For my Blog this week I am bringing news of a change in the directorship of the Intensive Interaction Institute. Last week I received a not unexpected email from my friend Dr Dave Hewett, stating the following:
You may not all be aware that as of this week I am no longer a director of the Institute and am now very much in the background of this wonderful, continuing undertaking … I think you all know how I feel about this work and about you people who have so committed to it. It has been a wonderful life to be a part of all this and to be associated with all of you. I know everything is in good hands.
As my acknowledgement of the unstinting and vital work of Dr Dave Hewett OBE, I am setting out the contents of a letter I wrote a few years ago in support of his nomination for an official UK national honour:
My familiarity with the work of Dr Dave Hewett spans nearly two decades and, in my opinion, he has contributed more than any other individual to the social inclusion and wellbeing of people with severe or profound learning disabilities and/or autism across the UK, and increasingly now worldwide.
Dr Hewett is one of the originators of the social communication approach known as Intensive Interaction. He initially published on the approach as far back as 1988, and has spent most of his working life developing, defining and tirelessly disseminating this approach extensively across learning disability and special education services. Indeed, Dr Hewett continues to this day, despite declining health, to be the main driving force behind the broadening influence of Intensive Interaction in helping people with learning disabilities and/or autism (irrespective of age, degree of impairment and learning or living environment) to have access to genuinely “meaningful two-way communication” (Valuing People Now, DoH, p.37-38). He has more recently promoted its use for those suffering from later stage dementia.
Dr Hewett’s publications and presentations, including his many articles, chapters, books, training resources, DVDs and websites (many collaboratively undertaken) have had an enormous impact on the development and implementation of Intensive Interaction. However, it is important to bear in mind that the people who truly understand the power of Intensive Interaction are those many people who have had personal experience of it, such as families, carers and, of course, service users themselves.
Intensive Interaction is also now an approach that is used by an extensive range of individuals and professionals including families and carers, teachers, nurses, speech and language therapists, occupational therapists, clinical psychologists and many residential and other care establishments or services. Indeed, it is an increasingly important feature of the graduate and post-graduate curricula for many of these professional groups.
Intensive Interaction is now seen to have a wide breadth of utility and is used to improve social communication outcomes for adults and children with learning disabilities, autism, acquired brain injury, late-stage dementia and, indeed, any individual whose diagnosis involves a social or communication impairment.
Finally, in summation, without Dr Hewett’s tireless and continued endeavours to define, develop and continuously promote Intensive Interaction over the last 30+ years, many people would not now have a chance to enjoy and benefit from the positive, affirming, nurturing and socially inclusive engagements that this single approach has made possible. Directly and indirectly, the work of Dr Hewett has had an extraordinarily positive effect on the quality of life of many thousands of individuals with social and communication impairments, and subsequently also their families and carers.
I can think of absolutely no one other than Dr Dave Hewett who is more deserving of the recognition that any honour may bestow.
Enjoy your retirement Dave – and see you soon at the cricket!