Floortime Tips

Below are tips related to specific areas that have been helpful for us...

Are you ready?
Books and reading
Controllingness
Cooking
Creating problems :-)
Everyday situations
Gestault learner
Gestures
How much, how often?
Idea retrieval
Negotiating/planning

Numbers and letters
Playdates
Playful obstruction
Pretend Play (early)

Progress- is s/he making enough?
Pronoun reversal
Scared
Scripted train play
Scripting
Sentence fragments
Setup
Talk (how does it sound)
Transitions - child initiated
Tuning out
Wants something

Books and reading
Find books to read that have themes, motives and problems to solve - discuss alternative outcomes, feelings. Create problems, hold book to read upside down and/or backwards. In stage 4 (after a frequent 
circle closer), ask him "what's next" and try to talk more to the pictures than the words. A helpful step is to woo him into re-enacting stories, with him and I as characters……three little pigs, billy goats gruff, jack and the beanstalk, watch out a giant, bear hunt, etc. For example, we read a Thomas book, that included a story “Diesel tells a lie” …I tried to simplify the language, asked him how the characters felt on every page (lots of emotion in this story and difficult emotion words like frustrated, sulking, pouting, etc. He is starting to learn “frustrated”…but most of the other new ones he responses with simpler versions of like mad/sad. We also talked about why the characters felt that way. And we talked about how a lie is a pretend…….well this is a hard concept to talk about yet it is the theme of the story. And he loves Thomas books and wants very much to better understand the complexity and nuances of the Thomas stories. The next Thomas story was about Duck’s close shave…so after we read the story I took out some shaving cream and sprayed it on a character and then sprayed some on Nicholas’ hands. We kept talking about the shaving crème and how it feels. Then he wanted to go to the bathroom to wash his hands…so I brought the shaving crème and sprayed a happy face on the shower wall. Then we took a water squirter and he squirted the happy face down …he even picked up the shaving crème and squirted more of that out (and it is a bilateral challenge because both his hands need to cooperate to work to make it squirt). We saw daddy a bit later and talked about how daddy shaves too.

At 3.5-4.0 years Our "breakthru" book was the three little pigs, we had a very old popup edition from grandreams that I had bought coincidentally with a large group of books on ebay. Anyway, as I read this book I used character voices and say "and I'll huff and I'll puff and I'll blow your house down " very dramatically AND then I blew in my son's face and then I pretended that he had knocked me over with his feet (he was sitting in an arm chair and I was sitting in the floor on my knees facing him reading.) Soon he decided to really push me with his feet after I "blew the house down" and he wanted to pretend to know the wolf all the way to the floor. So this was a key point where he became really involved physically in the story. After a few months, his SLP asked me to try to get him to re-enact a favorite story, to enlist the help of family members, to have everyone wear a nametag of our character. He hated the nametags and wouldn't let any of us wear them. And he was quite unhappy about the re-enacting idea. But I asked my older son and his friend to re-enact it anyway just with me as my son looked on. After one one time, suddenly my son wanted to re-enact the three little pigs, Still without deviating from the story...this was the start of some big gains in his language. You can learn more about what books motivated him to WANT (to initiate) re-enacting stories here http://www.helpingdelayedkids.com/links.htm#Books_kids 

Another tip: I would read the book, but I would pretend to read the wrong page or the wrong sentence. Since he had a strong auditory memory he knew that I was skipping a part, and then I would give him a choice "do you want me to read this part of this part" ...sometimes one of the parts I offered to "read" was a picture...if he selected it I would say "oh, there are any letters here" (later we graduated to "there aren't any words/sentences here"...etc.

See also http://health.groups.yahoo.com/group/Floortime/message/3387  switching the covers of a book,  seal the book with elastic/string/tape, hide a books make a treasure hunt, etc

Controllingness
I have found that as my son’s capacity for complex play has increased, that although we follow his lead…my characters have become very strong, opinionated, and needy. Or in day to day, I express more of my opinions and needs, in an extension of playful obstruction. For example I or my character might say:

I don’t want to. It’s not fair. It’s my turn to choose. Umf, I don’t want to stay here, I want to go to the fair. Wahhh, I hurt my toe, help help. No, I can’t go over there because my toe still hurts. I am busy with work now, I’ll be there in 10 minutes.

In other words, during our play as his confidence has grown, I am pushing back more and more.

Someone once counseled that during floortime, “be the playmate you want your child to play with” ….And this strategy is working for us…last weekend a special needs friend (who was 5.0 and ready to be mainstreamed in September with no aide) came to play with my son who was 4.5. And for the first time they played happily together for over 2 hours. Sure it was some interaction, some parallel play. But they were always on the same page, doing the same activity, enjoining each other, chasing, laughing, coaxing.

