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Volume 81

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Hi, I’m Craig Kendall, the author of The Asperger’s Syndrome Survival Guide. In today’s issue we will discuss…

Floortime – Are You Missing Out On a Useful Therapy for Children with Autism and Asperger’s Syndrome?

 A lot of approaches for bringing kids with autism and Asperger’s syndrome into our world involve behavior modification. There is nothing wrong with that, but sometimes combining different therapies can bring the best results. Sometimes, taking an entirely different approach from the behaviorist approach can yield surprisingly good results.

Floortime — A Different Approach for Children with Autism

Behavior modification, such as applied behavior analysis (ABA), relies on trying to change the behavior of the child you are working with. Floortime, a therapy developed by Stanley Greenspan, relies on a completely opposite approach — trying to JOIN IN on the behavior that the child is exhibiting.

Now why would you want to do that? Well, an autistic child is often completely overwhelmed by the world around him and unable to tune into or pay attention to any or most elements in it. But say your child is lining up cars for the millionth time and refuses to acknowledge you. What do you do?

Join in Your Autistic Loved One’s Activities

Instead of trying to draw him out of his world, try to get him to include you in his. Line up cars with him. Imitate whatever behaviors he makes or does (within reason). Play whatever game he is playing even if it’s only examining a piece of string or his hands. You want him to know you are there with him.

After doing this a few times, try to shake things up a little. Take one of the cars out of the line, or change the routine just a little bit. Do something that forces him to react a little bit and to interact with you. He will resist at first, but keep trying. Eventually, he will acknowledge you as a part of his world.

Keep Interacting with Your Autistic Child at His or Her Level

This close interaction with your child with autism or Asperger’s syndrome will allow you to join in more and more and your child will develop more trust in you.  Eventually, you will have brought your child into your world enough that you can start teaching him (and he will be much more receptive to) the skills needed to live in our world every day.

The Basics of Floortime

Never forget the basic principles of floortime…

I will leave you with a quote from an article on using floortime with teenagers from a past article in the New York Times article by Melissa Fay Greene.

“If we can keep Ty engaged with us, it means that he is harnessing and organizing his energies in order to interact,” Nelson told me later. “By keeping him connected, we won’t let him be kidnapped by random fragmented thoughts. If you aren’t engaged with other people, then you are completely at the mercy of your own regulatory system. Think about a situation where you were overcome with distress and how being able to tell someone helped you avoid becoming uncontrollably distraught.”

That is profound because it speaks to an absolute truth. If you have nothing but yourself to turn to, you really are at the mercy of whatever coping system your brain has developed to deal with problems–some good and some definitely not. You can get lost in a problem and become considerably distressed over it, left to your own devices. This is true for people of all ages.

But if you have someone to walk you through the problem, redirect you, someone who you feel a connection to, that feeling of emotional connection will probably override most of the distressed and despairing feelings and bring a sense of calm; and the other person’s helping you to problem solve will ground you and remind you to look at the problem in perspective, in a reasonable way.

A relationship with another person is the start of all learning. That is the premise that floortime is based on. And it’s something that people with autism of all ages, especially children with autism and Asperger’s syndrome, often really need.

9 Responses to Floortime – A Useful Therapy for Children with Autism and Asperger’s Syndrome

  1. Regine says:


    yes floortime really works. Have been doing it with my 3year old for about a year now, and he has made enormous progress. Know lots of others who also have achieved great results with it. I have read a few of the late Dr Greenspan’s books and they are truely inspiring. I think a “must try” therapy for everyone involved with a child with a disability including autism and Asperger’s.
    My love to all.

  2. Craig says:


    I am not sure how old your stepdaughter is, but I wouldn’t start directly with the behavior you are trying to change. You have to build the relationship with her before you can do that. Think of something she likes to do and try to join her in that. She may resist at first but if you show a genuine interest in her and praise the things she does well, she may grow to trust and open up to you – and only then will you most likely find the answer to the behaviors that disturb you.

    Best of luck

  3. Roberta Hooton says:

    My son is now 14 and communicating all the time. This playtime was recommended 7 years ago by a therapist, IT WORKS. Just 10-15 minutes daily even at kitchen table before school they stay happier all day. Its important to just listen/play whatever they love to focus on, no questions why just listen and go with the play theme, be patient and calm took about 1 1/2years but i feel i have his total trust and he talks to me all the time and TRUSTS me.

  4. Rachida says:

    I work in the nursery, sometimes I look after autistic a child,he likes me.his problem that he can’t concentrate,he spend 2 to3 minutes playing with something and goes to something else. what to do to make him spend more time doing something.Thankyou

  5. Mary Addams says:

    these suggestions make a lot of sense. I wish I knew about them when my son was a child. He’s so much improved now, and I credit it to a combination of working out at a gym and being on a gluten-free and dairy-free diet.

  6. Raelene says:

    I read what you have written. My step daughter and I have a strained relationship. I came into her life just two years ago. She has recently started lying. This is an unacceptable behavior. She also tears her clothes to shreds one string at a time. I have done everything I can to stop these behaviors and I have failed. I have no where left to turn. She has had Asperger’s since she was a child and has had slight mental retardation with it. I would like to solve these issues at home instead of looking to the outside. When I try to get into her world by asking her why she does these things she talks in circles and says because she knows better or starts going off on she doesn’t like strict parents. Please can someone give me some guidance on how to work with her on this so she can break these habits?

    • Hi says:

      Raelene, the best thing you can do is read up and educate yourself on your step-daughter’s disability. Asperger’s is average to above average intelligence by definition. Mental retardation is below average intelligence by definition. I am not sure how one could have BOTH. Also, it is no longer called mental retardation, it is called Intelectual Disability. Frankly I am offended & feel sorry for your step daughter. Try using some understanding & compassion, that’s the best thing you could do for her, especially since you don’t even know what her disability is.

  7. Marion Wright, OCT says:

    Brilliant, valuable, great ideas!

    A thousand thanks.

    Marion Wright, OCT

  8. Caroline says:

    Sounds like Stanley Greenspan is using Barry Neil Kaufman’s Option Institute ideas (Sonrise)and giving another name to them?

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