All people have a right to education, including people with disabilities. Some children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) have significant challenges in their educational path, including additional cognitive delays and physical limitations. A study was conducted on two children, one male and one female, with significant physical limitations and cognitive delay, to see if the Greenspan Floortime Approach helped them achieve the physical education goal of side-rolling. For some children with autism, a traditional classroom environment with teacher-centered learning is not effective because it does not teach the children learning strategies for their particular situation. An educational approach needs to teach students how to learn, think, and motivate themselves so that they can understand complex material and accomplish physical tasks.
The Greenspan Floortime Approach
The field of adaptive education can provide appropriate learning strategies to help students with ASD improve their educational outcomes. The learning strategy used in a 2021 study by Phytanza et al called “Floortime Approach: Can it improve the learning outcomes of side-rolling exercises for Autism Spectrum Disorder Students?” was the Greenspan Floortime Approach. Greenspan Floortime Approach is an interactive methodology that leverages the child’s family and therapeutic relationships to help children through the stages of emotional development. In this approach, the child initiates interaction and parents and other adults follow the child’s interests while spending time with them on the floor.
This Phytanza study followed two children, one nine-year-old boy and one eleven-year-old girl. Both children had low learning outcomes, especially in the ability to roll sideways in their adaptive physical education setting. Neither child was able to sit. Researchers taught the participants’ family members the Greenspan Floortime Approach, utilizing the following points:
• Find a time when you are sure you will be uninterrupted for 20-30 minutes with the child. Ideally, find time for 8-10 of these sessions per day.
• Try to stay relaxed and patient. If you become rushed or impatient, the child will become unsettled.
• Empathize with the child’s emotional tone and show it to them, so that they feel understood.
• Be careful with your own feelings, as negative emotions may affect the interactions.
• Monitor your tone of voice and gestures, keeping them joyful, playful, and supportive so the child will want to play with you.
• Follow your child and develop interactions for as long as you are able. All the child’s behavior is meaningful and is an opportunity to develop two-way communication.
• Interact at the emotional developmental level the child is at but encourage them to enter the next stage of development, using a range that is responsive to the circumstances, actions, and reactions of the child.
• Whatever the child wants to do should be allowed as far as it exists within the basic rules of not hitting, damaging anything, or hurting anyone. If the child becomes aggressive because they are overwhelmed, calm them down with a firm but calm attitude.
The tests done for this study involved teaching side-rolling and testing learning outcomes, observing student participation and teacher performance, and documenting the learning process. The task was evaluated by two experts in teaching gymnastics to children with disabilities. The children were tested before and after the use of the Greenspan Floortime Approach.
The students’ abilities to complete the side-rolling test were measured before they started the adaptive learning with the Greenspan Floortime Approach and then again after the intervention. Both children improved their ability to side roll, with the second cycle of evaluation demonstrating that both had attained mastery of the technique.
Accomplishing side-rolling helps students gain confidence, since they can move themselves into a new place. In that way it can reduce feelings of frustration, thereby lowering aggression. Greenspan Floortime Approach helps adults enter the child’s world, following their direction and appreciating them as an individual. It encourages personal attention and familiarity, encourages expression, feelings, and ideas. Greenspan Floortime Approach helps children who have academic problems and behavioral disorders, like emotional control issues, anxiety and depression, and a diverse array of autism spectrum disorders.
Greenspan Floortime Approach helps to improve the learning process in children. In this study, use of Greenspan Floortime Approach in an adaptive physical education task helped children to master the skill of side-rolling. Using this therapeutic approach not only helped the children learn a new skill but it decreased aggression and frustration. The Greenspan Floortime Approach can be used to improve learning outcomes in ASD students needing adaptive physical education.
Learn more about Dr. Stanley Greenspan and the Greenspan Floortime approach. If you are new, we have a background and introduction to Greenspan Floortime including how it helps special needs children. We also have Greenspan Floortime training courses at Floortime U. specifically designed for parents and professionals including the Floortime Manual.