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Integration of DIR® Principals

Arrival/Free-Play/Floortime™ (DIR)
–    As children come into the clinic they are expected to put away their belongings independently into their cubbies, including: shoes, coat, and backpack. Once completed, they are to wash their hands/use restroom. Children then enter the therapy room to the floor/play area, and transition to morning meeting (circle).
–    Staff: Help facilitate appropriate interaction and play skills between children. Collect data if possible, while children are interacting naturally to avoid invalidating data.

Journals/Sign-In
–    Older children can be responsible for keeping a journal. They will be encouraged to write and draw about their experiences, including emotions, opinions, and reflections. Younger children can sign in, such as with their name or participate in this process during morning circle using visuals (child’s picture).

Daily Responsibility
–    The groups will have a job chart and be responsible for doing their jobs independently each day. Organization, pride, responsibility, sense of self and independence are a strong focus. This supports the children in feeling proud of their accomplishments, and encourages a sense of self worth, creating intrinsic motivation to be successful. (Note- not all classrooms utilize job charts).

Self-Help
–    As independence and having a strong sense of self are cornerstones of our program, self help goals or ADL’s (activities of daily living) will be set for each child and worked on daily. These goals range from simply unpacking backpacks, removing coats/shoes, grooming, toileting, snack preparation, and higher level responsibilities.

Morning Circle/Self Esteem/Self Expression
–    Greetings, peer awareness and interaction, music, emotions, abstract thinking (building bridges-sequencing-predicting), theory-of-mind, specific social and language skills, attention, and independence are all targeted during circle time.  The principles of DIR® are incorporated into every aspect of circle time.  For example, children are encouraged to engage in extended circles of interaction, abstract thinking, problem solving, etc.  Self esteem and sense of self are supported as the children are active participants in the group.  Children are seated in a semi-circle around the teacher.  Although, the children attend to one teacher, at times the children run activities themselves, taking turns at playing the teacher.  Additionally, all initiations made by the children during circle time are treated as purposeful and intentional.  This is a time for open discussion and sharing.  Therefore, a strict schedule is not always followed.
–    Children are encouraged to greet their peers and various songs/activities are used to increase peer awareness.  Some of these activities include “who came to school?” or “who is missing/at home?” As children get older, circle time focuses more on group discussions targeting specific social issues.  Language, self expression, consideration, empathy, theory of mind, abstract thinking, reasoning, problem solving, and reflection are encouraged.

Snack Time
–    Snack time is the perfect opportunity to build circles of interaction between staff and peers.  Language and socialization are both targeted during this highly motivating time.  Children are encouraged to ask their friends to share or trade snacks.  Commenting and joking are facilitated during this time.

Floortime™ (DIR®): Play Skills/Peer Play/Regulation Games
–    Floortime™ : This is the time for individual “Floortime™ ” sessions.  “Floortime™ ” is a philosophy developed by Dr. Greenspan and Dr. Wieder.  This approach allows therapists to interact with the child at his/her level, which teaching through meaningful interactions.  The basis of DIR® is to help children achieve regulation through relationships while providing them with the foundations needed for all learning.  These foundations include: the ability to sustain attention to activities and interactions, engage in interactions through a range of emotions, develop adapting and coping strategies, be initiators of independent ideas, and have the ability to sequence these ideas in meaningful ways, develop a good sense of self and the ability to string together ideas and social interactions to problem solve, to think and play symbolically and understand emotions, to use creativity and imagination to think abstractly, reason and problem solve.  Individual, specific language, social, behavioral and academic goals are layered upon these foundations.  All goals are targeted through motivating, experience-based interactions with staff and peers.
–    Every child has a program book based on their classroom assessments and staff observations.  This book contains specific therapeutic goals for each area of development.  Data is taken on all skills and monitored closely by each classroom staff.  Children are moved through the steps of each program based on data and their ability to generalize skills to all environments.
–    Additionally, transition skills are worked on to support children transitioning to less restrictive environments.  For example, if a child is having trouble raising their hand in circle time in their mainstream classroom, that skill will be taught and reinforced on an individual basis to make the mainstream experience more successful.

