Friday, April 27, 2018

See Floortime Strategies in Action!


Daria Brown has posted a wonderful description and video of herself as a parent working with her child and then reflecting with our director, Dr. Andrea Davis, on how to apply Floortime strategies for her child's new developmental goals. 

Daria had originally blogged a video of Floortime with her son two years ago and then podcasted our mutual demonstration of the core Floortime Strategy of Parental Self-Reflection.  In that first blog, she shared her parent journal and her poignant "aha" moments learning about herself in the experience of Floortime with her son. 

Now, Daria has released a second video that beautifully presents the developmental progress her son has achieved through Floortime.  Along with the reflective discussion of how to apply higher strategies, this blog post portrays how she is using Floortime to help her son climb further up the developmental ladder:  

http://affectautism.com/2018/02/05/floortime-strategies/


Mom (Daria) and son





Wednesday, November 1, 2017

The Power of Floortime at School

 -- by Lauren Masopust, MA, MFT Intern and Andrea Davis, Ph.D., Founder/Director


Going to school can be a massive challenge for many students with special needs. However, with so many possibilities to connect creatively with peers, encounter new ideas and practice regulation in the face of challenges, school is an awesome opportunity for working on social-emotional development! Here’s how the DIR/Floortime (Developmental, Individual Differences, Relationship-based) model can provide a different sort of classroom aide or 1:1 behavioral support: rather than focusing on simply preventing misbehaviors or directing the child to produce “appropriate” behaviors, it provides a framework of the sequence of normal developmental steps to guide the aide’s support for the child or adolescent’s developmental accomplishments in each moment of challenge or opportunity.



At the very beginning of life, an infant must learn to regulate its body in order to be able to pay attention to the world.  Echoing this early life task, the DIR-informed aide first looks to support the child or teen's state regulation. Utilizing information from the child's individual differences profile, the aide helps the student develop effective means of achieving a calm or alert state to be ready to pay attention to the world, i.e., engage with others and with the curriculum. The goal of a Floortime-trained aide is not only to have the child behave appropriately in the moment, but to learn to notice how they are feeling, accept support, and eventually seek support as needed.  At first an aide can be more explicit in offering breaks, proprioceptive joint/muscle input ("squeezes"), or other self-regulating activities. Soon the child begins to internalize these co-regulatory successes with a sensitive, attuned adult so that more and more often he or she can remember to self-monitor and think of solutions such as, “I can ask for a break when it gets too noisy” or  “I can stand up and walk to the water cooler to get some water when my body starts to feel too sleepy.” Often, Floortime support at school includes asking non-judgmental and curious questions to incite self-monitoring, self-awareness, or mindfulness, such as "what is your body needing?" or "how are you feeling right now?" In these ways and others, the student also learns to distinguish between appropriate ways to up-regulate or down-regulate in different contexts, such as being silly with friends outside during recess or focusing on the teacher’s lesson in the classroom.

Once infants learn to become regulated, they are only then able to move on to the next developmental stage of engaging with others around them. The same is true for every person in every new setting; we need to first be regulated before we can satisfyingly engage with others.  So the second step is for a Floortime-trained classroom aide to help a student experience the joy of engaging in parallel and collaborative interaction with peers.  With a developmental approach (vs. a “social skills” approach), the child learns organically that playing with friends and staying with the group feels much better than isolating, fixating on predictable objects, and/or playing out old familiar scripts. The child feels the natural motivation to figure out the unpredictable world of playground politics, such as how to join peers in games or conversations and how to woo peers to play their preferred game. Additionally, with attuned, sensitive adult support, the student learns how to regain a regulated state when conversations or games do not go as planned (i.e., much of the time!).  Thus, a the aide facilitates robust peer engagement that leads the child or teen through the next developmental steps of working on resilience, communication, collaboration, creating original ideas, emotional comprehension, and logic.

While providing hundreds of hours of Floortime support in the school environment, we have found this experience to be much like riding a wave.  The model teaches us how to spot the ideal sized wave of opportunity appearing on the horizon. We follow the child’s lead up the front of the wave to increase regulation and engagement until we see that “gleam in the eye” from the child that says, “I'm engaged, I'm motivated, so I’m ready for more.”  On our way to the crest of the wave, we add the just-right challenge until it almost starts to be too difficult, and then ride the wave back down together to help regain that regulation and engagement.  


