The benefits of ‘Floortime’ for autism – and win tickets to a Floortime workshop!

An US company that offers a unique therapy to help parents and professionals communicate better with children with autism/special needs, is offering London-based workshops in the the technique. Floortime is a specific therapeutic technique based on the Developmental Individual Difference Relationship Model (DIR) developed in the 1980s by Dr. Stanley Greenspan. The premise of Floortime is that an adult can help a child expand his circles of communication by meeting him at his developmental level and building on his strengths. Therapy is often incorporated into play activities – on the floor. I had never heard of Floortime therapy before, but some basic research revealed a lot of positive feedback as a well-established technique including some interesting evidence-based research.

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Jake Greenspan, the son of Dr Greenspan, has generously offered Special Needs Jungle one ticket to give away to a parent and a discounted ticket for a professional. Here, he explains more about Floortime: “The goal of Floortime is to help the child reach developmental milestones that contribute to emotional and intellectual growth such as interest in the world, relating to others, complex communication and emotional thinking. If your child has difficulties relating, communicating, or socialising, or if strong emotions like anxiety, frustration, or anger trigger tantrums and meltdowns, Floortime can help. Instead of trying to address every symptom and teach a child each missing skill, Floortime focuses on strengthening the core of the problem.  For example, when a child develops better communication and expressive language, behaviour improves.  When they learn to think and problem solve, they experience less frustration.  To help children do this they have to enjoy communicating and want to push themselves.  Floortime focuses on developing a close positive relationship and challenging children within fun activities of their choice so they want to succeed. By identifying and improving the cause of the symptoms children want to be more related, communicative, and logical.  Their behaviour improves because they are happier and better thinkers.   The relationships they build become the foundation for all future friendships. For children to be successful in school and life, they need to learn to think on their own. Parents – Learn to help your child think and learn at home during everyday activities and fun play-based sessions.  Improve their attention, communication, and behavior. Professionals- Learn to do Floortime and integrate its principals into your own curriculum in a Speech, OT, or Special Education setting. Join us on the 23rd or the 24th June at Morris Lecture Theatre, St. Bartholomew Hospital London.   Please visit our website at this link for information on research, pricing, and registration.

The Child may have a disorder or a set of problems, but he is not the disorder.  He is a human being with real feelings, real desires, and real wishes.

Dr. Stanley Greenspan

How to enter to win a free parent or discounted professional ticket:

Simply email me (Tania) at info@specialneedsjungle.comwith Floortime and either ‘parent’ or professional’ in the subject line. Parent tickets are usually £50 and professional tickets are £120 but we can offer one for just £99. The proceeds of the professional ticket are being donated to More House School in Surrey. You can enter up to 25th May

Managing the relationship between children with autism and computers

Adele Devine is a teacher at Freemantles School for young people with autism in Surrey. She, along with her husband, have created a range of award-winning software for special needs, SEN Assist. She’s writing here on the Special Needs Jungle blog about how to make sure that children with autism are getting real benefits from computer use. Don’t miss Adele’s, 10 Tips for developing a healthy relationship with IT, included in the article.

Technology is motivating for most children, but to those with autism it’s more. The computer can become a safe place – it’s predictable, it’s got every motivator on the planet, it’s a world behind a screen that can involve and include.

Once they find this safe haven is it any wonder that the child with autism wants to be there every minute of the day? They might seem to become manageable and happy rather than ‘bouncing between the walls’, but we must look at what they are actually achieving on the computer.

 Is the IT including or isolating, educating or babysitting?

Children with autism benefit from structure. If left to their own devices they might be on the computer all day and do nothing, but click between ‘youtube’ videos or sound files. So should we stop them? No, but we must to take control early on and structure their time. This way we will help them to develop a healthy relationship.

Temple Grandin (author and professor, herself autistic) believes that without “the gifts of autism” there would probably be no NASA or IT industry and most autism experts would agree. Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft (widely believed to have Asperger’s syndrome) demonstrates the possibilities if the computer ‘obsession’ is correctly managed.

There is also the ‘dark side’ of this relationship.

The computer can reduce social interaction, nurture obsessive behaviour or even misdirect skills towards illegal computer hacking. The ongoing case of hacker Gary Mckinnon, who faces possible extradition rings warning bells.

