By Annette Pinder

Growing up in Brooklyn, there was a child on our street who was different. She didn’t talk, and seemed to be off in her own world, as our moms whispered, “She’s autistic.” I found a book at the local library on the topic and secretly yearned to reach this child, but unfortunately never had the opportunity.

So years later, it seemed fitting when my daughter, now 25, made the decision to work with children diagnosed with autism and other communication disorders. It is also a topic no longer discussed in hushed tones, because today one in 110 children in America have an autism spectrum disorder, males are four times more likely to have it, and early intervention is essential.

Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA), is the most common therapy today that has been proven to effectively help children learn skills ranging from making eye contact and following simple instructions, to developing advanced language and social-skills. But new developmental interventions are emerging, as ABA has come under some criticism for producing ‘robot-like’ behavior in children, and for its use of punishment to reduce or eliminate problem behavior.

One program that is gaining attention as an alternative to ABA is Floortime, developed by Dr. Stanley Greenspan. A renowned leader in autism education, Greenspan worked with many young children diagnosed with the disorder. Now older, these children are said to be fully communicative, creative, warm, loving, and joyful. Anecdotal evidence also suggests that parents whose children experienced Floortime found it to be effective.

Floortime meets a child at his or her developmental level, and builds upon their strengths. Child-focused, with the parent or therapist following the child’s lead, Floortime incorporates playful positive attention while tuning in to the child’s interests. Its premise is that children learn skills from relationships they have with their caregivers and other significant people in their lives. Through interactive child-directed play and experiences children ‘want’ to relate to the outside world.

Recently, when I observed Floortime at Buffalo Hearing & Speech Center (BHSC), a young boy jumped up from the circle of seated children during a lesson enthusiastically pointing to a chart of facial features. Instead of reprimanding the child for speaking out of turn, the instructor immediately seized upon the opportunity to engage the child, thereby increasing his desire to verbalize and interact socially. And it worked!

BHSC offers Floortime to children ages 3 to 7 years, who are eligible, and CEO Joseph Cozzo, is enthusiastic about the results. He explains, “Education is tailored to meet the specific needs of each child and family, and program funding is provided by the NYS Education Department and the County. Classes operate five full days a week combining individual, small, and large group activities. The classroom team consists of staff trained and educated in Floortime. A multidisciplinary team provides services, including speech language pathology, special education, occupational therapy, social work, and music therapy. Physical therapy is included if required on a child’s Individualized Educational Plan (IEP).

Cozzo also wants parents to know about BHSC’s outpatient social communication program for children ages 5-18 with Autism Spectrum Disorder, and encourages them to make an appointment to observe the Greenspan/Floortime and the outpatient programs by calling 885-8318. To learn more visit www.stanleygreenspan.com.

WNY Resource:
Buffalo Hearing & Speech Center is headquartered at 50 E. North Street in Buffalo with additional locations in Amherst, West Seneca, Fredonia, and Wheatfield. Visit www.askbhsc.org to learn more.
Floortime for Children with Autism

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