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WHAT IS INTENSIVE INTERACTION?
Intensive interaction is an approach to teaching the pre-speech fundamentals of communication to children and adults who have severe learning difficulties and/or autism and who are still at an early stage of communication development.
The approach was developed during the nineteen-eighties by the team of staff working at Harperbury Hospital School Herfordshire. Harperbury was a school for people who have severe learning difficulties on the campus of a large long-stay hospital in southern England. The developments followed the work of the late Geraint Ephraim Ph.D, a psychologist who worked in the Hertfordshire long-stay hospitals.
Dave Hewett Ph.D and Melanie Nind Ph.D, were teachers at Harperbury School, and they carried out Intensive Interaction research projects at the school as part of the development work. They have published three books on the approach (e.g. ‘Access to Communication’ London: David Fulton 1994) and extensive other publications.
WHO IS INTENSIVE INTERACTION FOR?
Intensive Interaction is designed to meet the learning needs of people who are still at early stages of communication development. At one extreme, this may be a person who is very ‘difficult to reach’, living a socially isolated life, perhaps having a range of self-stimulatory behaviours and not showing motivation to be with other people. Equally, the approach is for people who may be highly social in many ways and have many successful interaction activities with other people. Yet such a person may still need to develop further knowledge and ability in areas like: use and understanding of eye contacts and facial expressions, taking turns in exchanges of behaviour, developing and furthering vocalisations toward the threshold of speech. Indeed, some of the people for whom the approach would have meaning may be people who have some speech and language ability, but would still benefit from further learning and development in the area of the ‘fundamentals of communication’.
Frequently heard terms for the people with whom we are concerned would include: people who have severe and complex learning difficulties, people who have very severe learning difficulties, people who have profound and multiple learning difficulties, people who have multi-sensory impairments, people who have a diagnosis of autism
THE FUNDAMENTALS OF COMMUNICATION
The fundamentals of communication can be characterised as things like:
- Learning to give brief attention to another person.
- To share attention with another person.
- Learning to extend those attentions, learning to concentrate on another person.
- Developing shared attention into ‘activities’.
- Taking turns in exchanges of behaviour.
- To have fun, to play.
- Using and understanding eye contacts.
- Using and understanding of facial expressions.
- Using and understanding of non-verbal communication such as gesture and body language.
- Learning use and understanding of physical contacts.
- Leaning use and understanding of vocalisations, having your vocalisations become more varied and extensive, then gradually more precise and meaningful.
HOW DOES INTENSIVE INTERACTION WORK? – WHAT DO YOU DO?
First and foremost, Intensive Interaction is highly practical. The only equipment needed is a sensitive person to be the interaction partner. The approach works by progressively developing enjoyable and relaxed interaction sequences between the interaction partner and the person doing the learning. These interaction sequences are repeated frequently and gradually grow in duration, complexity and sophistication. As this happens, the fundamentals of communication are gradually rehearsed and learnt in a free-flowing manner. The style of the teacher person is relaxed, non-directive and responsive. In fact, a central principle is that the teacher person builds the content and the flow of the activity by allowing the learner basically to lead and direct, with the teacher responding to and joining-in with the behaviour of the learner. This simple principle is the one used by adults in interaction with babies during the first year. The first year is the period of development when a baby carries out intense and very rapid learning of the fundamentals of communication. Much of the development of Intensive interaction was based on reading of the scientific research on the way in which human beings learn to communicate during the first year.
The teaching sessions are therefore frequent, quite intense, but also fun-filled, playful and enjoyable. Both participants should be at ease with enjoyment of the activity as the main motivation. A session could be highly dynamic, with a great deal of vocalisation, sometimes with fun-filled physical contacts. A session could also be peaceful, slow and quiet
Any queries regarding Intensive Interaction should be made to Mrs T. Marshall (028) 28272802.