When my son was 2.0 we’ve enjoyed a great family friend with a very smart, bossy, same-age, and verbal typical girl. Over time, she became a wonderful playmate to my son. Her natural inclination to take the lead has provided the perfect amount of playful obstruction, especially since he turned about 3. (side note, tbhis worked well also because he was seeing her at least 2x a week, without the frequent contact they have since drifted apart and no longer enjoy playing together).

So what I’m trying to say is that IMHO, at the beginning, Floortime/DIR gives the child a lot of lead, but over time following his lead begins to look more like making sure that the topic is motivating and interesting to him and nurturing that he has plenty of opportunities to initiate, plan, and come up with ideas, etc.

And yes, when I am just being Mom, I am the boss, and he still has to wash his hands, etc

Cooking
Make muffins, cupcakes (from mix), and cookies (from storebought dough, we just decorate). There is a video that helped inspire him to want to make muffins, called the preschool power series..song is "nothing like a homemade muffin"..also in one maisy video maisy makes cupcakes... the key is to draw him out though..."Oh, you want cupcakes, what kind/ (chocolate or white?)" "Well, what do we need first? (the cake mix - or flour), what's next? "where is it?..." Ask him to get a chair, ask him to help mix, etc. Use dry measuring cups, ie a 1/4 cup or 1/3 cup to let them scoop batter into muffin cups. For even less mess, get the foil backed muffin liners and squish them into a cake pan and have the kids fill those.

Create problems
If child is thirsty, offer an empty cup or invite child to a tea party.
If child is hungry, open toy refrigerator and offer some food, pretend to cook, or ask if child will go to pretend market with you to get things to eat.If child want to leave, give pretend keys or a toy car, if child lies down on the floor or couch, get a blanket or pillow, turn off the lights, and sing a lullaby

Everyday situations
You can use Floortime/DIR concepts during all types of everyday situations. When we get to an elevator I ask him "what should mommy do?" and then I wait for him to say something ...like he might say "push button" and I might say "mommy do it?" and I reach for the button and wait, then he may say "nicholas do it."

Gestault learner
Our floortime/dir coach recommended that I "honor his gestault learning style" by using part of his chunk in my reply. For example...

He says " he puffed away said Thomas" I reply "Wait, before you puff away, can I have a ride?"

He says: "I want the red one." I reply: "Oh, you want the big fat red one."

Him: "He went into the tunnel said Toby." Me: "Oh the tunnel, let's go!"

This is working out very well...I am seeing less scripting during our play and much higher quality interaction, creative thinking. 

See the links  here for links and a description of Gestault learning.

Gestures
Try using more and bigger gestures during our play. Try “Sprinkling no talking dust” …so we pretend that we can’t talk for 10 minutes, we have to use gestures and facial expressions.

How much, how often?
The bottom line is that every bit of time that you can spend floortiming with your child will help ....having said that, here is our goal amount of floortime for my son at 3 and 4 years of age.

Symbolic play floortime is 1.5 - 2 hours a day, with me. Breaks include obstacle courses and short OT/sensory diet/execises.

 Incidental floortime, where we are making cupcakes together, bathtime, reading, etc is another 1-2 hours a day, often more. That's where we stretch out circles during daily living experiences, working on sequencing and why questions too.

 Sensory floortime is .5 to 1 hour a day at least. That's more like silly roughhousing kind of play and chase games, especially with dad or his brother.

Idea retrieval
Wait….also try a concrete absurd question…"you mean the dog ATE it?" "Is he going to put a zebra in his ear?"…well I guess I'll have to stand on my head. Note: you need to think up a reporitoire of these absurd statements in advance - otherwise you'll draw a blank when you need one :-)

Negotiating/planning
What are you going to do w/ it? When can I have it back? What do you want to do outside? Oh, swing, that''s WHY you want to go outside. Why 5? why not 4? why right now? Why not in J minutes? If you had x, where would you keep him? What would you do if you worked at a train station? do you think i should give you x? do you think i should let you have the whole box? why? Well I have a different idea, let's negotiate...my idea is xyz.

