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…
- See things from your child’s perspective
- Use the relationship between you to help him solve problems.
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.