In comparison, using DIR/Floortime strategies at home is more like riding a wave in a wave pool.  In some aspects, we can expect and control the size and frequency of the waves that come our family’s way. The parents can set the routine, the schedule, the rules, and the family culture.  With attunement, the parents can also incorporate flexibility or boundaries in the home environment that are uniquely tailored to the child they know and love so intimately.


If Floortime at home is like a wave pool, then Floortime at school is more like the ocean.  The environment is much less predictable.  There are many children on the playground, with many conflicting individual differences and preferences.  The waves may come and go more unexpectedly, as the environment is not always structured in a way the student is used to or prefers.  Furthermore, there are specific goals, rules, and expectations at school that may be different from a child’s home environment.  However, herein lies the beauty of Floortime at school. Floortime support does not require the waves to be predictable.  In fact, it teaches us how to capitalize on the unexpected or unfamiliar nature of the school environment to practice co-regulation and to encourage connection with peers.

For sure, being surrounded by peers at school can be dysregulating or frustrating to many students with special needs, it can also provide very powerful motivation to learn and grow.  Human beings are born pre-wired for emotional connection. It is our human condition to long for a sense of connection and belonging. (See The Healing Power of Emotion:  Affect in the Field of Affective Neuroscience and Interpersonal Neurobiology.)  A child with special needs may not always present this longing in a neurotypical fashion. The DIR approach helps us decode the child’s sometimes difficult-to-interpret behaviors and bridges the gap between the child's desires for emotional connection and the school social environment.  When the Floortime aide serves as the playful link between student and peers, the child with special needs can fulfill the most deep, innate desires we all have: to connect with others and to belong.  


Thursday, December 3, 2015

On saying goodbye to students….



I am excited to share with you some more of the most moving goodbyes from one of our amazing therapists,  Cynthia Davis, Ph.D., on the deeper implications of the process of saying goodbye to our dearly loved therapist trainees at Greenhouse Therapy Center….

"As I think of each of you who are moving on to new placements (or who have already moved on), I feel a quick and surprising pang of missing you.  In some cases, it makes sense to me since I have had weekly contact with you, in some cases for many years. In other cases, I have only had occasional contact with you personally, although perhaps I have heard about you through the other supervisors. While I can talk about why I will miss those I see weekly, I find myself reflecting on the general feeling of 'missing' you in the context of our connection through Greenhouse Therapy Center.

"Missing implies that a connection has been made, and in our case there has been connection through our mutual involvement at Greenhouse. I remember when I first started my graduate program at Fuller and met these tender, passionate people that were my colleagues and mentors -- I felt I had rounded a corner and come face to face with my own self. I feel this same feeling with each of you as you have joined us here at Greenhouse to be part of the mission of this place.  It is simplistic to say, but I have enjoyed the sometimes fun, sometimes painful, sometimes exhilarating, sometimes plodding, sometimes rapid revealing of your talents and hearts and uniqueness.

"I think when we connect with a place it has to do with feeling there is a resonance between what we hope to do at that place and what feels like our 'call' or purpose. At Greenhouse, this resonance may be over a love for children, or a feeling of intellectual stimulation, or a belief in the importance of a developmental perspective, or just an enjoyment of the other people here. Such a resonance can contribute to feeling a sense of being at 'home' in its truest sense: a familiarity that leads to an encounter with a deeper sense of self than we might feel in other contexts. And when we feel that resonance, there is a shared joy that makes our own joy in our work ring more clearly, echo more deeply.
            
"When we resonate with each other and work together on a joint project, there emerges a sense of belonging as well. In the healthiest sense of belonging, we find in each other something familiar--somehow as we see the other, we can see ourselves better too. We identify with each other and sometimes can explore parts of ourselves we hadn’t noticed before or hadn’t valued before. And again, in the safest and clearest of relationships, we can be regulated and explore new aspects of ourselves and feel our own nuances, our own flexibility, our own ability to address challenging feelings and experiences, and our own special strengths.  All of this is the work of identity-building. And connection, resonance and a sense of belonging are the soil for this growth. In the end, it may be that one way to think of identity from a dyadic perspective is to imagine an accumulation of belongings, meaning a multiplicity of selves-in-connection that are uniquely integrated and valued in each individual.
            
