Friday, January 15, 2010

Treatment Options: What is P.L.A.Y. Project®?

are so many treatment options for children on the autism spectrum, it
can be really confusing for parents.  Different programs may sound like
the same thing, other programs have trademarks, or they’re proprietary,
or they’ve been developed in one location and not available elsewhere.
What’s the difference? Is there one best treatment? Can different
programs be used together? In the end, it all comes down to one
question: how do you figure out the best treatment for your own child?

the interest of sorting this out, I try to provide specific information
when I can find an expert who is really knowledgeable about a specific
treatment program. For example, you can see an earlier interview on

One option that you may have heard of is P.L.A.Y.
Project®. Today I’m taking to Joanne Finn, a Licensed Educational
Psychologist, who also provides private services as a home consultant
for families of children with an autism spectrum disorder through the
P.L.A.Y Project®.

Patricia Robinson:
Joanne, Can you explain the P.L.A.Y. Project®?

Joanne Finn:
Project® was started by Dr. Rick Solomon, a developmental pediatrician,
who wanted to develop an affordable, family-friendly and effective
early intervention program for children with autism spectrum disorders
ages 18 months to seven years.  P.L.A.Y Project is an international
program with home consultants serving families in 27 states and 3
countries outside of the U.S.  The program focuses on helping parents
to help their children build emotional connections and engage in
meaningful relationships.

As a school psychologist, I became
interested in finding more ways to support parents who really wanted to
help their children at home. A friend introduced me to  DIR®/Floortime™
and I was excited to find the P.L.A.Y. Project model of home
consultation. I recently became a licensed provider for P.L.A.Y. and I
am so happy to be able to provide this to parents.  What I really love
about being a PLAY home consultant is working with parents. Children
spend more time with their parents than all of their teachers and
therapists combined. So parents are really the best ones to help their
child learn to connect.

P.L.A.Y Project uses the
DIR®/Floortime™ model of Dr. Stanley Greenspan, a nationally respected
child psychiatrist. DIR stands for developmental,
individual-differences, and relationship-based. This means that
parent-and-child interactions are highly valued and respected.  A
child’s emotional development depends so much on the intimate
connection between a baby and parents – from early smiles and coos, to
looks and gestures, verbal language, and ideas about how the world
works.  For a child with autism these connections can be disrupted
because of the child’s challenging neurological disorder. As a home
consultant I carefully analyze a child’s unique individual differences
to determine the best play activities, methods and techniques to help
relationship happen. And it does happen!  Dr. Solomon’s initial pilot
study of 70 children with autism demonstrated that 65% of the children
in the P.L.A.Y. Project made good to excellent progress.  P.L.A.Y.
Project has recently been awarded a $1.85 million grant from the
National Institutes of Mental Health to conduct a three-year study of
the model. 

P.L.A.Y. Project is one type of  DIR/Floortime
service delivery model.   Floortime therapy can be delivered many
different ways - through a school program like Creekside, during OT or
Speech therapy, through private play therapy by a psychologist, through
clinic or home consultation.  P.L.A.Y. Project consists of a specific
structure to provide DIR/Floortime through home consultation.  Aspects
specific to P.L.A.Y.include use of the PLAY Project Workshop DVD for an
initial introduction, a 3-hour home visit once or twice monthly, the
use of video and video feedback reports as part of the coaching.  PLAY
project home consultants must be trained in DIR/Floortime techniques by
PLAY Project trainers and must work with a licensed PLAY Project
agency. (I am my own licensed agency). Home consultants are also
strongly encouraged to participate in ICDL DIR/Floortime Institute
certificate program.

P.L.A.Y Project format looks like this: As
a home consultant, I make one or two home visits per month for a 3 hour
block of time. During that time I observe parent and child during play
sessions and during their daily routine. I offer coaching and support
to the parents, and as the child builds trust I model play techniques
for the parents.  With permission, I also videotape some of the play. 
Between visits I analyze the videotape to better understand the child’s
strengths and needs.  And I provide additional input in the form of a
Video Review report.  The parent receives the report and the video
between visits to help them continue their learning and to help train
others such as grandparents, friends and other caregivers.

of my current families are using P.L.A.Y Project to supplement their
child’s half-day school program or ABA home therapy.  P.L.A.Y. Project
and ABA are complementary and have different strategic directions. 
DIR/Floortime is distinctive from ABA as it emphasizes following a
child’s interests and preferences rather than therapist initiated
activities.  DIR/Floortime emphasizes emotion to create engagement and
connection rather than primarily focusing on building skills. And PLAY
Project’s main focus is integrating parents into the therapy.

Patricia Robinson:
Joanne, thanks for explaining the details of this program. East Bay parents in Northern California can contact Joanne Finn  directly through her website, and those in other locations can check out the P.L.A.Y Project website to find a local provider.

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