Intensive Interaction

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Phoebe Caldwell


From a mainstream primary school:

Thank you for your recent visit. After an inspiring training day, we were encouraged to look at the current practice in our school setting for pupils on the autistic spectrum.

Our learning centre is part of a large primary school which is fully committed to inclusion. Intensive Interaction has given both staff and pupils permission to communicate in very different ways within mainstream class settings.

It has enabled classmates to develop relationships with autistic pupils in a fully supportive communicative environment. Peers are aware of pupil's sensory needs and of how through Intensive Interaction they can help meet these needs enabling close friendships to develop and flourish.

Intensive Interaction has helped mainstream pupils and staff to better understand the different ways in which autistic pupils communicate and also given them the skills and confidence to join in the conversations!

From a Resource Centre:

Intensive Interaction training 17th May 2012.We are a team of people working with adults 16 plus, who have Learning disabilities and complex support needs.23 staff attended course in Intensive Interaction facilitated by Phoebe Caldwell on May 17th. The staff found this training experience "inspiring" and informative and could not wait to try and see if this was as easy and affective as Phoebe made it seem.

We realised during the training that as a team we needed to stop, listen and observe the service users and provide engagement with them that helps to lead the communication between us.

The day following the training, the staff were excited and eager to quietly engage with the service users using Intensive Interaction.

All day positive feedback was exchanged between the team about their experiences.

We have been using Intensive Interaction to engage with people regularly to initiate communication prior to activities and social engagement with service users.

We have found it particularly effective when supporting service users who have become anxious to reduce anxiety and this has helped the person focus on the reassurance being offered.

When service users have experienced episodes of "emotional crisis" where physical intervention strategies have been required to support these individuals, using intensive interaction we have experienced quick and positive outcomes, which helped us to avoid the need to use restraint procedures to "keep people safe ".

Staff are building their confidence and service users are enjoying this "new" communication experience, some service users are demanding it by indicating that they are unhappy if support staff return to traditional communication methods.

We are seeing service users gaining confidence during social engagement with service users initiating engagement with staff who are using Intensive interaction with them.

Some of the staff team feel more confident and relaxed using Intensive Interaction approaches than others, but the whole team is eager to develop their skills.

We plan to have support meetings to discuss individual service users and what approaches work to change how we communicate with some individuals.

We would like Phoebe to come back to our service and meet the service users and offer us more support and advice.

This is the beginning of using Intensive Interaction and adopting it as an essential part of the communication support we use in the service.

It is helping us to build more equal and trusting relationships with service users.

An infant school headmaster writes:

Your talk has had a significant impact on everyone that I've spoken to. People have been talking about changes in attitudes and practice! The effect has been profound! Many of us feel as though we are developing an understanding of the student you worked with that is enabling communication and interaction that we thought impossible before. My own relationship with him is now one of mutual understanding; We have taken steps to reduce the sensory overload he experiences (you appear to be 100% correct on his difficulties with light!).

An SEN teacher writes:

I just wanted to write and say thank you.

Although you don't know me or my team, you have been an inspiration to us all. Also, your books and guidance have helped five, often distressed and isolated children begin to feel safe, valued and part of a social community at last.

No words from me can do justice to the smiles they now have.

A student on the autistic spectrum writes:

The tinted glasses have made a brilliant difference and teachers can't keep up with me at school and I have been put on a gifted and talented list since I got my glasses. When I take them off at night I still can't believe how bad my sight was. My headphones are still coming in useful and I still use them on the school bus.

Thanks for giving me the advice.

From a County Development Officer:

I just wanted to say thank-you for the fascinating presentation you gave on Tuesday. It was amazing and moving to see the impact your techniques had on the people in the video clips you had, and I am planning to show some of the material on the video at my next team meeting and to my Mencap local groups at an event I am planning to pass on some of the learning and experiences I have had through the course. I would not have believed the impact that the sort of communication you demonstrated could have, and the look on the persons face will stay with me forever, it was amazing.

A mother writes:

Thank you so much for giving up you time to see our daughter on Sunday. I found it really interesting, you gave me a much better understanding of how to communicate better with her, particularly using the sensory interaction alongside, we have already found that she relaxes more when you stroke her hand at the same time as talking to her. I realise it might be a slow process so we will persevere and celebrate all of the small successes. 12 months later: The great news is that our daughter has continued to thrive and now has many more words and appears to want to communicate with us more than ever. (19.11.10)

From a member of Care Staff:

I attended a training session from yourself a few years back at our organisation. I just wanted to say that what I learned from you that day has totally changed the way I work with many of our clients and has enriched our relationships.

