30 Years of Intensive Interaction Research

This week I have been sorting out my new(ish) office and trying to put what seems a career’s worth of paper either onto the computer or into the bin. During this tidying up exercise, I came across a copy of the first published Intensive Interaction research paper … which is now nearly 30 years old; it just goes to show how well-established Intensive Interaction research now is.

This very foresighted paper, ‘An Evaluation of Intensive Interaction Teaching with pupils with very severe learning difficulties’ was written by Dr Judith Watson (of Moray House College of Education) and Christine Knight (a Curriculum Development Officer for the Lothian Region). The paper was published in the journal Child Language Teaching and Therapy (a peer-reviewed journal which, unsurprisingly, publishes papers in the fields of child linguistics and education).

So, what did it say? Well, this ground-breaking article described the exploratory use of Intensive Interaction by staff at a school in Edinburgh with 6 children with severe learning difficulties; Intensive Interaction being a move away from the then-current curriculum based on a tightly programmed ‘objectives/skills model’ that utilised ‘task analysis’ and ‘short-term’ teaching aims.

To cut a long story short, these first published findings were that, for individual children, over a year, Intensive Interaction help facilitate: ‘increased eye contact, turn-taking, enjoyment’; ‘cooperative play’; ‘better motor control’, ‘turn-taking and sharing of objects’; allowing ‘touching and closeness at times’; ‘awareness of cause and effect’; ‘enjoyment of social interaction which was initially avoided’ – such outcomes coming as no surprise to us nowadays (in the light of all the other subsequently published Intensive Interaction research).

The final paragraph of this paper was a direct (and very telling) quote from one member of the staff:

I came here [to the school] seven years ago and went straight onto behavioural stuff. It is much easier to get bonding with [intensive] interaction and from that so much can happen. The reaching of goals doesn’t have the priority it used to have. You still have goals but you’re talking about development, communication, expansion. Now I’m committed to it – it’s the right direction to be going in. I feel it’s answering a greater, deeper need than being able to put balls in a bucket. If our kids can relate outside, they’re likely to get something back’.

So, 30 years on, nothing in terms of Intensive Interaction has changed –  it was just emerging as the right direction then, and it clearly remains the right direction now!

For a more in-depth summary of this paper, you can visit the research section of this website at: https://connectingwithintensiveinteraction.com/2021/03/03/an-evaluation-of-intensive-interactive-teaching-with-pupils-with-very-severe-learning-difficulties/

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