"This growth of self is a two-way street. You may be hearing me say that I have enjoyed watching you grow, and that is by all means true. But I also want to acknowledge that having this connection with you has helped me grow and explore myself more deeply as well. It is part of the beauty of resonance: that we all feel ourselves more deeply when resonance is there.
            
"But then there is another aspect of being connected to each other. It is a bit more challenging to embrace, yet equally full of joy when we do embrace it.  When we are in relationship there are times when we do not entirely resonate with each other.  These are beautiful individual differences, and yet sometimes they lead us in separate directions.  And it is a good thing to separate and move into new contexts and with new people. Our identities grow as we feel many experiences of belonging, many places we can pursue the things about which we are passionate.  It is important because ultimately, as we experience ourselves in a more differentiated way, we find that we can be at home within ourselves, and carry that sense of home and safety through all our interactions. And yet that separation brings the “missing” feeling.  The resonating bell does not ring in the same way for a time, and this is a loss. This is a loss.
            
"But in the identity building that we have done together, we also will be forever connected.  Brain research teaches us that the unique qualities of our relationships shape our brains, even in our adult lives. Perhaps we can find a metaphor for our lasting connection in this assertion of our impact in the material world. As mentors, we also have the hope that you will be able to sort out our best selves from the background noise of our own neurotic psyches and take with you something solid and sustaining.  Frederich Nietzche once wrote, 'The most fortunate author is one who is able to say as an old man that all he had of life-giving, invigorating, uplifting, enlightening thoughts and feelings still lives on in his writing, and that he himself is only the gray ash, while the fire has been rescued and carried forth everywhere.' In a similar way, I  hope that as my material presence in your lives recedes, what is good---fiery (producing warmth, available to gather around when the world seems cold, present to add energy as you try to transform things that don’t work into things that might work better)---will be carried forward into your future.
                        
"So, I will miss you! I do miss you already! Thank you for all that you have given to your clients, your families, and to the growth and development of Greenhouse. Thank you for your passion and commitment. Thank you for sharing this part of your life with us.  It has been a blessing. 

Enjoy your next steps.
Carry fire with you.
Leave deep footprints wherever you go. 
Say with confidence, 'It mattered that I was here.'

There may be others who will use your fire and your footprints to find their way home."

--- Cynthia Davis, Ph.D.
    Licensed Psychologist and Supervisor at Greenhouse Therapy Center
            

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Let's Talk...Greenhouse Responds to Sandy Hook

Written by Cynthia Davis, Ph.D., licensed psychologist on our staff, for our quarterly newsletter, "Seedlings":


"We want to extend our condolences to the families of the victims of the tragic shooting at Sandy Hook School in Connecticut.  A month has passed since this heartbreaking, unthinkable event occurred, and while the initial shockwaves it sent across our nation may have slowed, the aftershocks are as real and powerful.  It will take time and caring, thoughtful discussion to process its meaning for each of us as individual people, as families, as institutions, and as communities.
        
As members of this community whose members include children and adolescents with autism, their families, and providers of services, we have been especially aware of the impact of media reports that the shooter, Adam Lanza, may have had various diagnoses such as a personality disorder, Asperger’s, or high-functioning autism.  These reports seemed to lead to an assumption that a diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder, or a mental health disorder, might be causally linked to violence. This stigma, and the fear of the stigma, filled the internet for many days after the shooting. We want to join our voice with the voices of others who have made it clear that autism was not and is not the “cause” of violence.  As the American Psychological Association has stated, violence is a learned behavior, not a symptom of a disorder. And the American Psychiatric Association made clear, the vast majority (96%) of violent crimes are committed by persons who do not have a mental disorder.
        
While we may not be directly connected to the families at Sandy Hook, we still will have our response to this trauma from a distance. Parents attending our January 14th Fireside Chat at Greenhouse on this topic shared their personal responses including fear for their children’s future acceptance by others.  We all want our children to feel a sense of belonging and acceptance with others, but we fear they may be stigmatized out of fears and misunderstandings.  Some parents fear having teachers or other parents misunderstand their children’s expressions of frustration or grief and quickly jump to assumptions that their children may be violent.  And some expressed fear for the future when they have difficulty now helping their children manage strong negative feelings.  Fear naturally arises when you don’t know what to do to help a child you dearly love. Then when you peer into the future when your child will be bigger and stronger, this fear can make it hard to chart a calm course for helping your child.  It is hard to hope when you are scared. 
        
