Dear readers who don't have an interest in Floortime – you may find this post boring - please feel free to ignore this post
Sometimes Floortime goes really well – like it did in the first couple of months of the year
And sometimes it does not – as its been these past month and a half I have been feeling a stuck in Floortime – not knowing what to do next and also feeling a certain dullness of spirit –
And so DH and I decide to go to a nearby city and resume our meetings with our Floortime Consultants ( FC)
It really is not the most auspicious time for us to go for an consultation as R has this dreadful mouth allergy – which has got infected and so he was in a lot of discomfort –
I ruefully say to DH that she will probably spend some time with him now and tell him we should let him just play with a string for the next few months
However DH is much more optimistic than I am and is confident that we will be able to show her his abilities and so off we go
We met with the consultant for 4 hours over a couple of days
Here is a summary of what we learn
Obviously our FC's recommendations apply to R ( the I in DIR stands for individual ) and to get the most benefit out of Floortime its best to work one-on-one with a professional who knows you and your child
However not everyone can afford a FC or is following a Floortime based home therapy program.
Our FC is an excellent psychologist and some of her excellent advice could help any autistic child ( heck it could probably help any Neurotypical child – or dare I say – adult )
Here are some excerpts from our sessions:
A Floortime session in the consultation
R is every bit as distracted as any child would whose lips were cracked and bleeding would be
When we enter the consultant tells us to show us how we play with him
I try but am ignored by R
We tell her that R need to explore the office for a bit which he does
He is a little distracted and stimmy but shows some flashes of his usual self
Once he makes an elephant from blocks – the ears wont stay on and pushes the elephant in frustration
He holds the ears in his hands and looks sadly
The FC asks us if we know what he is thinking
I explain why he is frustrated
R comes to me with his ears and then I say "are these ears?"
He puts them on my ears and I "become" the elephant
The FC is thrilled and exclaims "that is what I am talking about.. understand his feelings .. respond to him without any judgment"
He plays with her wind up toys ( her favorite Floortime toy )
He plays with DH for a bit with cars
A few times I try to intrude and he is annoyed and goes to DH for comfort
One of DH's great strengths as a floortimer is that he is VERY patient and never in a hurry and can intuitively take R's pace
Several times he and she and we play with wind up toys and hand puppets who eat various things
A Floortime Session with the FC
This takes place the next day
When we go the second day – R surprises us with his eagerness to go inside the and says "All done living room ….go Play with Play doctor"
He asks to play with "the Food and the woof ( dog ) "
He knows in the food box, there are 4 Pizza pieces and he wants to put them together ( I know this as he has been learning Fractions on Morestarfall )
However the consultant goes through several circles of communication with R trying to collect the pizza pieces and the dog taking them away
( An important tip – when you are being the hand puppet – you are the hand puppet – so you don't say in a narrative style " The dog wants the pizza "
You ARE the dog and you say " I want the Pizza ")
But the dog wont let him and keeps taking away a piece in his mouth
R is very bugged by the dog and holds the toy dog's face and throws it to the corner
But the dog always comes back
DH becomes a spider and intrudes also
The FC – tells us – "don't be easy to ignore .. be persuasive .. be intense ..be in his face.. use fewer words … be relentless"
This goes on and on
And here is where he surprises us
Since just throwing the dog away did not work 2 or 3 times -- He finds a toy chest and puts the dog into the toy chest and shuts the chest
The FC exclaims in satisfaction – "THAT was beautiful – he solved a problem"
( this is how you build the problem solving muscle – and make no mistake – it IS a muscle - through Floortime )
The FC tells us that we need to be in his face , high affect ,
Here are the main pointers from the Floortime Consultant for R
Why does he play for a little bit then go away ?
Because its too much ; he needs to regroup and process and then be back.
Should we let him leave or should we pursue the same theme? She said, if she feels he needs a break then she would let him. However if he is just avoiding for another reason she would pursue further.
We should do playdates – but with one child ( no social groups – as R would find it easy to fly under the radar in a group ) preferably a girl who is 7-10 years old – According to the doctor these are the best Floortimers
She says she trains some High School students but that her most important instruction is always that they both have fun and have joy . The biggest goal is pleasure
Aides in School
Aides tend to become compliance enforcers and that is really not required for him – he needs an angel on his shoulder that keeps reminding him to reconnect with what is going on in the class- for instance if he shows manipulation skills – the aide should feel joy at that not shut it down
We don't need to be looking for a lot of independence either
How can we elaborate on Play Scenarios?
Step by Step :
R like many kids started to pretend play with sleeping and eating - example one play scenario is that – his dolls go to bed – we elaborate with snoring etc but there it ends –
He only increases the breadth – so his other dolls go to sleep …how can we deepen the plot ?
