Intensive Interaction: ‘A tool for communication’

My blog for this week shamelessly references (or is mainly copied from) an article in OTnews (the monthly magazine of the Royal College of Occupational Therapists) in May 2019. In this article, ‘A tool for communication‘, Rebecca Haythorne (then an Occupational Therapist at Leeds & York Partnership NHS Trust), discusses the role of Intensive Interaction in facilitating meaningful engagement for one of her NHS service users with a learning disability and autism.

Below I sample some of her article in the hope of giving an Occupational Therapy view of using Intensive Interaction integrated into aspects of their own case work:

John, a 26 year old man with learning disability and autism, lives at home … and receives care 5 days a week to support engagement in activities of daily living and meaningful occupations … He was referred for occupational therapy input after concerns were raised that he was finding it difficult to engage with his care team and was spending a significant amount of time in his bedroom area‘.

After an initial assessment of needs, it was agreed that the Occupational Therapist would work with John and his support team to explore a range of interventions and approaches to support his care team to engage him more positively in purposeful and meaningful occupations …’

‘The Occupational Therapist worked with John and his care team over a period of five months, and during this assessment period it was identified that Intensive Interaction was a positive and key approach in supporting him to engage in both domestic and leisure activities in and outside of the family home‘.

One of the key objectives of exploring the Intensive Interaction approach with John’s care team during times of intervention was to identify and demonstrate the value and importance of engaging John in less demanding activities that occupy his time, as opposed to more physical observable and measurable ones‘.

During the assessment process, ‘the Occupational Therapist observed that John was sat in the window seat at his home and was refusing attempts made by his care team to engage in activity. The Occupation Therapist noticed that John was occupying his time by watching the council maintaining trees. This was seemingly a purposeful activity for John, and through carrying out Intensive Interaction techniques of sitting with John, mirroring his actions when he communicated interested, and letting John lead the activity, the Occupational Therapist was able to reduce the demands that his care givers were placing on him to do an activity that they thought was more purposeful‘. 

Through reducing the demand being placed on John and following his lead and pace the Occupational Therapist was able to support John from moving on from this activity into the next activity of his choice in a timely manner‘. 

To conclude, Intensive Interaction can be a positive tool to support occupational therapy interventions to increase engagement in meaningful occupations and activities for individuals with complex needs … In this case, the Occupational Therapist used Intensive Interaction approaches to emphasise to his care team that engagement in ‘activity’ should not be based on one action after another to keep him physically active, which can often cause a demand overload. Instead it should be measured by the quality of the intervention offered to occupy the service user’s mind in something that he finds purposeful‘.

[This Blog has been reproduced from a previous Blog of mine first posted on 19/09/19]

One thought on “Intensive Interaction: ‘A tool for communication’

  1. I found this very moving. As a teacher and a parent to a little boy diagnosed with autism I found intensive interaction life changing. It seems so obvious when you finally get it but we all need to slow down, talk less, relax, enjoy spending time with one another and yes.. watch the world go by. Life is not an ongoing intervention. I love the quote by Dave Hewett that we all need the “hot air of companionship.” Thanks for sharing this important read

    Liked by 1 person

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