'Intensive Interaction is a practical approach to interacting with people with severe or profound and multiple learning disabilities and/or autism. There is nothing difficult or expert about Intensive Interaction, it is a very practical approach to communication and socialising with people who do not find it easy communicating or being social.'
'The approach helps the person with learning difficulties and their communication partner to relate better to each other and enjoy each other's company more. It helps them develop their communication abilities. In Intensive interaction the carer, support worker, speech and language therapist or teacher works at being a better communication partner and so supports the person with learning disabilities develop confidence and competence as a communicator'.
'The approach was developed by teachers Dave Hewett and Melanie Nind in the 1980’s. The approach can be used as a way of teaching fundamental communication, as a means of relationship building, or simply as a way of pleasurably spending time with people'.
(Extracts from the Brisitsh Institute of Learning Disabilities 'Intensive Interaction Factsheet')
It is intended that Intensive Interaction will address the needs of:
• People who are pre-verbal, with few or limited communicative behaviours.
• People who are extremely socially withdrawn, and do not positively interact with other people.
• People who display various stereotyped or self-stimulatory behaviours that exclude the participation of other people.
There is nothing difficult or expert about Intensive Interaction. It is a very practical approach to communication and socialising that employs natural and easily recognisable techniques. It is theoretically simple and was developed from a model of ‘infant/caregiver interactions’, and therefore it involves the kind of activities through which sociability and communication normally develop in infancy.
It is a fun process and can be used as a way of teaching fundamental communication, as a means of relationship building, or simply as a way of pleasurably spending time with people. The nature and intensity of the activities might vary between noisy rough and tumble activities, intense mutual face-to-face studying or simply quietly sitting together in close physical proximity.
By using the various activities as a catalyst for social interaction we hope to facilitate a progression from passivity or social non-engagement, through turn-taking and contingent action, to the eventual initiation and leading of interactive games.
When we adopt Intensive Interaction as an approach we go about things in a particular way - we adopt a particular interactive style. We try to develop a calm, accepting atmosphere, recognising that the motivation for each participant to socially interact with us has to be right - any interactive activity has to be within their realm of interest.
We adjust our interpersonal behaviours, trying to make ourselves more interesting by perhaps altering our voice or body language. We may also follow our client’s lead - responding to the things they do, involving ourselves in their activity in a way that does not make any demands on them that they cannot cope with. We use timing and rhythm in the interactions, making them mutually enjoyable - adding anticipation and drama to hold the person's attention. We try to create the feeling of taking turns. We communicate that we value them and enjoy being with them.
We use sensitive observation to judge how well an interaction is going. We respond quickly to any feedback, interpreting it so that we can keep the interaction positive and enjoyable for both partners. We collectively reflect on the interactions, and think about how we can enhance and extend them.
If we do all these things with Intensity, Sensitivity and Perseverance then can we claim to be using Intensive Interaction.
The body of evidence concerning the responses of people with severe or profound learning disabilities to Intensive Interaction is currently unambiguously supportive. There are repeated claims of novel or increased socially interactive behaviours. Such positive developments are reported as greater use of eye contact; increased toleration of, or engagement in, physical contact activities; additional episodes of sustained joint attention; increased use of potentially communicative vocalisations; and an increased regard for facial signalling. There was also evidence of greater initiation of social interaction by some of the research participants.
According to the strategy document ‘Valuing People Now: ‘Making it happen for everyone’ (DoH, 2009) the UK Government’s vision is that all people with learning disabilities ‘are supported to become empowered citizens’. This document, a follow up to the original 'Valuing People' Document (2001), explicitly states that, for people with complex needs, where social inclusion is concerned:
1.6 addressing the issues for people with complex needs is really about embedding the principles of personalisation within all aspects of planning, commissioning and delivery of support services. It is also about recognising that the very particular support needs of an individual will mean very individualised support packages, including systems for facilitating meaningful two-way communication.
Page 38 of the document is then completely given over to an exposition of Intensive Interaction, with some historical background, comments on the strategies involved, and a brief passage on the possible beneficial outcomes. It goes on to state that people with learning disabilities should be enabled and supported to ‘develop and use appropriate communication systems where people have little or no verbal communication’ (p.39).
The Intensive Interaction Institute pack: 'Intensive Interaction for People with Profound and Multiple Learning Disabilities: An introduction to the use of Intensive Interaction for people with profound and multiple learning disabilities'(click here to download a flyer for this pack)
Some Useful Web Links
SOME FURTHER READING - influential research papers:
Some of the most informative and influential research papers with child participants are as follows:
Some of the most informative and influential research papers with adult participants are as follows:
SOME FURTHER READING - other influential papers: