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 fundamentals of communication can be characterised as:
- 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.
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