DIR/Floortime and Occupational Therapy

The social, emotional, and physical development of children is a complex and amazing process. Few things are more exciting than watching a child develop from infancy into a walking, talking, interactive person with their own personality.

Many developmental frameworks focus on one piece of a child’s “puzzle,” whether it be their social development, cognitive development, or motor development (i.e. crawling and walking). The DIR/Floortime model is a framework that broadly looks at all of the aspects of a child’s development together, in order to best serve the needs of that child. Occupational therapists are often trained in this model as a way to best target a child’s life participation goals.

A child’s emotions and interests are central to the DIR/Floortime model. These aspects are critical in understanding how a child reacts to the world around them, as well as how a child’s brain develops higher-level interaction and coping skills. The Floortime technique is modeled after the concept of allowing the child’s interests to lead them toward more advanced growth with the guidance of a caregiver. Doing this allows a caregiver to take a child’s current level and interests and build upon it to achieve the best outcomes.

DIR is a model that, when incorporated with Floortime technique, provides a foundation to support the individual child. DIR stands for Developmental, Individual differences, and Relationship-based.

Developmental (D) – understanding the child’s developmental level is critical for the rest of the process. Developmental milestones may include those related to problem-solving, social relationships, motor and movement abilities, and academic skills.

Individual differences (I) – each child takes in and reacts to sensory stimuli like smell, sounds, and touch, in different ways. These individual differences can affect the way a child responds to his or her environment, which is an important factor in developing the ideal treatment plan.

Relationship-based (R) – learning about the relationships that each child has with parents, teachers, and caregivers is another important aspect of the DIR model. The interactions that a child has with others are guided by the model as a whole in order to be optimally effective for them.

The DIR/Floortime model emphasizes the importance of social-emotional relationships and direct interactions between a child and those around them. In essence, it looks at the child’s current level and encourages caregivers and service providers to “enter their world” to help him or her learn in natural and motivating ways. Occupational therapists are often drawn to this method because of the naturalistic element and the proven outcomes.