Sunday, 22 December 2013

Intensive Interaction: therapy for parents??

A thought-provoking post on the 'Intensive Interaction for Parents' Facebook group got me thinking about this question.  Is I.I. somehow therapeutic or healing for parents of children with autism (or other LDs)?

Certainly my own experience suggests yes.  For me it was a bit of a 'chicken and egg' conundrum: I'm not sure whether starting to feel better about the diagnosis and more accepting of it led me away from ABA and towards II; or whether the move to II contributed to me feeling better about it.  Probably a bit of both as I think the II and the feeling more positive mutually fed each other.  Here are some of the reasons why I think II might be therapeutic for parents:

1. It promotes 'mindfulness' - living in the moment, enjoying your child's presence without thoughts about the past or the future.  Mindfulness is known to be generally therapeutic and a powerful antidote to stress and depression.

2. It is easy to do (once you have got used to it and adjusted your mindset away from goal-oriented approaches) and does not require an outlay of money, resources, or time spent on paperwork and form-filling.  This means the family can feel they are engaged in a positive intervention without adding to family stress.

3. It promotes bonding with the child - and where the child has been distant and apparently unresponsive in the past this will have been a source of pain (and maybe guilt and self-blame) for parents.  It's therefore very healing in that respect.

4. I.I. somehow (gently, without you realising it) changes your concept of your child and of autism.  Your child stops being a deficient, defective problem to be fixed or normalised in the shortest time possible and becomes a human being with personality, likes, dislikes, preferences and an astonishing capacity for human connection right here and now.  Autism becomes less of a big, scary, huge disease  and somehow just a condition or state that you can all live with.  For example, before I.I. I found stimming really distressing and abnormal to watch, now I use it as an opportunity to 'get in there' and build a bridge.

5. I.I. makes you realise that your child's childhood is not a rehearsal - there is only one childhood and it's happening now, so you (and they) need to enjoy it!  Planning for the future is OK in moderation, but there was a time when I was so saturated in goal-oriented approaches that my head was just full of likely projected adult outcomes regarding speech, functional skills, etc.  I was failing to see the childhood unfolding right in front of me in the here and now.  I.I. Has helped me with that.

6. It gives you hope.  Even if you remain uncertain about the extent of speech development, independence, functional skills, etc. that will be possible for your child (and I.I. will help there too) you get the reassurance that your child CAN be happy in life and enjoy fulfilling human relationships.  And isn't that what any parent wants for their child?

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