Her answer is that we need to make the game more elaborate but just adding one more step at a time –
So we could get 5 dolls to sleep and then do the song – 5 in the bed and then the doll falls down and so on
Or add an emotional idea – example one of the dolls says "that is TOOO LOUD " ( that is the doll is having an emotional response –feeling bugged )
In the eating game where we are feeding the dolls, add maybe an unexpected twist – preferably an EMOTIONAL idea like a joke – where the doll says that is YUCKY and spits the food out
The concept of joke and unexpected is HUGE
There is no rush in Floortime – don't be in a hurry to climb the developmental ladder – build a strong foundation at each stage
Tailor everything to where he is Explore higher levels of Cognition
We talked about his several interests such an planet, numbers , music – She said we should take these further and further
We said that we found out yesterday that R knows multiplication and her response was that this flat and rote – we need to see if he can problem solve –
That is the point of following his lead into things
We want to explore the regions on his cognition that are not being touched currently
Don't ask him questions like" what is a triangle" he knows that – that is boring
We said – he loves his old familiar things – ( like Baby Einstein ) – she said that is fine – I am not saying take those away
But keep building on each interest
Example, if he can distinguish between Beethoven and Mozart – ask yourself the question – where could this take us
The idea is an opening up – of R have more, deeper and bigger thoughts and following a passion to eventually have grey area thinking
For in Floortime we are teaching how to think
Whether its numbers or planets that your kid is interested in - you are going to use it to develop the most important skills in Autism - relating ( making you a part of their shared world ) , communicating and thinking ( solving problems , metathinking - which is thinking about your and other people's thoughts , and grey area thinking )
She did notice all his strengths and thought of him as "full of potential" "has a lot in there" and said who knows you may have a mathematician in there ( but that honing rote skills will get us nowhere )
I also noted with interest that in developmental models you don't get any points for a well mannered/compliant child
Harness motivation in everything
Ask all providers – ST OT and PTand conversation and play therapists – how they are using his motivation – not just building his skill
The FC had lower expectations from school
They are going to focus on the building of rote skills that he will acquire anyways since those are the things he likes
It's the gray area thinking that he needs that school will not help him have
We talked about how we are thinking of mainstreaming next year as he is unhappy in the special – ed class
Her response that he probably likes the main stream class as he is able to ignore them and go under the radar
Where as his special needs class he notices them and talks about them later ( DH and I are not sure we agree- I think there is too much emotional energy he spends worrying and feeling unhappy )
She also said that before thinking homeschooling – just think about how much more you can do with the hours you have with him and when you are in charge – so if he has 30 hours of school – he has another 50 hours when you are in charge .
And that in her opinion parents spend way too much time thinking of how to optimize school ( where they have little control ) and too little time thinking about home ( where they are completely in charge)
We talked about our idea of a peer mentor and she said that in her experience this does not work too much as ist grade onwards school is focused on rote academics and there are very few opportunities to play and for a peer to mentor. She does not think it's a bad idea but does not have too much hope for it
How much Floortime is he getting?
I said we have Floortime as a lifestyle and we 30 mins-60 minutes daily.
And she said we have to do a lot more – get his therapists to modify their methods to incorporate Floortime
Intrude when he is on the computer but not in an intrusive way – example – get your own computer and do what he is doing with him
Get some outside help – their only goal being that they both play with high energy and they both have fun
In her POV – the ratio of something physical should literally be 20 minutes in an hour
Jumping Swinging Crashing into things –
She said that he could start his day with singing and swinging – instead of computer ( which will only start off a self absorbed day )
All these things will help him organize himself
She said we should limit access to electronics and then maybe has access to computer/wii / DVD anything with a screen about max 4 hours and keep reducing and he has to ask for it
So he is not always choosing between computer and us
Avoid repetitive tasks
Neurons that wire together , fire together
If you are engaged in repetitive tasks - Neuroplasticity means that those neurons are firing together
Its not neutral
We brain – not an I brain
He spends more time in an "I " brain and we need to put him more on a "We" brain
Can you use even the computer to foster the "We" brain – can the computer have pictures of mom and dad
(Book Recommendation: Mind Sight Dan Seagal )
She pointed out several times how hard R is to engage and how much he ignores our overtures
How much of his interactions with him are very much on his own terms( ouch !!- while this hurt to hear , DH and a friend pointed out that is the definition of Autism)
Take the things that are best and figure out how to make them longer
So if he enjoys swings and snuggling and jumping – and see how to elaborate and make them fancier and fancier
Keep adding variations –at little variation on what they mostly like and that adds a twist
Look at all the games you are playing and brainstorm on ways to add a twist
Use the ways/ mode that get you connection
At that point in our conversation, R was building a Giraffe with blocks and we asked him "what are you making "?
R ignored this
The FC said, "Don't waste energy on what he does not respond to – for example " don't ask questions … don't do a narrative"
Because we can put out a lot of energy on what he does not respond to and get discouraged
Instead of speaking, perhaps we could use the written word and song
The FC wrote GIRAFFE and HORSE on two pieces of paper and asked him to choose after getting in his face
Then he made Steps and she wrote STEPS
Then we elaborated ..and the giraffe and Rhino went up the steps
And we made a song about the rhino falling down
R smiled at this and completed the song
Then I fed the rhino a banana
Always add the unexpected
The FC suggested that its very important to be unexpected – for instance, the rhino would spit out the banana and say "that is Yucky"
The rhythm of the interaction would be – expected-expected – unexpected – so if you are playing pillow sandwich – you would Add ketchup and mustard and then suddenly you would add ice-cream – that he may find funny
If he has a routine that he repeats in the morning – add a twist and say you are going back to bed ( here I added that wouldn't an unexpected thing be "stand on your head after you wake up " – her point was that that would not be as funny as going back to bed as it was not the twist on the same thing )
Going for the WOW
Make an inventory of everything that works – everything that elicits a WOW
You want to stretch stretch stretch and open the mind and open his life
Prioritize things that you like too
If there are things that the both of you like doing - - they go on the top of the list
Add drama to everyday favorite things
For example one favorite thing of R's is when I get home – So DH could do a countdown and then the real life event would be dramatic and exciting !
She repeated that "neurons that fire together wire together "– example a 90 year old brain that takes lessons to play the violin will start to change their brain - which is why all individuals are capable of doing a lot more then what their initial capacity appeared to be .
So you have to make hay VERY slowly – but there is also no time to lose