Numbers and letters
If your child loves numbers and letters and is between 2 and 4 years of age and not yet closing circles frequently, here are some ideas:

Getting ready: gather or make some additional number/letter toys - numbers/letters written on cards (ie with or without example pictures) or on puzzle pieces (here is the one that really helped us with circles in a similar stage http://www.areyougame.com/Interact/Alphabet_Floor_Puzzle__iMP10207.html - it's by masterPieces). Gather some additional crayons (different colors, types) and things to write on (different colors of paper, sizes, spiral notebooks, paper on a clipboard whatever)....Maybe some magnet letters for the refrigerator or a magnet board...you just what to have a couple of choices of number/letter related activities...but you don't need to buy out the store :-)

Then, I would set out 2 new number/letter toys attractively in the room where you play the most often...Maybe he will be attracted to these and that will start you on a new activities...like with the abc puzzle above I would just set out groups of letters at first and we talk about which letter came next (after he knew and loved the alphabet song)...and then he would pick a letter (ie A) and place it in the line (this alphabet puzzle is just one long puzzle). and then I'd say it's my turn...if he protested a lot I'd say...ok you can have another turn. If you couldn't remember the next letter then we'd sing the part of the alphbet song leading up...and we'd talk about the pictures on the puzzle pieces and at some point he decided to hide the piece that we needed next and I would pretend like it was my turn and I could'nt find it...and then we'd look everywhere and eventually find it..and I'd say "who played this silly joke? (hid the letter)"....also after the whole puzze was made I'd coax him to go get his dad to "come see my work"...and dad would be very impressed and ask silly questions, etc. .it's hard to explain...but this evolved into a fun activity where we closed many new circles.

Or, after he brings you the magnadoodle and asks you to draw, then pretend to press o to draw, but don't press hard enough, Oh...it's not working...have the crayons and paper near...see if you can coax him to want you to draw on paper. ...then, after he's happy w/ drawing on ppaer...lead up w/ more choices...should I draw on the white paper of the green paper...which the big crayon or the little crayon.

Maybe get the book "chicka chicka boom boom" and then introduce him to the way that the letters can be characters then take letters (ie magnet letters) and draw a tree and tape it to the refrigerator or magnet board and see if he will join you in play where the letters climb the tree (like the book).

draw letters/numbers outside on the fence or sidewalk with chalk...jump on the one you just drew - oh no, i am stuck help me off - then hold out your hand...laugh...see if he will playfully help you move...

 Another number related activity: For a sensory path/obstacle course in the yard... we lined up some bricks in the dirt in our side yard. And I wrote numbers on the bricks with markers (permanent)...because he likes to count. We sometimes play at taking turns walking across the bricks...there are about 30. They are spaced several inches apart and placed end to end. In some places there are 2 in parallel, so the path is wider. On the narrow parts of the path he walks one foot on a brick, one foot off. This is good for him too.

Playdates
Playdates are challenging to arrange, but they can be very helpful to our son's progress...Places that I have found good playdates for him:

Visiting a semi-busy park playground at the same time each week. Then you can get to know the regular parents and kids. The playground visit itself becomes like a playdate overtime. Bring a park bag full of fun social toys and snacks! You and your child may become popular quickly! Then, anytime (ie may only be 1x a month) your child seems to really build a rapport with another child at the park, invite them over.

School mates, especially typical kids...or kids that are mostly "graduated" from special ed are best in my experience, because as a parent I find it challenging enough to mediate with one special needs child involved!

Children of family friends. Neighbors. 

But the park idea has been the most successful for us to date!

Specific playdate ideas are in this excel file (homeideas.xls). And in the links area.

Playful obstruction
In stage 4: My x is better than your y, what makes your x better? You can do x, but first I'm going to y so I can x. zoom zoom. Well, I guess I'll drive the truck again.

See also controllingness

Progress- is s/he making enough?
The FEAS is helpful, you can see an example of a completed FEAS here:

And you can order a book all about the FEAS here http://icdl.com/icdlpubs.htm 

At the same site you can order the ABLC which can help with measuring progress and also gives you guidance on how often to re-eval per the matrices http://icdl.com/icdlpubs.htm 

But my best advice is to work with a floortime consultant, even if it’s just every 2 months that you mail them a video tape and then a phone consult, the consultant (ideally a Sr DIR clinician, which you can find with tips here http://www.floortime.org/therapist.htm  ). I have found that with a consultant’s guidance I am always certain of the progress he is making and I am filled to the brim with great ideas to work on for about 2 months.

Pretend Play (early pretend play)
We did a lot of representational pretend play / floortime style....And after a while, he just started to add in the imagination to symbolically use say 2 tinker toys crossed as a bow and arrow... 

I buy hats that represent any characters that he is interested in, ie robin hood, bob the builder etc. Also, Talbots in San Mateo sells foam swords that are terrific for both early pretend play and social interaction....I found the robin hood hat at <www.purcifuls-toys.com> ...Talbots also has some good standard (ie firefighter etc) pretend hats

We have a cool book with really cute matching characters called " Fairy Tale World, Goldilocks and the Three Bears" <http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/156010564X/>

The story of the 3 little pigs is a great one to act out. As we read it I would say "huff and puff and BLOW your house down" and I would blow and then fall over backwards and we would laugh. He still loves to read this and brings this idea into other play.

