Intensive Interaction – the importance of non-verbal communication.
We all know the importance of body language. It helps us express what we feel, even when we’re saying something different. We use it all the time, whether we realise it or not, in fact, according to non-verbal communication expert Albert Mehrabian, when we’re talking face-to-face about our feelings or attitudes, non-verbal communication accounts for 55% of our understanding.
It makes sense then, that when we’re unsure about what a person means we pay a lot more attention to non-verbal communication, and it’s this non-verbal communication on which intensive interaction is based.
What is Intensive Interaction?
Intensive interaction is an approach used in speech and language therapy to teach the pre-speech fundamentals of communication to those who have little or no language. This could be due to severe learning difficulties or developmental disorders such as autism.
Based on the way infants learn to communicate in their first year, intensive interaction is a practical approach that works by developing relaxed and enjoyable interaction sequences between an interaction partner and the person doing the learning. As these sequences are repeated, their duration is increased, as well as their level of complexity and sophistication. This then allows the fundamentals of communication to be rehearsed by the learner in a fun-filled, free-flowing, dynamic, playful and enjoyable manner.
The fundamentals of communication explained
In its most basic sense, communication means the exchanging of information between two or more parties. In order to successfully communicate, we need to learn some fundamental skills, and these include the ability to:
- Share attention with another person
- Concentrate on another person
- Develop shared attention to activities
- Take turns
- Have fun or play
- Use and understand eye contact, facial expressions, gestures, body language and physical contact
- Use and understand vocalisations.
- Who Can Use Intensive Interaction?
The great thing about intensive interaction is that anybody can learn to use it to communicate with people with little or no language, as long as they are able to display the characteristics necessary for the approach to work. Teachers of intensive interaction need to be relaxed and non-directive, allowing the learner to lead the activity, responding to and joining in with their behaviour.
London Speech Therapy and Intensive Interaction
At London Speech Therapy, the majority of our speech and language therapists are trained in intensive interaction. We make it a priority to embed the intensive interaction approach into our practice with children with little or no language, as well as those who may be considered ‘hard to reach’.
In addition to using it in our own practice, we also endeavour to demonstrate and explain intensive interaction strategies to all parents and teachers interested in learning about the approach, and are constantly trying to further the awareness, knowledge and understanding of intensive interaction whilst developing our own practice within the field.
There are a number of courses available to those interested in learning more about intensive interaction, details of which are available on the intensive interaction website.