Serena Wieder, PhD and Alisa Vig, PhD
The DIR model revolutionized the concept of development by integrating psychodynamic theories and individual differences in sensory motor processing with emotional developmental capacities forged through interactive relationships. This opened the door to comprehensive interventions tailored to emotional/affective and sensory processing profiles where parent-child interactions and DIR Floortime® play launch the climb up the symbolic ladder. Many have doubted children on the autism spectrum can play or engage in creative activities. The literature is replete with studies indicating they lack imitation, theory of mind, language, symbolic functions, sequencing, and more. But most studies have not taken into account the developmental foundation necessary to reveal symbolic potential. In the DIR model functional emotional developmental capacities provide this foundation. This presentation will describe the first mechanisms of symbolism, how symbolic development evolves and how the child moves from his/her perceptions of the real world and movement through visual space, to build the bridges to “potential space” in the mind, termed by Winnicott, where emotions expand and symbolic thinking develops. Through affect based interactions the child chooses the symbols to play with, e.g., from Superman to Lion King, to represent his wishes and fears, in order to regulate emotions, and to develop an understanding of reality and abstract thinking. The evolution of play will be illustrated through animations and videos.