His mother Janis Sharpe says, “When Gary was nine, we bought a primitive Atari. He would beg me not to send him out to play so he could use it. We wanted him to mix more but we didn’t want to deny him the information, pleasure and security computers gave him. They were an outlet for him to be himself, and that boosted his self-esteem.” 

So what should we do?

Richard Mills, director of research at the charity Research Autism, believes the answer is complicated: “The computer age totally changes the world of autism. Things are instant, and they are unregulated. We see tremendous advantages to this if it is properly managed – and huge pitfalls if it isn’t.”

Support for parents and teachers ‘managing’ this situation.

SENAssist software was created by specialist teachers to help develop structure from an early stage. It’s based on autism specific training, and years of practical teaching experience. SENAssist was created to be something to switch on and see work without having to know the theory first. By using ‘autism friendly’ structures and motivators from the start we secure the foundations for a positive relationship.

So what makes SENAssist ‘Autism Friendly?’ 

Animated writing with associated symbols

Visual and repetitive: Children with autism are often visual learners. The stories and activities have symbols that associate with the words. The writing is highlighted as the words are read. The first 100 high frequency words are repetitively used for the stories and activities.

SEN Assist activities are based on language activities used by speech therapists. The resources are based on PECs.

Speech Therapy: Activities are based on speech therapy, helping teach prepositions, pronouns and sequencing. Resources are designed to enable pre verbal children to answer questions.

Praise is also varied to extend the vocabulary.

Individual motivators: The first thing the child must do is choose their motivating character. There are 48 to choose from – pirates, dinosaurs, trains etc. This motivator stays on the screen throughout cheering them on.  

The work system at the side will show how many tasks they have left to complete.

Work systems and token boards: A work system shows the child how much they must do creating a visual structure. The use of ticks and crosses on token boards is deliberate – they learn to accept seeing a cross when it is introduced on the computer.

Self esteem: It’s important to set a level to suit the child. We must set them up to succeed and introduce challenge gradually.

10 Tips for developing a healthy relationship with IT

  1. Have the computer in a communal area.
  2. Have ‘computer time’ so it becomes one of many daily activities.
  3. Establish the idea of turn taking early on.
  4. Encourage a range of different activities on the computer.
  5. As skills develop use a work system to structure computer time.
  6. Give typing a function by making their name the computer login.
  7. Avoid programs or Apps that speak for the child before they are 6.
  8. Try ‘switch’ programs for teaching cause and effect.
  9. Try adapting the keyboard or getting a one button mouse.
  10. Use visual count downs and stick to the ‘rules’.

The Education Resource Awards: SEN Assist wins the award for ‘Best Special Education Resource with ICT’.

SEN Assist has recently won the award for ‘Best Special Education Resource with ICT’ in The Education Resource Awards.  The judges commented that “The Fairy Tales was an inclusive, interactive product that allows a wide range of students to improve their knowledge of high-frequency words. With logical lay-out, clear instructions and motivating images, the product will help to engage the learner. Additional printable activities also help to ensure that the teacher can offer further support”

You find find these innovative products at

Adele has kindly donated a copy of their Early Shakespeare software to More House School, an independent specialist school for boys with SpLDs and ASDs, attended by my sons.


If your SEN child loves computers.. watch this video

Source: Wiki

I’ve talked a lot on this site about the need to improve IT teaching in schools, before Michael Gove announced an intention to do just that.

One great way to do this is for schools to buy the new Raspberry Pi – a credit-card basic computer that runs Linux that children can learn to code with. It costs under £25. My boys’ school, I’m very pleased to say, has already ordered two of the machines and yesterday I had an opportunity to pre-order one for Son2. There’s a long lead time because demand is so high, so I’m not expecting to see it before May.

Many children, especially boys, who find great challenges with learning skills such as handwriting and accessing the curriculum the way others do, are actually terrific with computers. This is a brilliant way to encourage them into a career where they can excel.

But if you’re not especially techy yourself, how do you do this? I’ve found this great video on the Guardian’s website where Web developer Chris Cross looks at how easy it is to set up, browse the web and write code. Watch this and you’ll feel a lot more confident about how to encourage your child. For books on basic programming for kids, I found this one with five star reviews on Amazon called Hello World! Computer Programming for Kids

Vodpod videos no longer available.