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Stanley Greenspan's Floortime: Is it effective?

From a discussion group list:

I read the Greenspan/Wieder book, attended a "Floor Time" training session, and implemented a full Floor Time therapy program with my son. We even went so far as to remove all the furniture from our living room and to place fun toys/activities around the edges of the play carpet. We turned off the TV (haven't turned it back on yet--four years and counting!), turned on the answering machine, and played with our son10-14 hours a day for almost 18 months. I am NOT exaggerating! I even hired a speech path graduate student to play with him 10-15 hours a week to give me a break. The result? Nothing. It was a waste of time! (Read on, I have some good things to say about it later.)

Fortunately, we then began an ABA program. In only two weeks of ABA/Lovaas, my previously non-verbal son gained 75 words and was using two-word sentences within a month. Now, with ABA/AVB, my son is conversational and social and is fully mainstreamed (still has an aid to help him, but we're fading her out). PLEASE do not recommend Floor Time for beginning children. You will lose critical time!

On the other hand, once a parent and therapists become proficient at AVB/DTT and NET, reading Greenspan's book can enhance the sessions. He and Wieder have some nice tips regarding approach, etc. However, as a therapy program by itself (without intensive AVB), it's worthless! All that focus on connecting with the child is reminiscent of Bettleheim and is not helpful without ABA. Remember, ABA --good ABA-- focuses on motivation. If a child is motivated and given info in a format he/she can understand, he/she WILL learn. Greenspan would have you believe that the child can learn normally, but is afraid to try. The parent is made to believe that his/her failure to play effectively is the root problem.

I know many parents of autistic children. I have NEVER met a child who improved in a Floor Time-only program. In fact, when I called the woman in charge of organizing a Greenspan conference about a year ago, I had to ask her to call me back because her child screamed continuously during the first fifteen minutes of my call. When she called back later, I was horrified (but not surprised) to learn from her that she'd been "doing" Floor Time with her son for two years! She said she didn't implement an ABA program because Floor Time was "much more wonderful!" The sad part of this story is that we live in a state with excellent funding for ABA programs and she's wasted her son's time. When I asked her about language, etc., she told me he did have words, but he didn't use them communicatively (just said random words, not in context). However, he did make eye contact and seemed to understand directions, although he didn't always follow them.

If traditional Lovaas therapy was the only thing around, I'd recommend reading Greenspan's book and softening your Lovaas approach. But, AVB, especially as it is described on Christina's website, IS a science-based therapy with a fun, rewarding approach. AVB is definitely the best approach, and, unlike Floor Time, it is easy to find children who have fully recovered thanks to this therapy. You won't have to just take Dr. Greenspan's word for it.

-E. Jones