From a Community Care Staff member:

I attended your day-course last week and wanted to thank you again for such an inspiring and enlightening day. It is unfortunate that so many people still see the communication attempts of people with autism as misbehaviour, and unsuccessfully try to correct and remove though positive and negative reinforcement. Your course brought an awareness of the acute difficulties these people must face, through sensory experiences, mis-understood communication and the struggle to find coherence. In our weekly group meetings, we have decided to focus on individuals with whom we find most challenging, and to look at ways to apply non-verbal communication, which validates their own efforts. We will also pay close attention to the environments we offer, with an awareness of the possible effects they could have on our members.

From a Parent :

Thank you so much for coming to see us. I feel that for the first time our whole family can communicate and that our son knows or should I say wants to communicate with us as he knows we will respond appropriately. Our interaction is improving and our son definitely makes more conversation when blowing raspberries and foot tapping. Thank you for teaching us how to do this. Once again, on behalf of our family for showing us a way that we can all communicate together. 18 months later: Our son continues to communicate. We are passing on the information to everyone we meet.

From a Music Therapist:

I just wanted to thank you for the book - Using Intensive Interaction and Sensory Integration. I am a therapeutic Musician and work with autistic children. I have been having good results generally except with the severely affected ones and your book has shown me how to break through their shell. Your approach plus the music are doing wonders. thank you.

From a Community and Mental Health Service Intensive Interaction Group Co-ordinator:

‘Isn't it amazing how making what could be seen as such small adjustments can create the world of difference to someone's life? As you say, it is important to remember that it's not just about using their language but a whole shift in focus.’

From a User with Autism

‘Having tested a lot of lenses, I have found a particular pair which started to cause improvements in certain symptoms and behaviours. Firstly, I was able to read in a straight line without any deficits such as shimmering or losing my place. I then revisited these afterwards and started to notice more significant differenced, such as a sharp increase in my eye contact, my attention to detail and subtleties in the environment (without just glancing at it until it became distorted) as well as my balance, anxiety and overall speech.

I felt as I looked round my environment, I could physically detect the blood flow in the back of my head shift, as the architecture of my brain began to shift to accommodate this new way of functioning.’

From a User with Autism (Age 10)

‘Normally in class I can hear everything, other’s whispering, noise outside, people tapping pencils and dropping them. It’s hard to hear the teacher’s voice unless she is shouting which isn’t often. With the ear phones I couldn’t hear anything that disrupted me, I wrote more than usual and I could concentrate on learning and could listen just to the teacher. I took them off and I was astonished at how different it was.’ (Her Teacher’s said that the standard of her work had gone through the roof within half-an-hour of starting to use the headphones. They were sorry, they had not known before.)

From a User with Autism

Clair tells me she crumples her toes inside her shoes when she feels herself becoming sensorily overloaded. She is now wearing ridged insoles (cut out from a rubber mat with narrow ridges like a hard, rubber corduroy) which offer a rough texture on which to scrape her toes. She writes that ‘she cannot believe such a simple idea would make such a difference to her life.’ It helps her mood generally.

Recent and Upcoming Work

Hazelbeck School,
Guiseley 27.06.17
Drummore School,
Glasgow 18/19.09.17
Huyton School,
Knowsley 22/23.03.18
Campsie View School,
Glasgow 11/12. 10.18
Henshaws College,
Harrogate 31.08.17
Henshaws College,
Harrogate 16.09.18
Millom School (Parents Group)

Adult Residential
Underley Gdn 14.07.17
Underley Gdn 17.08.17
Underley Gdn 11.10.17
Underley Gdn 10.11.17
Newark 24.07.17
Underley Gdn 15.03.18
Underley Gdn 07.06.18

Oxford Autism 22.02.17
Glasgow Concept Training 14.03.17
Lancaster LDT 27.04.17
Leeds LDT 16.05.17
Keighley Resource Centre 11/12.17
Settle Dementia Art Tutors 27.09.17
Edinburgh Design and
Architecture Department
(City of Edinburgh Council)
Lifeways Group Wakefield 05.07.18

4 Visits to Families to see Individual Children
Individual Tutorials for Parents (using personal film of children and Professionals
Skype support

From November I shall be able to give 3 Hour Presentations if transport is provided
Personal Day Tutorials for Parents or Professionals (Two max. Train station Settle Yorkshire)

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