What is DIRFloortime®?

This approach aims to promote an individual’s development through a process that is respectful, playful, joyful and engaging. It uses the power of relationships and human connections to promote the sharing of attention, engagement, communication, positive and adaptive behaviours, and thinking.

Who developed DIRFloortime®?

Dr Stanley Greenspan (1941-2010) and Serena Wieder, Child Psychologist at ICDL (Interdisciplinary Council on Development and Learning) developed the DIR® model and this is the basis of the DIRFloortime® approach.

Specific training is available for interested persons or professionals in DIRFloortime®.

It is an evidence based approach used around the world by those providing services and care to individuals with developmental challenges or other related needs. Teachers, Occupational Therapists, Speech Language Therapists, Mental Health Professionals and parents are embracing this approach and valuing it’s role in promoting development in children, adolescents and adults.

‘All children have within them the potential to be great kids.  It’s our job to create a great world where this potential can flourish.’ Stanley Greenspan, MD from one of the many books that he wrote Great Kids, 2007

It has been most commonly used with children with educational, social-emotional, mental health, and/or developmental challenges. It has become most widely known as an approach to support children or individuals on the autism spectrum.

 What is DIR®?

DIR® refers to the Developmental, Individual-differences, & Relationship-based approach that has become the foundation for understanding child development and providing support and intervention that helps children reach their fullest potential. It provides the framework that guides clinicians, therapists, parents and educators to carry out comprehensive assessments and devise intervention and programs that are tailored to the unique profile of the child considering their strengths and challenges.

DIR® has a deep foundation in the science of human development and as such allows a way to understand the child and ourselves so that connections can be built, there is understanding, love, communication and engagement. Through such an approach the true potential of the individual can be discovered and expressed.

 We need to take a less narrow look at our children’s problems and, instead, see them as windows of opportunity – a way of exploring and understanding all facets of our children’s development. If we can understand the underlying developmental process, we can see a child’s struggles as signs of striving toward growth instead of chronic problems or attempts to aggravate adults.’   Quote from Stanley Greenspan, M.D.

  •  The D (Developmental) focusses on the building blocks or developmental capacities essential for spontaneous and empathic relationships and mastering academic skills. There are six developmental levels or key capacities that an individual needs to master for healthy emotional and intellectual growth.

Understanding where the individual is developmentally is an important consideration for planning therapy and guiding families.

The Six Functional Emotional Developmental Capacities or Levels are:

Developmental Levels Adapted

  1. Self Regulation and Interest in the World
  2. Engaging and Relating
  3. Purposeful Two-way Communication
  4. Complex Communication & Shared Problem Solving
  5. Using Symbols & Creating Emotional Ideas
  6. Logical Thinking & Building Bridges between Ideas


  •  The I (Individual differences) refers to the unique biologically-based ways that an individual takes in, regulates, responds to, and perceives or comprehends sensory information, and then how they use that information to plan and sequence their actions and ideas.

Biological challenges’ is used to describe the various processing issues that make up a person’s individual differences. These individual differences may be interfering with the person’s ability to develop and learn.

  • The R (Relationship-based) refers to the value of rich and supportive relationships that develop between the individual and significant others (family members, therapists, educators and peers).


It is through these relationships rich in affect based interactions tailored to meet the I (individual differences) and D (developmental capacities) of individual, that the individual can begin to work on the building blocks and master the essential foundations for social-emotional and intellectual growth.

Central to DIR Model is giving priority to considering the individual’s emotions and natural interests. Utilising these within interactions makes for more meaning to that individual and is more likely to enable the different parts of the brain to work together, accept challenges and build gradually higher levels of social-emotional and intellectual capacities.

Parents and other family members play a critical role in DIRFloortime therapy given their emotional relationship with the child or individual.

Building healthy foundations for social, emotional and intellectual capacities are the main objectives of DIR® model. It does not focus on skills or isolated behaviours.

 ‘DIRFloortime is about helping every child positively develop and reach their fullest potential.  To do this, we must see every child as more than just behaviors that need to be controlled, suppressed, and/or changed.  Rather, we engage with the child, work to understand their individual differences, and through relationships we challenge them to engage in the world around them to the fullest manner possible. A child with Autism is more than just a group of behaviors that need to change.  A child with Autism is a child with incredible potential.’ Quote from Jeffrey Guenzel, ICDL CEO


Website: www.icdl.com


The Child with Special Needs: Encouraging Intellectual and Emotional Growth’ by Stanley Greenspan, M.D. and Serena Wieder, Ph.D. (1997)

Engaging Autism: The Floortime Approach to Helping Children Relate, Communicate and Think’ by Stanley I. Greenspan, M.D. and Serena Wieder, Ph.D. (2006)

Building Healthy Minds: The Six Experiences that Create Intelligence and Emotional Growth in Babies and Young Children’ by Stanley Greenspan, M.D. with Nancy Breslau Lewis. (1999)

The Challenging Child: Understanding, Raising and Enjoying the Five “Difficult” Types of Children’ by Stanley Greenspan, M.D. with Jacqui Salmon (1995)

Great Kids’ by Stanley I. Greenspan, M.D. (2007)

The Secure Child’ by Stanley I. Greenspan (2002)

Overcoming ADHD’ by Stanley I. Greenspan, M.D. with Jacob Greenspan

Autism Solutions: How To Create a Healthy and Meaningful Life for your Child’ by Ricki Robinson, M.D. MPH (2010)

Other Resources:

Autistic-Like: Graham’s Story  A film by Erik Linhorst

DIR®Floortime™ Empowering Children To Reach Their Potential’ DVD produced by parents4kids in 2010. Sponsored by Government of South Australia. This is a great local resource orchestrated and produced by a highly motivated and committed group of South Australian parents.  Huge thanks to Ann, Jenny, Gloria, Nat and Enza for all your hard work in  making this resource possible and available.




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