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Intensive Interaction

What is Intensive Interaction?

  • Intensive Interaction was developed in the 1980’s by Dave Hewett Ph.D and Melanie Nind Ph.D, who were both teachers at a school for children with Learning Difficulties.

  • Intensive Interaction is a communication approach that supports the learning and social needs of people who are still at the early stages of communication development.

  • Intensive Interaction is tuning into the person by listening and observing how and when they are trying to communicate and then responding at their level of understanding.

  • It is joining someone in their own world, following their lead and using their ‘language’.

  • It is a way of learning to communicate and build meaningful, equal relationships with people who have significant communication and interaction difficulties.

  • It is an approach where the main tools are the adult’s face, voice and body language.

Fundamentals of Communication

Intensive Interaction teaches the Fundamentals of Communication which are the foundations that underpin further learning and language development. The Fundamentals of Communication are:

  • Learning how to have fun with other people – learning how to play

  • Learning to give, extend and share attention with another person – then developing such shared attention into and across sociable or joint ‘activities’

  • Learning about the significance of proximity and sharing personal space

  • Learning how to take turns

  • Learning to use and understand eye contact within social interactions

  • Learning about non-verbal communication such as gestures, facial expressions and body language

  • Learning to use and understand vocalisations, developing more varied and extensive vocalisations that gradually become more precise and meaningful

  • Learning to regulate and control emotional responses and arousal levels

Intensive Interaction in Action

Child Led Responsive Dance Intensive Interaction

through movement to develop expressive communication

Intensive Interaction at High Park

Comments from parents

“Precious time spent with our child on a level he is comfortable with. It can be done anywhere. It only costs our time.”

“My child has built relationships all round and opened up a ‘new world’ for him. It has increased his vocalisations. It has built his confidence and self-esteem. ”

“We copy his expressions and it makes us connect. It brings us closer together as a family and he really enjoys it. ”


“If we didn’t use Intensive Interaction, our child would get really upset. He would probably feel ignored. I think if we didn’t interact in this way we wouldn’t have the same relationship. ”

“It’s how we communicate. We have fun through Intensive Interaction. Our child has learnt to play through Intensive Interaction. It has been so good for all our family. ”

“Negatives of Intensive Interaction- there are none!!! ”

“It’s the ‘be all and end all’!! ”

“It was the way into his world at the beginning. Now it’s like there is a bridge between both worlds where we can meet in the middle and have some great communication and interaction.”

Intensive Interaction underpins all learning at High Park. It is the foundation upon which we build all communication and interaction. At High Park we follow a pupil-centred approach, thus allowing us to value the pupil’s interests and motivations. Senior Leaders made a strategic decision to employ our own Speech and Language Therapist and this has been key to embedding Intensive Interaction throughout the school. The Speech and Language Therapist has provided a creative and flexible approach to training, which has involved teaching staff the theory of Intensive Interaction, practical sessions including discussion and reflection, providing regular opportunities for developing understanding and sharing good practice. The Speech and Language Therapist works alongside staff to coach and support them to develop their skills in a practical way whilst working with pupils. The Speech and Language Therapist also works with parents through Education Health and Care Plan meetings, CAMHS Clinics and training sessions.

At present the Assistant Principal strategically leads the development of Intensive Interaction, supported by an experienced teacher who is a qualified Intensive Interaction Co-ordinator. We have identified a number of staff as Intensive Interaction Champions who work closely with the Speech and Language Therapist to share knowledge and expertise with others. The School is part of a Regional Support Group who meet regularly to share good practice and ideas. We also collaborate with the special schools in the District Achievement Partnership and within the Interaction and Communication Academy Trust. We celebrate International Intensive Interaction Week annually in October, with various activities arranged to raise awareness of Intensive Interaction, including an information session for parents and training for staff. As a result of all of the above, we are continuously developing and improving our Intensive Interaction practice at High Park School.


Quote from Autism Accreditation Report July 2017

Intensive Interaction is high on the agenda of High Park School and was seen to be consistently used throughout the review. Imitation of utterances and speech, drawing attention to facial expression and gaining the attention of children and young people was observed across age groups and sessions. This approach is so embedded that even supply staff were seen to be successful in its use. Lovely exchanges were evidenced and as staff moved across the school it was automatic for them to respond to a pupil whenever a communicative attempt was made. This was the case in the dining rooms, transition into school, bases, rebound therapy, outside at play and during snack times. The use of Intensive Interaction highlighted the positive relationships staff have with pupils and demonstrated that staff delight in the attempts made by pupils in emerging communication.

Opportunities for communication are also provided, including “reciprocal, playful, joyful interaction and adults carrying symbols.” As mentioned above, Intensive Interaction is consistently used throughout the day by all staff.

Throughout the review social communication was observed between pupils and staff. The staff expressed warmth and encouragement though Intensive Interaction and positive exchanges with verbal students.


During the District Achievement Partnership School Review in November 2017, Liz Godman commented on the high levels of social responsiveness of this particular group of pupils.

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