Intensive interaction is an approach we employ in which interactions are led by the person with the learning disability or autism.

This allows two-way communication that is enjoyable for the person and their supporters. We adopt this way of being with someone as a communication strategy that can be used at all times in all environments.

Intensive interaction helps our support workers focus on the needs of those who are often described as being non-verbal or who have no effective means of communicating with others.

How the approach works

The approach works by progressively developing enjoyable and relaxed interactions between every member of a support team and the person being supported. These interactions 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.

How support teams use it

Intensive interaction requires our support teams to:

Adjust their interpersonal behaviours – perhaps altering their voice, gaze or body language. This is to make them less threatening and more interesting.

Take the person’s lead – respond to things they do. This can be commenting on their actions, joining in with them, imitating them. By responding instead of leading, they don’t make demands on the person that they cannot cope with. Instead, they communicate that they value the person they are supporting and enjoy being with them.

Treat the things the person does as if they are acts of communication. They read social meaning into actions even when the meaning isn’t yet clear. In this way, the person is responded to as a communicator and gets to know what this feels like and involves.

Use sensitive observation to judge how well the interaction is going. The communication partner responds quickly to any feedback, interpreting it so that they can keep the interaction positive and enjoyable for both partners.

Use timings and rhythm in interactions. This can make interactions like games – with anticipation and drama to hold the person’s attention. Rhythm and repetition help the person with learning disabilities to predict what will happen next and to get more involved. It can create the feeling of taking turns.

Have fun! Intensive interaction should be enjoyable and playful.

See it in action

We use intensive interaction to support several individuals. John is one of the many people we use this type of support with.

Learn more about how we support John

Take a look at our related approaches and resources

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