What is Intensive Interaction?
It is an approach for providing people with learning difficulties and/or autism with positive experiences of being socially included and emotionally connected with others. This gives them repeated opportunities to learn the 'fundamentals of communication' which are usually learned in infancy, before speech develops. Children with learning difficulties or autism may not have acquired these fundamentals fully and may need extra opportunities, which is where II comes in.
What are the 'fundamentals of communication'?
* Learning the significance of proximity and personal space;
* Learning to give, extend and share attention with another person;
* Learning how to have fun and play with other people;
* Learning how to take turns in exchanges of behaviour;
* Learning to use and understand eye contact/ facial expressions;
* Learning how to use and understand physical contact;
* Learning about non-verbal communication (e.g. gesture, body language);
* Learning to use and understand vocalisations (gradually becoming more precise);
* Learning to regulate and control emotional responses and arousal levels.
How do you do Intensive Interaction?
Firstly, there is formal and informal practice. You can set aside a formal period each day which is time set aside to engage in Intensive Interaction with the child. The advantages are that this prioritizes it and ring-fences time that can otherwise get eaten up by other activities. It's also useful when you're just beginning to learn how to do it and you need to practise! Informal practice is when you just seize an opportunity which arises spontaneously (often, something the child just seems engaged in and you manage to join in). This might only last a minute or two but is still an important moment of connection.
In terms of how to actually do it, I found the list of 'techniques' from Firth (2013) to be particularly helpful as a starting point (although in the longer-term II is always more than 'techniques' and is more about the totality of the relationship):
Sharing Personal Space: with Intensive Interaction we often look to share proximity in a mutually pleasurable way e.g. lying/sitting/standing together, quietly or otherwise, touching or apart.
Physical Contact: sensitive physical contact can sometimes be vital to the approach, promoting mutual trust and sociability e.g. holding or squeezing or clapping hands together; hand-over-hand games; massaging or rubbing hands or feet; rhythmically stroking arms or shoulders; walking arm-in-arm; touching foreheads or rubbing noses.
Eye Contact: sensitively sharing eye contact can be an important means for giving and receiving inclusive social signals e.g. making dramatic glances; looking in the mirror; staring at each other.
Exchanging Facial Expressions: with Intensive Interaction we use clear facial expressions with communicative intent, creating opportunities for these to be reciprocated e.g. smiles, winks, pulling dramatised faces.
Vocal Echoing: echoing some aspect of a person’s vocalisations (even their non-symbolic sounds) can develop into conversation-like sequences e.g. echoing of a person‟s verbal or non-verbal vocalisations; echoing a person's breathing sounds and patterns; using dramatised or exaggerated intonation when echoing sounds.
Behavioural Mirroring: mirroring some aspect of a person’s movements or behaviour can develop into action sequences that involve both partners e.g. mirroring of a person‟s movements or some aspect of their physical activity (possibly coyly or even overly dramatised); mirroring the sounds made by a person's physical activity.
Joint Focus Activity: this is when both people alternately focus their attention on the same object or activity whilst also on each other, structuring their engagement around a shared activity e.g. jointly exploring objects, books, photographs, or magazines either visually or physically; moving objects through a person‟s field of vision or hearing; reading to a person; actively listening to music together.
Joint Action: this is similar to a joint focus activity, but with both interactive partners ‘doing things together’ by acting simultaneously on the same object, or simultaneously engaging in the same physical activity e.g. physically exploring objects together, playing „tug-o-war‟ with an object; doing a „row-row-row your boat‟ type activity together.
Burst-Pause Sequences: this is when an action is followed by a deliberately extended pause, thus building anticipation and expectancy and prompting some response e.g. hide-and-appear games; playing 'catch' with a '1-2-3' or 'ready-steady-go' countdown; noise escalation games that build gradually then abruptly go quiet.
Turn Taking: where both individuals share and acknowledge an exchange, in whatever form it might take, and are aware of their role and their turn; e.g. via facial signalling, sequenced vocalisations, sequenced physical actions e.g. actions, clapping, passing things to and fro, etc.
Using ‘Running Commentaries’: the sensitive and limited use of a positive and affirming ‘running commentary’ on someone’s actions can provide an added socialising element to an Intensive Interaction engagement e.g. using limited language with a person to describe their activity “wow, great, yeah...”, “here he comes now...”, “I can see you looking...”, “from me to you...”.