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What are the Functional Emotional Developmental Capacities (FEDCs) of DIRFloortime®?

Lyn Bennett, OTR/L

July 1, 2023

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Question

What are the functional emotional developmental capacities (FEDCs) of DIRFloortime®?

Answer

Functional Emotional Developmental Capacities (FEDCs)

  • FEDC 1 – Regulation and Interest in the World
  • FEDC 2 – Engagement and Relating
  • FEDC 3 – Intentionality & Two-Way Communication
  • FEDC 4 – Complex Communication & Shared Social Problem Solving
  • FEDC 5 – Using Symbols and Creating Emotional Ideas
  • FEDC 6 – Logical Thinking and Building Bridges Between Ideas

There are functional emotional developmental capacities or FEDCs. They go higher than this, but these are the levels that we predominantly are going to use. I typically work with children who are at those first six levels.

A child does not have to master one before going on to the next. There is a lot of ebb and flow between these levels, and hopefully, this will become a little bit clearer.

FEDC 1: Regulation and Interest in the World

Capacity one is regulation and interest in the world, and it is the basic level for all of us. If we are going to engage with other people or activities, we have to be at a functional level of regulation. We also have to be motivated to connect with what is going on in the world. This is the foundational level.

FEDC 2: Engagement and Relating

Moving on from that, once we are regulated, we can engage and relate with others. These two capacities are often talked about together. Regulation starts at day one, if not sooner in the womb when a child is co-regulated by the carers in their life. The carers see what is soothing for the child and what helps them to calm down. When they are crying, the carers determine if they are hungry, need changing, need soothing sounds, and so on. This understanding starts right at the beginning with co-regulation. As a child becomes regulated, they become engaged and connect with their caregiver with smiles, coos, and sounds.

Having said this, co-regulation develops early, but we are not regulated forever. We go up and down being regulated. Sometimes we are well-regulated, while other times we are highly aroused or under-aroused. This is an area that we continually address in therapy. 

FEDC 3: Intentionality & Two-Way Communication

Once you are regulated enough and engaged and connected with somebody, then the next stage that happens is two-way communication or intentionality. This level is where we get into an interaction typically between a child and an adult. It is about getting a good back-and-forth flow going. We may see a lot of short starts and stops in communication. For example, if an adult asks a child a question and the child gives an answer, and then nothing else happens, this is a short, stop-start type of thing. What we want is for the child to initiate an interaction, the adult responds, the child responds back to that, the adult responds to that, et cetera. The flow gets stronger and longer in its complexity as it goes on. 

FEDC 4: Complex Communication & Shared Social Problem Solving

Capacity four is where problem-solving kicks in if there is a solid foundation in capacities 1, 2, and 3. I am hesitant to give ages because everybody develops differently, but in neurotypical development, this would typically come in around toddler age levels, at 18 months or so. Communication is getting much more complex. If the child is trying to communicate with me, I look to see if the child has some other strategies to try to communicate, or do they just keep using the same thing over and over? This level brings in more gestures and facial expressions to communicate.

I was seeing a little girl who was pretty good through capacities one through three, and she was trying to tell me something. She kept saying, "Uh-ee, uh-ee, uh-ee," and I was trying but could not understand what she was saying. Obviously, she had very poor articulation, so I kept trying to prompt her to give me some other type of clue. However, she had not reached this capacity yet. There were books in the room, and I asked if she could show me a picture or use her body to show me, but she could not do it. A week or so later when she was working with her speech therapist, she pointed at the game they were doing and said, "Uh-ee." It was a game with monkeys in it.

A child who was functioning at FEDC 4 may have been able to come up with some other strategies to communicate that to me with monkey body movements, facial expressions, or by finding a picture. This is what we are looking for in complex communication and shared problem-solving. We sometimes see children, who if they want to get something, can go and do it all by themselves, but at this level, we want this problem-solving to be among two people. How do you work together to get something that you need or fix something? This is shared social problem-solving. 

FEDC 5: Using Symbols and Creating Emotional Ideas

Five is where a child is starting to use symbols to represent things, something other than it is. They are developing abstract thinking at this stage. The first four levels are concrete in their thinking. Now, they are more abstract and are connecting more with emotional ideas, rather than tangible ideas.

At FEDC 5, this can be fairly fragmented. They may start to play imaginatively, but then, they jump all over the place. "I'm playing with this doll, and oh, there's a car over there, and wait a butterfly..." Their thoughts jump all over the place.

FEDC 6:  Logical Thinking and Building Bridges Between Ideas

When we get to FEDC 6, we are starting to see logic come in.

These are the FEDCs in a nutshell, which is a huge area. Hopefully gives enough of a framework to look at problem-solving from this perspective. This is the "D," and a huge area for us as occupational therapy practitioners.

 

This Ask the Expert is an edited excerpt from the course, Using DIRFloortime To Support Problem Solving, by Lyn Bennett, OTR/L.


lyn bennett

Lyn Bennett, OTR/L

Lyn is an occupational therapist, play therapist, and DIRFloortime expert practitioner/training leader. Lyn is originally from England and moved to the US in the mid ’90s. She has worked extensively in pediatrics in hospitals, schools, early intervention, and private practice. Currently, she is co-owner of Play for Real Therapy Services in Rockledge, Florida.


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