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!

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