Inspired by the Power of Play

Last month I attended the Profectum DIR-FCD Autism conference in San Marino, CA. I typically attend each year and I am never disappointed. I’m amazed how much I learn and walk away feeling inspired to be a better mom and advocate.

I was introduced to the Profectum conference several years ago by our Developmental Pediatrician, Dr. Ricki Robinson. She is a leading expert in the field of Autism treatment and is a parent of a son with Autism. Profectum is an organization created to serve, educate and help treat individuals with Autism. Dr. Robinson along with many other leading professionals in their fields serve on the faculty of the Profectum Organization team.

The conference is focused on the specific approach of a methodology in working, educating and treating individuals with Autism called DIR-FCD Floortime. We have been using the DIR Floortime method with Maci since 2011 when Maci was 6 years old. Prior to then, we used ABA (Applied Behavior Analysis) therapy. The primary difference between the two methods are ABA is based around behavior and DIR is based around development. See my blog on the differences for more information.

Each year the Profectum conference focuses on a designated theme. The theme this year was “The Power of Play”. Each speaker and presentation illustrated how a play based, social and relationship-based way of teaching, learning and interacting brings meaning and purpose. Using the power of play transforms behaviors, ability to engage and fosters development.

A variety of topics were presented by amazing speakers over two days. For me, the most impactful presentations were given by two founders of schools serving individuals with Autism. The first, by Barbara Kalmanson, PhD founder of Oak Hill School in San Francisco, CA, “Engagement Based Learning: The 21st Century Secret”. The second, by Monica Osgood founder and Executive Director of Celebrate the Children School in Denville, NJ, “The DIR-FCD IEP Goal Bank for Early Intervention , Home Programs, Private & Public School Students.

We are currently working with our school district and private school on Maci’s IEP goals and overall program. Both of these presentations really emphasized how the DIR-FCD method and power of play brings higher levels of learning in educational and school environments. The presentation by Barbara Kalmanson illustrated why using DIR enriches the educational environment by bringing meaning, relationship rich interaction learning and more significant customized programs. The Oak Hill school excels with their DIR teachings.

The videos in Barbara Kalmanson’s presentation demonstrated how creating a relationship-based program brings joy, confidence and success to our kids struggling to identify and relate to traditional methods of teaching. Then Monica Osgood presented on the DIR-FCD IEP goal bank which has been created over the last 15 years. This is a truly remarkable tool and study guide for creating IEP goals, tracking the goals and reporting on the progress of the goals.

A personal highlight during the conference for me was seeing two of Maci’s former therapists from our former school, Villa Esperanza School in Pasadena, CA. We placed Maci at Villa in 2014. At the time, we placed her there to customize Maci’s program around DIR Floortime. Villa embraced our efforts and eventually brought in Monica Osgood to train and certify staff at Villa with DIR Floortime. I saw first-hand Maci’s transformation at Villa using DIR Floortime.

She went from reaching 2 goals out of 19 in her IEP at the public school to reaching 17 out of 19 at Villa. Maci’s former therapists were key participants in learning DIR Floortime. At the conference they gave inspiring and moving presentations on using the DIR FCD IEP Goal Bank. It was so heartwarming to see their hard work and training pay off in their teaching but more importantly for the lives of their students who are severely impacted by their disability.

I encourage you to check out the Profectum website. It has wonderful information and resources, as well as a parent workshop, training for DIR and several webcasts and videos.