DIR Floortime® Model

Joy can be derived from numerous things, relationships, activities, foods, nature; the list goes on from the most miniscule pleasures to the grandest indulgences. What brings joy to you? What motivates you, inspires your creativity, connects you to those around you? Relating to those around us is an important aspect of daily life and for people with autism this can be particularly challenging.

Developmental, Individual Differences, and Relationship-Based Model of Intervention (DIR) uses affect-based interactions to encourage social, emotional, and cognitive development in children with autism focusing largely on the caregiver-child relationship.

FEDLs-Image-e1476381705346-2The DIR Floortime model provides some important and applicable points, especially in regards to music therapy. The basis of the DIR model surrounds the necessity to meet the child where they are at and encourages the caregiver to see the world through the eyes of their child. This is similar to the iso principal of music therapy, where the musical stimuli should match the emotional state of the participant. Both of these tactics require careful observation, assessment, and empathy. We learn what we care about, and therefore, a child will be more interested in what you are saying or doing if you follow their lead and build the interaction from there.

Another important aspect of both music therapy and the DIR Floortime model is scaffolding developmental expectations and goals for a child. It is important to observe small improvements in any aspect of the child’s behavior or relationship with others. Celebrate the small victories and give praise easily.

Thank you to Marlee Burgeson for coming to the MTCCA office to further educate our staff on the DIR Floortime model.

For more info on the DIR Floortime model check out profectum.org


Shannon Flaherty

Gallup’s Strengths Finder

Many times in life we are asked to look at our weaknesses and see how we improve upon them. Although it is a good practice to be aware of our shortcomings, it can blind us to our positive qualities. Shifting focus to strengths can be difficult but the outcome can be beneficial for numerous reasons.

Before starting my internship with MTCCA, I was asked to take the Gallup Strength Finder 2.0 test. This test analyzes your strengths and gives a personalized report based on your answers. Each member of the MTCCA team takes this test, giving us a platform and common language to discuss potential ways to positively impact the team. I had the opportunity to participate in a team building exercise with the MTCCA staff. We were split into two groups, competing to see who could build the tallest tower using a paper bag, uncooked spaghetti, and 2 feet of masking tape in 15 minutes. Although my team did not win, we were able to observe each other’s strengths in action, whether it was in planning the tower, coming up with creative solutions to problems that arose during the process, or encouraging other team members. MTCCA is an incredibly positive environment, where the staff not only focuses and builds upon their own strengths, but constantly looks towards highlighting the strengths of their clients.

The idea of focusing on strengths instead of faults heavily aligns with positive psychology, a relatively new branch of psychology that looks at people’s strengths and focuses on positive functioning. I have attached a Ted Talk by Martin Seligman, the founder of positive psychology, which further explains its history and application.


The book and related strength test MTCCA uses is:

StrengthsFinder 2.0 by Tom Rath


Here are some questionnaires related to positive psychology including a free strength based test you can take:  https://www.authentichappiness.sas.upenn.edu/testcenter

MTCCA team building exercise during the strengths seminar


Shannon Flaherty

Jam Session Benefits

In May, we wrapped up another successful Jam Session season. For any readers that are not familiar, Jam Sessions are group music therapy programs run by the non-profit Banding Together for teens with autism and other developmental disabilities. These programs take place bimonthly in three different locations throughout the San Diego area, with one in Carlsbad, El Cajon, and Point Loma. Each participant is paired with a volunteer mentor, usually receiving one-on-one attention as well as the chance to socialize with other mentors and participants in the Jam Session.

The typical Jam Sessions consist of a greeting song or exercise, a drum circle, a local guest musician, a song teaching a specific social skill, and jam time where the participants can pick a song, play instruments, and dance. Not only is this experience incredibly fun but parents and mentors observed significant social skill gains as measured by the Social Responsiveness Scale (SRS-2) assessment and a self-made assessment called Rockstar Reports. The SRS-2 is a standardized assessment that identifies social impairments related to autism spectrum disorder and measures its severity. The Rockstar Report was created by Banding Together to measure the goal areas specifically targeted by Jam Sessions.

The SRS-2 reports showed the most significant improvements in social communication, social awareness, and restricted interests and repetitive behaviors.


The Rockstar Reports showed improvements in participants taking leadership roles, communicating feelings, and having conversations with other participants or mentors in the group.


Jam Sessions start again in September but sign up now, as spots are limited! Don’t miss this amazing opportunity to volunteer or participate in an incredibly fun and rewarding program.

If you are unavailable to volunteer but would like to support Banding Together, you can donate here


Shannon Flaherty