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  • Writer's pictureNaomi Wong

Floortime: 6 Ways to Help Untangle FEDCs 4 and 5

Updated: Sep 6

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Untangling our confused thoughts

In Floortime, children go through different stages (or capacities) as they develop. FEDC 4 and 5 are stated as follows:

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Classic images as such pop to mind when we think of playing at FEDC 4 and 5 respectively.

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Many of you as DIRFloortime® professionals know all about FEDC's 4 and 5. However, clinically, the children that step through our therapy doors may show abilities that is confusing to us, making us pitch our Floortime to their ability only to have to readjust again and again.

Wouldn’t it be great if we can discern 4s from 5s clearly and pitch our play at the correct level right from the start?

To make things a little easier, here are 6 considerations to help untangle the confusion.

This write-up explores how FEDC 4 and 5 are different in areas of play, emotions, language, and thoughts.

In play,

1) Functional vs Symbolic play.

Functional pretend play starts to emerge as early as FEDC 4. Children can manipulate toys that resemble their real-life counterparts. These toys tell the child what to do with them, thus reducing the need to for the toys to represent something else.

Symbolic play is in the realm of FEDC 5, the object represents something else (e.g., the box can be a plane) and he is able to keep that representation the entire play!

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2) Delayed imitation vs novel sequences.

Children at FEDC 4 are keen observers, able to recognise patterns and can learn through imitation. They may then play out these known sequences in their play to help them make sense of the world. As their repertoire of known play sequences increases, they may look like they are functioning in higher capacities.

Only through dynamic interactions, whereby the child must plan a new response to your novel (yet appropriate) reaction can we tease between those 2 FEDCs and elicit their ability to generate novel play ideas.


3) Emotional reciprocity vs emotional idea.

At FEDC 4, the child is a complex problem solver through the use of long chains of affective cue reading and cue sending. Emotional reciprocity is at the heart of these affective social exchanges.

At FEDC 5, the child not only responds to the affective cueing, he is also able to form a mental representation of that emotion, expressing it in a variety of ways, such as through his words, actions and play. (e.g., Child can say, “Teddy is scared!” and makes teddy quickly run away.)

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4) Thinking in pictures vs thinking in symbols.

Because of a child’s ability to recognise meaningful patterns at FEDC 4, they are able to think about the beginning-middle-end of a sequence before initiating an interaction. (For e.g., The toddler’s mental pictures are to get mom, point to the biscuit and eat it).

At FEDC 5, the child can perhaps think more with words (sign language or their AAC symbols) to get their ideas across.

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5) Here and now vs beyond getting their needs.

This social communicator at FEDC 4 is able to persist through long chains of circles around his interests to meet his immediate needs.

In addition to communicating to meet basic needs, the developmental agenda of children at FEDC 5 is to constantly make meaning of their sense-of-self in relation to the world of people and things. This is done through interacting with other people and sharing the ideas that they have


6) (Delayed imitation of) words/phrases vs novel combinations.

This point mirrors the “Delayed imitation vs novel sequences” point within play as mentioned earlier. Developmental speech therapists, who have a keen understanding of play and language development, know that play skills precede language acquisition. Language and play go hand in hand.

At FEDC 4, we hear the words/phrases embedded within long chains of our classic social problem solving task. At FEDC 5, novel word combinations support the increasingly abstract nature of their play. When we hear children say a longer utterance, respond to see if we can get novel and varied combinations. If you do, you may just land yourself a fiver! (Excuse the pun 😊)

Did you know that ‘you get FEDC 5 for FREE when FEDC 4 is robust and well supported?’ (Quoting form Kathy Platzman). When in doubt, always aim support FEDC 4 and throw in a small challenge when you see fit.

I hope this has been helpful as you think about your Floortime therapy activities. As you can see, there are so many different ways of untangling 4s and 5s in DIR Floortime!

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