Semi-Structured Play/Peer Play/Play Skills
–    Specific play and social skills are taught using a hierarchy based on the curriculum.  Introductory skills include finding hidden objects, peek-a-boo games, and physical games such as chase, symbolic play and turn taking.  More advanced skills include imaginary plays, sustained interactions and group games.  Skills are taught in the same areas the children use them and centers are also developed with specific tasks (sensory- fine motor, pre-acedemic-number identification).  Staff takes on the role of the child and play at their developmental level modeling specific skills.  Activities are based on the child’s natural motivations and incorporate familiar themes.  For example, children use dolls to act out familiar afternoon and evening activities.  Once children become more independent in their play, staff members facilitate sustained peer play and are eventually faded out completely.

Language Programs/Speech & Language
–    Speech and language is a part of every component of the program but targeted most intensively during speech and Floortime™ /DIR® sessions.  Visuals are often used to teach and support children with auditory processing difficulties.  Specific language goals from the program’s curriculum follow a hierarchy of typical language development with a heavy emphasis on age-appropriate social language.
–    Each child’s learning style is unique.  This is assessed and considered when setting language goals and assigned specific language programs.  Programs range from purely experience-based learning experiences targeting specific language to very structured language lessons. The specific goals are created by therapists consulting with the child’s specialists (SLP, OT, PT, etc.). Related services are offered to all children.

Independent Seat Work
–    The only goal of this activity is independence, pride and developing a sense of self. This is not a time to teach new skills or insist perfection. Independent task completion, self regulation, listening skills and following group instructions are skills targeted to prepare children for less restrictive environments. Children are expected to independently listen to directions, retrieve work materials, bring them to their desks, complete their work and return them when done.
–    Staff- Recognizing their accomplishments and sharing them with others when finished is encouraged. We focus on the process.
–    Note- if a child is not able to benefit from this lesson, they are removed to receive one-on-one Floortime™ with a therapist and reintroduced to the group when ready.

Academics (Pre-Academics)

–    Academic goals are incorporated into age-appropriate goals, based on each child’s developmental level. Goals incorporate DIR® experience based learning, and include breaking down concepts into smaller steps, and the use of visuals. Socialization, creativity, problem solving, and abstract thinking are also infused into every learning experience. As soon as the children are ready they are introduced to academic activities that mirror the mainstream environment. Independence is encouraged during these activities.
–    Staff- Incorporates activities that target the different levels and learning styles of the children. Visuals, sensory materials and activities, music and movement are often the part of academic lessons.
–    Note- if a child is not able to benefit from this lesson, they are removed to receive one-on-one Floortime™ with a therapist and reintroduced to the group when ready.

Lunch/Snack/Facilitated Peer Interactions
–    Snack time is the perfect opportunity to build circles of interaction between the staff and peers. Language and socialization are both targeted during this highly motivating time. Children are encouraged to ask their friends to share or trade food (staff is made aware of children with food allergies). Commenting and joking are facilitated at this time.
A speech therapist may consult during this time and/or provide a separate feeding group or consults if this is a challenge for any child.
Group Floortime™ /Social Skills
–    Peer awareness and interaction, abstract thinking (building bridges, sequencing, predicting), problem solving, emotions, theory of mind, specific social and language skills, attention and independence are all targeted during this time. Specific social and language skills are systematically targeted throughout the year. Skills are extensively covered using social stories, role play, videos, books, and experience-based activities. Children are encouraged to generalize the skills outside of circle or the group.
–    Staff: Facilitation of these skills followed by verbal reinforcement assist this process.

Abstract Thinking/Sequencing/Problem-Solving
–    The main goal of this time is to help children become independent thinkers. If they are able to think on their feet, they can do anything. Often children engage in inappropriate behaviors, lack social and language skills, or may seem self absorbed due to poor understanding of the world around them. These deficits are targeted through critical thinking activities. The ability to think abstractly, sequence and problem solve are crucial to being an independent thinker and understanding the world.  Activities used t target these skills include sequencing events using visuals and toys, understanding cause and effect through thought provoking activities, problem solving and story analysis through role play, social stories, and games.
–    Note- if a child is not able to benefit from this group lesson, they are removed to receive one-on-one Floortime™ with a therapist and reintroduced to the group when ready.

Visualize and Verbalize
–    Nanci Bell identified “visualization as a primary factor to basic language comprehension and critical thinking.” Activities requiring the verbalization of visuals in the mind are used to target this skill. Children are required to describe something from memory including visual descriptions, tastes, smell, touch, sounds, and emotions related to the topic. These activities are based on each child’s individual abilities and become progressively more challenging as they improve.
–    Note- if a child is not able to benefit from this group lesson, they are removed to receive one-on-one Floortime™ with a therapist and reintroduced to the group when ready.