Pretend food is also great...buy some that looks like your children's favorite foods. Talbots has some really fun stuff.... pretend cake, pizza, all kinds of fruit, etc.

 And we have a big mouth puppet from <www.lakeshorelearning.com> that my son loves (but I have to manipulate) ...we have fun play where he feeds Tommy various foods And some things Tommy doesn't want so he says "bleah" etc...

 If you read Three Billy Goats Gruff, then later on the play structure at the park you can pretend like you are a troll and the bridge is the one in the story.

 Simple story lines are the easiest to start with. I remember well how much he wanted to act out thomas stories with his trains...but Thomas has so many complex stories I had a hard time helping him with those stories.

Pronoun reversal
"can I pick you up?" (wants to say "Can you pick me up"), Hold his hand and say I want YOU (touching his hand to my chest) to pick me (touching his hand to his chest) up?" …(and then pick him up). Or make a joke…you want to pick ME up? OK (pretend to jump into his arms)

Scared
If you think that he is scared, then he is already communicating, you can just respond, no need to recognize it with words. If you aren’t sure ask, “oh no, what happened?”..negative feelings are scary especially if you aren’t sure what it means. Once the anxiety is there, you have to take it on, tell the dinosaur to “back off” because…Mirror some of his gestures and heighten them, this will give him a little more to work on. Help to start provide a language for this feeling. Especially for words that don’t have a visual component (moving into abstraction). Think about why is he frightened/ Is it a theme, part of the relationship, ask a lot of different questions. Accept all feelings equally (ie negative and positive). Is there a good pirate? If all animals are treated differently, those are early symbols of nice and bad, etc.

Scripted train play
ie he puffed away said thomas: Wait, before you puff away, can I have a ride? (honor his gestalt learning style, use part of his chunk in my replay), I want the red one. Oh, you want the big fat red one. He went into the tunnel said Toby. Oh the tunnel, let's go

Scripting
Children teach themselves to read by memorizing scripts. If he starts with a script, relying on memory to sequence. But get in there and treat it as if it were a play. His big concern, he wants to know if you love it too, and will you go there with him. Then it will either go into a problem solving path (ie what she felt strongly about) or into a symbolic story. If you have the toys, go to the toys. If not, go to the drama. Whatever it is, play dumb, play naïve. You are supporting him. Then it will loosen up. Problem solving helps you solve new steps, rather than repeating old steps. 
See also Gestault learner.

Sentence fragment
If he says a sentence fragment (ie, want milk!), then I use his fragment but elaborate on it in my reply. OK, here is a TALL, COLD glass of milk.

Setup (the play space)
introduce the opportunity for him to want to expand his play themes, circulate in real experiences, books, toys (can be homemade): birthday parties, trip to the zoo, real tea party, see re-enacting stories too, trip to the grocery store - we need 3 apples (help him pick them as he sits in the cart, weigh them, ...), disnetland, camping, pony farm (not a crowded pony ride if he's easily overwhemed), farm/petting zoo, swimming pool, etc

Transition (child initiated)
Send up a trial balloon to try to get closure on the previous activity. wait a min, I'm confused, a minute ago you were x and now you're y… “oh don’t forget your cookies” “oh, you dropped this”…we make every effort to finish solving the current problem. Hey…wait for me! (if he drops something on the floor like a sock, make it into a puppet.

Tuning out
Oh, I feel left out, you're not talking to me (mad, very high affect). How come you won't answer/ (genuinely curious) I NEED to go to my office (urgent). I am scared of the spider! I am so excited about x. Yah hah hah, I am going to do a naughty trick....Wahhh, I hurt my foot (sad)

Wants something
What are you going to do with it? What story will we play? What is the beginning/middle/end? Who will play with it? Where is it? Which is your favorite? (if you have it, hide it ie under a pillow, play warm cold hot to find it) (if you don't have it try drawing a picture of it together and playing with the picture). hide object child desires in one hand or the other so that the child can choose. make desired toy/object a moving target (move from place to place). Treasure Hunt and use maps...Treasure hunt: don’t say: “it’s under your bed” say “it’s where you do you sleeping”…let the child do the thinking, work on the organization thru your daily routines. Problem solving becomes the foundation for reasoning. Are you ready? Is the park bag ready? Is the swim bag ready - whoops something's mising, how will you get dry? Are you ready to go outside - what will keep your feet warm and safe?

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