Intensive Interaction is an evidence based approach that is now established in many learning disability and autism care and educational services. The approach is usually based around one-to-one interactions between a practitioner and a learner who is typically at an early stage of communication development. The practitioner tries to follow the lead of the learner, sensitively joining in with the person’s in-the-moment behaviour and interests. The approach was originally developed from the work of psychologist Geraint Ephraim in the 1980’s by Dave Hewett and Mel Nind at Harperbury Hospital School and separately by Phoebe Caldwell who also studied with Ephraim. Hewett and Nind’s focus was on helping the person to “develop fundamental communication abilities”. Phoebe Caldwell focuses more on emotional engagement, reducing sensory anxiety and helping a person to join in with the world around them. My understanding of Intensive Interaction in terms of rapport is informed by the work of Hewett, Nind and Caldwell and is designed to be straightforward and relevant to the challenges and aspirations of the carers and staff supporting people with communication disabilities.
“Intensive Interaction is an approach that places central importance upon valuing people for who they are and is a way to bring to a child with learning disabilities the opportunities for social learning that are usually available to a typically developing person.”
[Nind & Hewett 1994]
From my consultations with staff working in autism and learning disability care settings, a major aspiration is the establishment of rapport. My understanding is that rapport is the seed from which the development of communication skills grows and we can find implicit reference to rapport in work of Phoebe Caldwell:
“Intensive Interaction uses body language to communicate with children and adults in a way that establishes attention and emotional engagement.”
[Phoebe Caldwell 2008]
According to the work of Rosenthal (1990), attention is the first ingredient of rapport, using body language means that we are in synchrony (the second ingredient) and emotional engagement includes mutual pleasure, the third ingredient.