The first step in Greenspan Floortime is to follow the child’s lead. Once the child interacts with us, which is them allowing us into their world, we can move on to Step Two.

What should we do when doing that doesn’t result in the child engaging and accepting us as partners?

Unfortunately, the child engaging and accepting us as partners in the child’s world does not always happen. Sometimes, as we try to get involved, the child keeps changing what they are doing. Other times, the child continues to completely ignore us.

How do we follow the child’s lead and join their world if they won’t invite us in? Do we follow the aimless activity on and on? If we intervene, how is that following their lead? Aren’t these opposites?

A common tactic for parents and caregivers at this point is to reach into their bag of tricks–a favorite book, toy, or activity–to try to help the child calm down and focus. Sometimes the child really does need to calm down or focus.

The disadvantage to this tactic, however, is that these tricks still may not get them engaged with us, because the child didn’t choose them. It’s at this point that parents and caregivers feel exasperated and say that nothing works.

It’s often best for parents and caregivers to stick to what the child is doing and resist feeling pressured to do so much to the child. Instead, when you feel stuck, take a step back. Relax. Observe. Ask “How do I build on what the child is doing? How do I build on their pleasures?” If the answer appears to be “They aren’t doing anything really.” Look again.

If they are walking around or banging or simply wandering, then they are doing something. How can you build on their interest and get into their world? If your copying of them doesn’t encourage them to involve you, it’s time to challenge the child.

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.