By Maude Le Roux, OTR/L, DIR® Expert
A ‘lazy’ therapist mobilizes the mind!
Therapists are taught, coached, and led to become experts at task analysis and goal setting while at school. It truly is a wonderful way of learning and certainly equips us to negotiate clinical thinking in whatever our field of expertise may be. We pride ourselves in being able to figure out fun and playful activities, and we love it when kids want to come and play with us. It really boosts the ego when we become one of their most favorite peeps!
Then along comes Floortime and we try to be everything at once. Gradually it dawns on us that even as it was great to learn the way we did, children go about it slightly differently! Entering a therapy room with no specific task in mind is quite a transformation as we have to follow the child’s lead. This requires observation and more time for clinical thinking rather than planning our usual succession of tasks. We have to think about where they are in their mind instead of the goals we would like for them to achieve.
Then, as they settle on their first idea, we have to re-think their activity and use Floortime techniques to scaffold them to just the next layer of challenge–only a bit further! At first, it is daunting to feel unprepared, but over time, oh how much time it saves in all the pre-planning we used to do! So hence the term, a Floortime therapist is also a ‘lazy’ therapist! In fact, the ‘lazier’ we become, the more effort the child has to give. We learn over time that children are hard-wired to grow up and develop their skills.
Children with developmental needs are no different in this regard. What is different, though, is that this child not only experiences the pressures of being delayed compared with their same-aged peers, but they also go through the stress of performance demand in our good intentions to support them to ‘catch up’!
Floortime works from the child’s point of view. Some of our therapists and families are so afraid that if we ‘let go’ of our agenda, the child will stagnate and not grow ‘fast’ enough. Therapists are afraid children will not reach their goals, and families are concerned with improving their ability to speak, write, do math, and learn to read, etc. These are valid fears and not to be minimized, but respected.
The truth is actually simple in its complexity. When we create a safe space, we also provide a container of safety within which the child’s nervous system has the opportunity to settle in a comfort zone of their own interest, which increases the natural instinct to intrinsic motivation. Once motivated, they go at it themselves, and as we follow, our mind has to negotiate that next step in mobilizing their mind to keep going forward, building those neuronal bridges as we play together.
In actual fact, they reach their goals faster and much happier than being pushed and prodded with all our good intentions in mind. So yes, a good Floortime therapist is ‘lazy’ in planning, but oh, not lazy in our heads! It is an ongoing stream of consciousness that is so rewarding, so touching, and so beautifully successful!