The DIR Model revolutionized ASD intervention in theory, practice and research. It is a comprehensive approach that integrates the knowledge of multiple disciplines. It is a parent mediated intervention, tailored to the unique sensory-motor processing profile of every individual, to bring unity to functional outcomes.
We have put together two exciting days of lectures by the guru herself. Deepen your understanding of development, the different pathways to progress, and embrace the complexity of autism. Learn how current research in developmental and neuroscience is addressing the challenges of ASD, the most prevalent disorder of childhood. Join us, as we expose the power of relationships to promote development, self-regulation, learning, abate anxiety and redefine potential for the future.
These 2 extraordinary days by Dr.Wieder will include the following topics to illustrate the unity of development with extensive video illustrations.
Embracing the Complexity of Autism: What does the DIR Model offer?
Understanding the enigma of autism has led many to describe it in the last century. Its prevalence has risen and evolves day to day, as developmental and neuroscience report new findings. Each edition of DSM (The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) redefines the diagnosis. But just what does a diagnosis tell us? Does a symptom approach capture the uniqueness of the child with autism? Is ADOS™ (Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule) the answer? Or, do we need a multidimensional approach to target intervention to the child’s unique profile, i.e., the different ways he or she relates, communicates, develops, feels, learns and adapts - all functions related to the interaction between his neurobiology and his experience in the world with his family.
Wieder and Greenspan moved from symptoms to a multidimensional paradigm that integrates functional developmental processes to share attention, engage in relationships, communicate, problem solve and think abstractly (the “D”), the unique or individual way each person processes sensation, movement and regulation (the “I”), and the influence of parent-child interaction and relationships that promote emotional and social agency (the “R”). We will examine the model’s active ingredients promoting initiation and intentionality, the principles and methods of intervention, the gaps between neuroscience and intervention, the tension between autism and neurodiversity, and relational approaches that hold promise as we anticipate the future.
Infant Mental Health and Development: Two Worlds or One?
Has autism neglected mental health through its focus on behaviors? Did Infant Mental Health lose its identity as a dimension of development, as it became a body of interventions for infants and parents at risk, with little attention to development or individual differences. This talk will illustrate how DIR’s functional emotional developmental capacities can be viewed as the building blocks of mental health and its importance for emotional well-being. It will focus on how the capacity for symbolic function develops and the window it provides to understanding emotional development through interactive symbolic play, in both typical children and those with autism and related challenges. It will also address the mental health challenges of autism, including anxiety, attention, self-regulation, depression and OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder). Developmental science is shifting towards a relational developmental perspective. The DIR® Model pioneered this approach and participants will understand why mental health is so important in working with developmental challenges. Today the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) is promoting the RDoC (Research Domain Criteria), a multidimensional systems approach. It is transforming the understanding and treatment of mental health challenges including dimensions similar to those found in the DIR Model.
The Power of Symbolic Play in Emotional Development, Mental Health and Self-Regulation
When adults play with children, they open the window into children’s inner emotional experiences, through the symbols they choose and stories they create. Play is a safe way for children to explore their experiences and give it new meaning. Through symbolic pretense, children can project, experiment, and seize powers they realize might not be possible in reality. Thus, finding ways to understand their and others’ emotions and behaviors, and the world around them. This symbolic process is essential for emotional development, emotional regulation and mental health. Learn how this process develops- the anxieties, the constrictions, the repetitions, the climb towards reality testing; and the importance of not underestimating a child’s emotional life, even when processing challenges might obscure their meaning.
The Dynamics of Relationships: Meeting of Minds through Mentalization and Theory of Mind
Understanding a child’s inner life, what he or she is thinking, feeling, or understanding, can be ascertained through synchronous interactions and symbolic play. It calls upon the caregiver’s mentalization, i.e. imagining the child’s behavior in terms of his intentions, feelings and needs. The parallel is the child knowing what caregivers and others are thinking and is able to attribute mental states to them. This is Theory of Mind, and allows one to understand perspective and feelings. These essential bidirectional components support mutual understanding, flexibility, empathy and sensitivity and insight. We will examine these mutual processes in children and caregivers, and how social cognition develops expanding on symbolic function above. In addition, we will highlight how reflective practice is a cornerstone of relationship based intervention.
Anticipating the Future: The Foundational (Functional) Capacities (FCD)
The foundational capacities essential for future independence needs to be established early in life. This process requires understanding the separation-individuation process for the child, the parent and the family. This presentation will focus on the parent’s experience; how to embark on a developmental pathway towards independence, differentiating exposure and experience, alternatives to prompting, and promoting initiative and intentionality from the start, all so important for future adaptation.
“The Domino Effect” of Poor Visual Spatial Knowledge: -Movement and Sensation Perspectives on ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) and SPD (Sensory Processing Disorder)
So much is assumed when a child can see, but does he or she have vision- what the mind needs to understand, to learn and to adapt in life. Sensory and motor processes are of course all inter-related but we will examine one aspect- Visual Spatial knowledge. Unlike sight, vision is how you comprehend what you see and learn through your body’s movement in space, to support development. When visual spatial development is derailed, the mind cannot direct where to look, how to move, and sequence actions efficiently. The ability to “see (visualize) in the mind’s eye” is also essential for comprehension, imagination and creativity. Common in children with autism, visual spatial knowledge affects executive functions, playing with peers and learning. It also results in children feeling ‘lost in space’ and anxious. We will explore its early development and the domino effects on relating, symbolic play and abstract thinking. We will introduce a Visual Cognitive Profile and a manualized curriculum to provide the experiences that can strengthen this process within DIR Model principles.