The best reference is Engaging Autism, by Stanley Greenspan and Serena Wieder, who pioneered the technique. The therapy is predicated on the theory that inside a person with autism is a social being, willing and able to engage. However, due to "biological challenges", engagement is elusive. Hence, the primary goal of Floortime is engagement.
We are fortunate in that three members of Brad's team are formally trained in Floortime. His speech language pathologist is taking a Floortime class currently, so Brad is among her first subjects. As I blogged, she's taping him for class. Brad's occupational therapist took Floortime classes taught by none other than Stanley Greenspan himself. And last is the specialty provider whose specialty is, yes, Floortime.
Here, I will share what I have learned.
It's pretty basic, really. To engage Brad, I get down on the floor and enter his play. Two techniques that are key to success:
1) Integrate with occupational therapy. Because Brad tends to persevate and zone out when he's inert, we start off play with some physical play. I recently retired our Thomas table so that our entire playroom is one big crash pad. I even bought an exercise mat. When we play, we often do so on uneven surfaces that give him procieptive input.
2) Hand jive, baby.
Every good Floortime therapist does hand jive. Well, they don't call it that, but I do. Hand jive refers to using your hand as a barrier to persevation, but also as an entry to your child's play. The first time I saw it, I didn't know what it was, and I thought it was obnoxious. Now, I know better.
For example, Brad has a book of numbers. It's a board book which tells a story that involves counting. Brad's going through a phase where this book is his favorite thing in the world and all he wants to play with. He stares at the numbers and recites them endlessly.
When Brad goes for the book, the Floortime therapist allows him to read it for a while and label the numbers, but after a minute or so, it's hand jive time: she puts her hand on the number he's looking at. This forces Brad to use spontaneous communication. And then she expands his "circle of communication." She'll say, "where's the 4?" "Are you hiding 4?" "That's so silly." Brad smiles. "Is it a big 4?" Bam. She's entered his play. She's engaged him.
My ultimate hope is that Brad gains warmth and humor during these formative years. It's been said that one can't experience empathy without experiencing these basic emotions. So that's our end game. While the warmth and humor (if any) ultimately comes from Brad and not from therapy, I believe that Floortime supports this goal.