Emotions/Art/Creativity
–    Emotions are targeted throughout the year. Because we believe all learning is emotionally based, this area of instruction is priority. Instruction includes extensive lessons on specific emotions. Teaching children to recognize and respond to emotions in self and others through experience based learning promotes independent generalization of skills. Enabling the children to acquire a good understanding of their own emotions, and encouraging awareness of peers’ emotions, leads to recognizing the motivations behind others’ emotions (theory of mind). The concepts of cause and effect and problem solving are targeted, emphasizing their relationship to emotions. Emotion lessons include discussions, books, videos, puppet shows, role play, and games. The emotion lesson is always a favorite.
–    The art activities during this group focus on the child’s ability to think abstractly and express themselves from their own imagination. In conjunction with this program, children learn to copy simple shapes from a model, trace shapes and simple pictures independently, fill in the missing details of a picture, develop an understanding of prepositions, and learn to follow verbal directions. The older children are encouraged to expand on detail and perspective in their pictures. As they become better artists, models and prompts are taken away and their imagination takes over.
–    Different sensory modalities are incorporated into every activity. Self expression is encouraged during this time. The children are encouraged to share their work with others. When they explain what they have done, the children are challenged to give purpose behind the choices they have made. Once again, cheering for students fully expressing their individuality is a regular occurrence.

Theory of Mind
–    Theory of mind is the ability to understand another person’s point of view. The understanding of what someone else might be thinking is an ability that typically develops around the age of five. However, some children do not develop this independently, and must be taught. These skills are targeted through role play, puppet shows, videos, books, social stories, and worksheets.

Regulation/Music
–    Many children have difficulty with regulation and the ability to maintain rhythmic interactions with others. This is often the result of a sensory processing difficulty that makes organizing incoming information difficult. Shared Timing™ activities are also incorporated when appropriate, where children engage in a turn-taking activity with another person. This can be play on a drum, jumping on a trampoline, jingling bells, etc. The idea is to get back and forth rhythm with the other person. In the beginning, no language is required, but can be added to target specific language and conversation skills.
–    Staff: Throughout the day, staff encourages well regulated back and forth interactions.

Exercise/Yoga/Regulation
–    Children should be warned of the activity five minutes prior to cleaning up and getting together. The goal of this activity is to get the blood flowing and bring body and mind together. Using music during this time is encouraged. Exercise, stretching, yoga, rhythm and timing activities.
–    Staff Note: Use the music that works best with your class to achieve the type of regulation you are looking for.  For very young children it is important to keep the exercises very short and keep the momentum going.  Finally, when possible, make exercises cooperative, requiring the children to interact in a rhythmic way with staff or peers.

Relaxation/Imagery
–    During this time, mats are laid out for the students to lie down as relaxing music is played in the background.  Students are encouraged to focus on breathing and participate in using visual imagery (closing eyes and picturing a scenario the teacher describes in a calm soothing voice).  A child’s form of yoga often follows to help students release built up tension or anxiety, which allows everyone to start the day fresh and renewed.

Thinking Goes to School/Motor Planning
–    Activities are done daily based on the book Thinking Goes to School by Hans G. Furth and Harry Wachs.  This book is Piaget’s theory in practice and teachers thinking through experience.  The activities target improving general movement thinking, discriminative moment thinking, visual thinking, auditory thinking, hand thinking, graphic thinking, social thinking, and problem solving.
More on Motor Planning and Exercise:
–   Obstacle courses are set up to target regulation, motor planning and sequencing.  Another goal of this activity is to enhance self expression/esteem by encouraging pride in independence and showing off.  Cheering for students fully expressing their individuality is a regular occurrence.  We provide games that challenge students to self regulate in a fun and playful manner.  For instance, we will play an adapted “Follow the Leader,” where students will do what the leader is doing (jump, run, skip) but be able to stop/start, go fast/slow, etc.  According to the leader’s command.

Technology
–    Many of the children in the program benefit from the use of technology in learning and interacting. 
This may include some or all of the below:
–    Computer with adaptive technology
–    Augmentative communication device (iPad)

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