‘Gary’s Story: Parents doing Intensive Interaction’

by Beth Taylor and Steve Taylor – taken from the book Interaction in Action: Reflections on the Use of Intensive Interaction (Hewett, D. & Nind, M. (Eds), 1998, David Fulton Publishers).

In this chapter ‘Gary’s Story: Parents doing Intensive Interaction’, Beth and Steve Taylor reflect on their life with their son Gary, who suffered from severe epilepsy, was diagnosed with autism and had severe learning difficulties. At the time of writing this chapter, Gary was 12 years old. Below are set out some comments taken from this chapter that attempt to briefly summarise their journey together with Intensive Interaction :

Reflections from Gary’s mum in ‘Beth’s commentary’:

  • My son grins broadly and chuckles, puts his arm around my neck, looks deep into my eyes, and for a moment we enjoy a precious feeling of shared happiness. It may only be fleeting but it is definitely there. [With Intensive Interaction] We are seeing more and more of Gary’s feelings, and a greater variety of them too, but more important, and what is fundamental to our approach with Gary, is the sharing of emotions. This brings him in as part of our family, and makes him one of us. It wasn’t always like this’.
  • ‘… my son was performing obedience tasks but remained socially isolated, in a little tormented world of his own, … what we were doing needed to change radically’.
  • ‘It wasn’t until we came across Intensive Interaction with its total philosophy of a non-directive approach that everything fell into place. It felt so totally right to be with Gary in this way, so absolutely natural and, from the response that Gary gave, we needed no more proof that this was how we should move on’.
  • ‘And of course, he is made to do things, like getting dressed, having a bath, and all the necessary things of life, but he does those things with a willingness and trust that we would not have had without the close relationship Intensive Interaction allowed us to develop’.

Reflections from Gary’s dad in ‘Steve’s commentary’:

  • ‘Now, 10 years on [after starting to use Intensive Interaction with Gary at home] we have a different child … I know that when I get home from work Gary will run to greet me, will flap or clap with excitement, and will probably give me a sloppy toothy kiss (all his kisses are sloppy!). He wants to be with us, his parents, and shows it. In turn, we find it so much easier to be with him, and we absolutely enjoy being with him’.
  • ‘Intensive Interaction gave us the confidence to do what we as parents had always wanted to do … to be with Gary and to react to him in ways which gave him pleasure, and consequently gave pleasure to us’.
  • ‘Although we still have problems with challenging behaviour at the school, as with Gary at home, these problems are very considerably lessened, both in frequency and severity’.
  • ‘Since we started fully [with Intensive Interaction] … at home,  Gray has developed dramatically. He still can’t speak, can’t feed or dress himself, and can’t take himself to the toilet. On the other hand, we have a child who is happy to be with us (and even seeks us out to show this), who trusts and allows us to take him into new situation’.
  • ‘Where we go from here with Gary is clearer to us. We go on together, albeit with our lives built around his needs. We enjoy him as a person, and he enjoys us as his family and friends. He makes progress, and he undoubtedly copes with the trials and tribulations of life more effectively than he has ever done before. He’s happy, therefore we’re happy’.

To read the full, open and at times painfully honest commentary from Beth and Steve, get yourself a copy of Hewett, D. & Nind, M. (Eds) (1998) Interaction in Action: Reflections on the Use of Intensive Interaction (David Fulton Publishers).

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