Son-Rise Program Vs. Floortime:
Recently, approaches to Autism have shown an appreciation of the effectiveness of the child-centered approach. Stanley Greenspan developed the Floor Time approach which describes itself as child-centered and comes from the school of thought that social understanding can be taught and is the most powerful route for learning. It is similar to The Son-Rise Program in that the focus is on interacting with the child through that child’s own interests. Greenspan also recognizes the importance of the child-family relationship over child-professional relationships and encourages parents to play with their children “on the floor.”
Floor Time describes itself as child-centered and indeed encourages parents to follow the lead of their child, discover the child’s interest, elaborate and build on whatever the child is interested in and assist the child in his/her play rather than trying to direct the play in a particular direction. However, the parent is also encouraged to do “whatever it takes” to make play interactive. So, if a child begins to move away from a game, the parent is instructed to pursue the child, “insist on a response” or “playfully obstruct” in order to keep the child in the game. If the parent asks a question which the child does not answer, the parent is instructed to persist with this question until an answer is provided. So, it seems that Floor Time is only child-centered for as long at it serves the adult. Once the child begins to move away from interaction it is no longer child-centered but interaction-centered.
The Son-Rise Program, however, remains child-centered regardless of what the child is doing. There are no conditions on the child’s behavior in The Son-Rise Program. If a child turns away from interaction to engage in a solitary activity, then the facilitator follows the child and joins him/her in that activity. The facilitator joins the child by performing the activity in a solitary way, not by trying to turn the solitary play into interaction. The facilitator will wait for the child to indicate that he/she is again open to interaction before trying to engage the child. If the child makes eye contact, makes a sound, speaks or physically moves towards the facilitator, these cues will be responded to by encouraging interaction in a playful, animated and fun manner. If the child then pulls away again, the facilitator will again go back to solitary play until the child indicates his availability again. This technique reveals a fundamental difference between Floor Time and The Son-Rise Program. By allowing the child to move towards her, rather than pursuing an exclusive child, The Son-Rise Program facilitator is allowing the child to build within himself the desire to interact with people. Only a child with this desire will be interactive for sustained periods and initiate interaction with people. A child who is constantly prompted into interaction will not foster this want within himself and so will only interact for as long as he is being prompted and, thus, will rarely initiate interaction. This is not to say that children in Floor Time programs do not have a desire to interact to some degree – every child does. The Floor Time approach, however, does nothing to encourage the development of this and so does not address the core of the Autism.
The Son-Rise Program’s® approach to children who are engaged in exclusive or solitary play is unique and sets them apart from functional approaches (such as ABA) and other developmental approaches (such as Floor Time.) The Son-Rise Program is the only true child-centered approach as facilitators will always take their cues from the child. If the child is showing his desire to play in a solitary way, then the facilitator plays in a solitary way by doing exactly what the child is doing. As long as the child’s safety is not in question, facilitators will do whatever the child is doing to demonstrate to the child their acceptance of him and their respect for his choice of activity. By fully absorbing herself in the activity the facilitator also gains a deeper understanding of why this activity is motivating for this child. When the child later indicates his availability for interaction this information may then be employed to create an interactive activity which is highly motivating for the child.
The Son-Rise Program operates from the belief that children engage in these exclusive or repetitious activities for a reason, and that usually the activity is curative in some way. The repetitiousness of the activity may help these children who have different sensory-perceptual systems to re-organize stimulus from the world in a way that they can better deal with it. For example, children with vestibular system imbalances may spin themselves in circles to re-gain a sense of balance or children who are hyposensitive to touch may chew their hands to create a sensation that is pleasurable to them even though it may be painful to someone with a regular level of sensitivity. Thus, these activities are seen as useful to the child rather than seen as something to be stopped or re-directed. Floor Time suggests that if a child is perseverating on an activity, then one should do whatever one can to create interaction, not heeding the child’s cues (e.g. their turning away or saying “no”), but persisting in the pursuit. If this fails, parents are encouraged to ask their child “how many more times?” Thus the message being relayed to the child is one of impatience rather than one of respect for their choice of activity and acknowledgment of each child’s awareness of his own needs.