Here are some suggestions for “staying the course” with yourself and your child:
1)  Reassure yourself that even in the midst of such media and internet storms, there are many people out there who think carefully and love well. They will be available to help advocate for your children and for you.  Look for them, talk with them, be one of them!

2)  Remember that hope can come from taking the “long view.”  A difficult day with your child or for your child today does not dictate future disasters.  You can reflect on the difficulties, by yourself or with someone you trust, and make wise and loving decisions that will make things better in the long run.

3)  Empathy makes a difference.  Keep working to help your children learn to regulate their feelings.  The DIR/Floortime Coalition of California advocates that we focus on “parenting skills that emphasize empathy, understanding children’s individual profiles, anticipating anxieties, and dealing with discipline in a way that does not lead into power struggles.” It may take some time, but consistently working to understand children, to help them “feel felt,” can build their emotional regulation.

4)  Practice advocacy.  Sometimes, when you are in a situation where your child is criticized or misunderstood, it feels too hard to stick up for him in a positive and firm way.  It can help to come up with a few lines that you can practice ahead of time and have ready in your “back pocket” for situations such as these. 

5)  Help children anticipate that there are people available to help them by:
a. Recognizing that they need help when they seem disregulated, and helping others around the child to recognize this too.
b. Having the child practice ways to cope in situations that are likely to be anxiety-provoking, such as asking for help during those situations, and then celebrating successes afterward.
c. Participating in communities where empathy and caring are strong values.

6)  Remember that our children may process things differently from “neurotypical” children.  They may be drawn to graphic details in stories, not because they like those details, but because they fear them and need help processing distressing memories or fears.  They may need you to talk with them while they are “doing” something else because an active body helps manage strong feelings.  They may need to use strong words at first, and then gradually learn to refine those words.  They may need you to “see” their struggles because words are not an adequate expression of their affect.


You will probably have many more ideas of your own.  Please share them with us!  Most of all, we want to encourage open, reflective dialogue with each other about this issue, and whatever issues may have arisen for you in this last challenging month.  Let’s talk…."

Cynthia Davis, Ph.D., Licensed Clinical Psychologist








        
         

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Floortime Conference Hits with Force

The DIR/Floortime Coalition of California 2nd Annual Conference and Gala in Burbank, California hit us with a 'big bang' on October 20th, 2012.  It didn't create an explosion, but it sure hit with impact.  How did it makes its force felt?

First, the first-hand accounts from young adults with autism revealed how Floortime developmental therapy is viewed and experienced by those who have been recipients.  These three panelists enthralled our 250-size audience of therapists and parents for the entire time they shared their perspectives on their autism and their success. These self-posessed young men were nervous in front of so large a crowd but overcame nerves and in the process showed themselves to be poignant, articulate, and funny.  With wit and self-awareness, one of the three revealed his admitted over-focus on his favorite pastime: game shows. Later he surprised and delighted the audience by his answer to a question about his career aspirations: maybe you guessed it--he intends to become a game show host!  He had so entertained everyone by this point that we could imagine his success in the role.  Questions kept coming in waves from us therapists in the audience on little white cards, often centering on the burning question: what do you think helped you most?  We were surprised and humbled to hear that it was their parents who got the most credit from these young people throughout the panel discussion!  Apparently, the efforts of supportive parents do not go unnoticed.

Second, the groundbreaking news from the researcher with the York University study of the efficacy of autism, Devin Casenheiser, encouraged us with the news that randomized controlled trial results do demonstrate statistically significant and profound advantage of developmental therapy (DIR/Floortime) over applied behavior analysis for fostering meaningful change in children.




Third, I had the honor of preparing a panel of Floortime parents to give talks and show videos about Floortime intervention across the years in their homes with their children.  These parents blew us away with their profound insights on the impact of Floortime on their families.  They talked about how Floortime helped them see and deeply accept their children, how it helped them value the relationship with their child, how it helped the siblings become part of the therapy and to become close to the child with autism, how it taught them to use daily experiences to be playful and interactive, how it helped them see that there was real meaning in each child's difficult behaviors that one day were explained by the child!  I was really shocked at the depth of understanding.  One parent even explained how, despite this realization being rather unbelievable to herself, she is actually grateful for her daughter having autism because it led her to becoming a Floortime parent which has changed herself, her marriage, her parenting, her deep appreciation for her daughter, as well as changing her daughter!! We all learned that parents are the best advocates and preachers of the gospel of DIR. No Floortime professional or parent should miss out next year on the 3rd Annual DIR/Floortime Coalition of California--too big an opportunity to miss!

