DIR- Developmental, Individual-differences, and Relationship-based Model of OT

Looking to form a deeper bond with your child while also fueling their development? You’ve come to the right place! Keep reading to learn about the benefits of the DIR model and how this method can encourage relationship building and individualized development.

DIR. The Developmental, Individual-differences, and Relationship-based model (DIR) is a framework used in occupational therapy practice to enhance child development through forming connections with their caregiver. This model places emphasis on each child’s differences, both developmental and perceptual, and how relationships with caregivers can be used to promote efficient development. Collaboration between all three factors of the framework, D, I, and R, is used to build a foundation for child prosperity throughout the course of their lifespan. Participating in treatment that follows this model works toward broadening the child’s communication style, learning to self-regulate, and enhancing their social/emotional thinking.

What does DIR mean?

Developmental: The ‘D’ is one of three factors of the model that looks at where each child is along their course of development and understanding the direction they are headed. Assessment and evaluation of developmental milestones is critical when looking through this lens of the model, as it forms the foundation to track each child’s progress over time.

Individual-Differences. The ‘I’ is the second aspect of the model in which the individuality of each child is truly embraced and used to guide practice. No one child is the same; treatment approaches for each individual are tailored to their specific needs. How each child interprets, responds to, and regulates the input from the world around them is extremely important when considering this section of the model.

Relationship-based Model. The ‘R’ is the third, most exclusive, aspect to the DIR model. It focuses on the interactions between the child and their caregivers, and how these relationships can be used to encourage development. The ‘R’ is an effective way to foster social-emotional and intellectual development, ultimately promoting other areas of growth and prosperity. Without the ‘R’ in the DIR model, it would be considered typical occupational therapy practice! Relationships with caregivers during child-led activities is what gives DIR its individuality and uniqueness!

How to execute the DIR model:

DIR is undoubtedly the easiest model of occupational therapy practice that can be safely executed within the home! Floortime – simply getting on the floor at the same level as your child to play and interact with them. Floortime is a holistic, child-led approach created by Stanley Greenspan, encompassing all three aspects of the DIR model. Through this approach, the adult is expected to follow the lead of the child and go off their strengths, allowing the child to associate a fun and positive experience between the caregiver and the activity of their choice. Floortime can be done in a calm setting and with any activity; the only requirement is the adult must get down on the floor and let the child take charge! DIR Floortime is a great approach to OT practice. Looking for another perspective on it? Follow this link to explore! https://www.icdl.com/home

Written By Brianna Giordano, OTS


What is DIR? (n.d.). The International Council on Development and Learning (ICDL). Retrieved July 18, 2022, from https://www.icdl.com/dir.

What is Floortime? (2022). Autism Speaks. Retrieved July 18, 2022, from https://www.autismspeaks.org/floortime-0.