is helped to progress on a path of normal development.

I – Individual Differences – each child with autism has unique strengths and challenges.  Attention must be given to these differences in the planning of learning activities.

R– Relationship-Based – All children develop and learn through relationships with parents and other trusted adults.  We use the techniques of DIR/Floortime to make the most of those relationships.

Floortime is just one part of DIR, especially important in the early stages.  It is a misconception that doing DIR/Floortime means that the child is in control of all activities.  Rather, caregivers use the child’s interests as a starting point to build relationships, social skills and understanding.  As the child progresses, he or she is challenged to also follow the lead of others and enter a reciprocal exchange of ideas and collaborative activities.

Developmental Levels

The developmental stages described by Dr. Greenspan include attention, engagement, two-way communication through gestures and language.  We gradually introduce problems for the child to solve, and we encourage the use of imagination and ideas.

Each level builds and works with the previous levels.  Just like you can’t build a new story on a building without having stable lower floors, we can’t progress to new levels without continued attention to all the stages that come before.

Understanding DIR/Floortime

The “I” in DIR: Knowing Your Kid

Level 1: Self-Regulation and Managing Emotions

Level 2: Engagement and Relatedness

Level 3: Two-Way Communication

Level 4: Social Problem Solving

Level 5: Words, Ideas, and Imagination


A great informative video to see what DIR/Floortime looks like:  Interacting With Autism