Finally, in the evening we all had fun at our dinner/ dance/ winetasting/ auction Gala raising desperately needed funds to keep DIR/Floortime available for families in California to choose for their child.  We went out with a bang, because the big speaker was Anthony Rich, Assistant Director on the megahit tv show, The Big Bang Theory!  He spoke about what it has meant to so many fans with autism to have a top show with a protagonist to whom they can really relate.  The evening's most exciting auction item was a bonanza of Big Bang show items donated and signed by the cast and producers of Big Bang.  It was a terribly important conference on the impact of Floortime and it sure hit home!

Monday, October 1, 2012

Greenhouse Summer Newsletter

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Seeds...for growing people. Greenhouse Therapy Center Newsletter- Summer 2012
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Floortime Anytime!

Summer is a great time to get out in the sunshine and create a fun experience for your child. Whether you’re in your back yard or at the Zoo remember, you can do Floortime anywhere and at anytime.

While in the backyard, try incorporating your child’s favorite (or most challenging) sensory experiences into the play by including water, paint, or music. *

If you’re going on an outing (especially to a new place) prepare for success by talking about what the experience could be like and imagining/planning together.


*see Floortime Strategies curriculum page B.6


Reader's Corner

Want to do something fun and therapeutic for your kids? The Out-of-Sync Child Has Fun is a great resource for activities that address a variety of sensory needs. Carol Stock Kranowitz is an Occupational Therapist who details fun and family-friendly activities that can be used in or out of Floortime sessions.

Seeds...for growing people

Greenhouse Newsletter

Summer 2012


Seedlings....

Thoughts from Dr. Andrea Davis, Director and Founder of Greenhouse Therapy Center


Congratulations! You are reading the very first Greenhouse newsletter, so you are making yourself a part of a new season of happenings at Greenhouse.  We are breathless from all the growth and change happening around our place, but we are deeply satisfied to hear of all the growth and change happening around YOUR place, meaning growth in you and in your children!  What do staff talk about when we meet up in the halls or kitchen office or on the sidewalk? Your childrens' growth!  Often we will stop calling folks back/typing email replies/writing session notes to savor together a moment from a Floortime playgroup where the kids astounded us with a major step forward in relationality or self-reflective ability. This is what excites us, this is what makes the long hours and the heavy workload all feel manageable. Now we are facing big uncertainties in how Regional Center funding will go with the new autism insurance bill in effect. We want to face these uncertainties in a DIR-inspired way: with flexibility, creativity, and togetherness! In that spirit, we will gather at Greenhouse on Wednesday night, August 29th (RSVP below) to hear from a local special needs attorney to help us navigate the new law together.  AND we want to celebrate the new release of research supporting what we already have known for so long (Floortime changes brains, changes families) at the October 20th DIR Conference.  In addition to hearing from the keynote speaker about his research study at York University, we'll have a parent panel, young adult panel, professional presentations, book signings, lunch, you name it, its not-to-be-missed.  Regional Center has vendored the conference, so some parents may get authorization to get funding to cover the registration! See details below and register to grab the early bird discount before 9/1. Families and staff at Greenhouse, we appreciate you and want to keep learning and growing together always.


Floortime Funding

August 29th, 2012- 7pm
Greenhouse is hosting an informational night to help parents navigate funding for services. Special needs lawyer (and father of a child with autism), Joseph Lee will be speaking. This is an essential opportunity for all Greenhouse families!
Email ashley.m.wilkins@gmail.com or call 626.765.1747 to RSVP.


Don't Miss Local DIR Conference

October 20th, 2012
The 2nd Annual Southern California DIR conference in Burbank is a great opportunity for parents and professionals to gather together and connect while learning more about the latest developments in the world of DIR/Floortime. Click here for more information.


Copyright © 2012 Greenhouse Therapy Center
685 E. California Blvd. Pasadena, CA 91106

626-795-7910
Find more information on our website: GreenhouseTherapyCenter.com







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