The DIR Model, originated by Drs. Stanley /Greenspan and Serena Wieder, has to do with the philosophy and theoretical foundations of the method.  DIR stands for Developmental capacities; Individual processing differences; Relationship [-based] intervention.  Floortime can be considered the body of techniques founded on the principles of DIR.

Developmental Capacities

This has to do with the child’s current levels of intellectual, perceptual, motor, communication and social-relationship capacities that they can bring to bear for “acting on the world” (i.e. problem solving).  Typically, children we see are very unevenly developed, and have trouble integrating these capacities in order to go from an idea, a feeling, or an intention to actualization or realization of their “intention.”  Subsequently, some children have difficulties forming intentions in the first place, and they appear to wander aimlessly or behave as if they are uninterested in the world.  At the other end of the spectrum – another adaptation to this unevenness, is the child that has difficulty being flexible and incorporating new information (e.g., changes; input from others).

Individual Processing differences

This has to do with the assessment of how the child perceives, comprehends and reacts to different situations.  We look at how they process input (sensation, arousal, awareness, and the making of meaning from what they take in through their senses – from simple sensation and arousal – to complex and symbolic ideas).  We look at how they react (output): how they use their attention and how they execute steps of responding.  In typical function in any environment that involves some level of change, input and output processes must work in tandem and in synchrony.  When they do not, the child is at risk for what DIR refers to as “affect diathesis” (see the Article: affect_diathesis_hypothesis) – or the difficulty going from intention to action and vice versa.


Like other relationship-based models, DIR emphasizes building capacities not only for relating, but deeper than that.  Simple relating can be restricted to instrumental situations, where the child’s only interest in interaction is to get help or something else that they want.  Other than that, they have little desire or knowledge of how to be more “connected” than that.  Floortime is an excellent body of techniques to promote “connectedness;” traits such as warmth; the desire to share experiences with others; the capacities for intersubjectivity, which involve knowing one’s own subjective state and being able to communicate it to others, as well as developing perspectives of other people’s subjective experience.  DIR seeks to develop capacities for the child to engage in long chains of continuous, spontaneous and warm social interaction, as opposed to the brief and mainly instrumental style of relating that comes from “learned and rehearsed” responses.


DIR is based on a model of typical development.  It is important for Floortime partners to know how to bring the child up the ladder of development and why the skill foundations at each stage are so important.  Without this, intervention can be scattered and not systematic.  Read more…

Techniques Used in Floortime

Floortime refers to the body of techniques developed from the DIR principles.  This paper gives parents and professionals an overview of the techniques: what they are; what they’re for, and how they work.  Read more…

More articles on DIR and Floortime Techniques 


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