Floortime, or DIR: the politics of special needs

By Carolyn Patterson on

For those of you interested in people on the autism spectrum, you have probably heard of Floortime. For some of you, this may be a new term, which describes a treatment for people on the spectrum — but also people (usually young children) who have a sensory integration disorder. With Floortime (also called DIR), the child engages with the parent or other adult on the floor in communication activities to develop language, both receptive and expressive.

I attended a screening of a fascinating film made by two parents of a boy who had autistic-like symptoms, who responded well to the Floortime method. (See their webpage, autisticlike.com, for a preview of their film.) Astonishingly, this effective method of treatment is NOT covered by health insurance policies. The autism community is raising awareness for this method, and they are working with legislators to change the laws so that it can be covered for more families.

My consciousness was raised about this whole issue. I was familiar with the ABA (Applied Behavioral Analysis) legislation, and assumed that other kinds of behavioral therapy treatments were also covered. Obviously, a treatment needs to be proven effective before it should be covered by insurance, but as Floortime is very well-established, it was surprising-in-a-bad-way to find out that parents are still quitting their jobs and living in depressed circumstances to be able to help their kids. Or, even worse, that kids are not receiving a treatment that could help them for the rest of their lives.

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Like ADHD, autism spectrum disorders can have co-occuring issues, including OCD, auditory processing disorder, or sensory integration disorder.

My consciousness was also raised about Sensory Integration Disorder: it is pervasive in many disorders, including ADHD. If your child struggles with writing, working with an occupational therapist can help.

All of these therapies are time-consuming to undertake. They are most effective when the child is young. They usually are simple enough therapies that they can be worked on at home, too, not requiring any specialized equipment. They require time and care, the fundamentals of parenting.