Play Therapy / Floortime

Carly and Stef found that this form of therapy helped to create a friendly learning environment for both Ted and Oskar.

“The idea of play therapy is to have children build the milestones of interaction and communication, whereas the goal of ABA/IBI is to teach skills, remove unwanted behaviours and have a child appear more “typical” in their actions. Obviously, our goal as parents is to have our children be as independent as possible so skills are important, but my thoughts are that it will come once the other building blocks of development are in place.”

“As children learn through play there are no wrong answers. I see this with our younger girls, Anika and Izzy. I saw this with my oldest, Livie. Playing and exploring sparks creativity, which builds learning and confidence… self awareness, emotional ideas…and on and on.”

For centuries, philosophers and scientists have theorized play as a critical part of childhood leading to social and intellectual development. But typical play, which involves symbols and imagining (“Let’s pretend we’re having a tea party”), doesn’t come naturally to a child with autism. He or she is more likely to enjoy activities that stimulate the senses, such as spinning a spoon repeatedly, for example. Yet it’s still play, and in this therapy, caregivers are encouraged to harness it as a safe and fun activity from which to encourage emotional connection and learning. Most famously articulated by an American psychiatrist, Dr. Stanley Greenspan, the principle is to follow the child’s lead and natural interests, joining the child in his/her own world in order to pull them into a shared world. Greenspan called his model Floortime, referring to the imperative for the therapist/caregiver to get onto the floor and try to understand why a seemingly inappropriate activity might be bringing joy or pleasure. When the child notices this participation, he or she may start to respond with friendliness. From there, gradually, the play can be guided toward more complex and challenging interactions. In theory, this therapy works by helping the child make sense of his/her own emotions, and the links between emotions, actions, and ideas. “The first lesson in causality,” Greenspan said, is “pulling your mother’s heartstrings with a smile in order to receive one back.” From such basic building blocks, play therapy aims to expand a child’s sense of themselves in the world.

For more insight into how Carly and Stef use play therapy in their home visit Carly’s blog, The Muddy Path.

A note from Carly & Stef

We invited director Steve Suderman to share our story with the hope that our experience would offer comfort to other families facing similar experiences, and provide insight into life with a special needs child for those who aren’t familiar with the highs and lows of parenting on the spectrum.

This film portrays the beginning of our journey and our story is far from over. We hope that the film demonstrates that there is no single “correct” way to approach the task of supporting your child on their developmental path. We wanted to empower parents to do their own research, and make choices with the intention that they can help their child to thrive, regardless of their diagnosis. We think the film Steve made does this and this website has some additional videos and information for those who want to find out more about topics and therapies featured in the film.

For parents of children with autism the first year after diagnosis can be confusing and tiring. At times you might feel that you can never do enough research, the options are endless, and the developmental milestones can seem unattainable. The important thing to remember is that as parents it is our job to advocate, observe and use our gut instincts!   It's not "one size fits all” and different therapies work for different children. Try therapies that your gut tells you might be a good fit for what you are seeing in your child, and maybe stop anything that doesn’t seem to work since you can always try again later. You know your child better than anyone else and you can trust that instinct.

Lastly, you don’t need to spend a lot of money. There are lots of free things in books or the internet that you can do or try at home. Don’t break the bank – listen to your gut!

Statement of Values

For a year director Steve Suderman followed Carly, Stef and their five children, as the family faced each challenge and joy that arose since their son Oskar’s autism diagnosis. Throughout the film Carly and Stef try a range of therapies and treatments; all out of love for their son and the desire to connect with him. The intent of the documentary is not to endorse or dissuade from any particular treatment. Rather, our hope is that the film will communicate the experience of a family touched by autism, something parents can share with family, caregivers, and friends to offer an insight into their world.

We believe that autism is a unique way of being in the world. We advocate for inclusion, respect, and increased services that make tangible differences in the lives of those on the spectrum - and their families. We hope that this collection of articles and videos from our team and other third-party sources will help provide a fuller picture of the treatments, therapies, and ideas explored in the film.

Carly and Stef, the family featured in this film, maintain a blog called The Muddy Path. Please check it out to learn more about their experiences raising a family with children on the autism spectrum.

The Muddy Path: Play Therapy

“The idea of play therapy is to have children build the milestones of interaction and communication. Whereas the goals of ABA/IBI is to teach skills, remove unwanted behaviours and have a child appear more “typical” in their actions. Obviously our goal as parents is to have our children be as independent as possible…”

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Bonus Video

In the process of making this film, we collected a lot of additional material we wanted to share. We hope you find it helpful.

Temple Grandin: Focus on developing strengths

Dr. Temple Grandin, a professor of animal science and author with autism, talks about encouraging your child to develop their natural strengths, while also pushing them to try new things and make friends through common interests.

Discover More

Learn more about the people and ideas featured in the film.

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Bonus Material
Produced in association with:
Produced with the participation of:
The Government of Manitoba -Manitoba Film & Video Production Tax Credit
Digital media produced with the participation of:
The Government of Manitoba -Manitoba Interactive Digital Media Tax Credit
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