Intensive Interaction – learning their language

This series of short films shows an extended conversation  between Phoebe Caldwell (DSc, Expert Responsive Communication Practitioner who has worked with autistic people for 45 years) and Janet Gurney (BA, PGCT, Director of Training for Us in a Bus, a service based in Surrey that supports adults and children with profound and multiple learning difficulties and autism).

  • Having looked at factors that increase anxiety, we are now looking at ways of reducing anxiety through meaningful communication.
  • Look carefully at what the person is doing. What physical feedback are they giving themselves? We need to learn the language  that has meaning for them.
  • Empty yourself of your own agenda and use the person’s body language to transfer their attention from solitary self-stimulation to shared activity (Intensive Interaction).
  • Read the person’s body language – it expresses how they are feeling. Do not worry about what it means in terms of information, tune into the feeling of what they are doing. What you are aiming for is emotional engagement.
  • Confirmation of what the person is doing is important. Confirm what they are doing, it allows them to move on.
  • You can start by “copying” what the person is doing but gradually introduce small variations of pitch or rhythm – always using their language.
  • Keep up with any new communicative initiatives the person offers.
  • Make sure that what you are doing is lowering the stress level rather than increasing it.
  • The use of body language was introduced in the 1980s by Gearing Ephraim, who called it “Augmented Mothering”. This was later changed to “Intensive Interaction”by Dave Hewett and Melanie Nind, to make it clear that the approach is able to meet the needs of children and adults of any age.