Reviewed by Colin Griffiths


This book is a primer in the practical use of Intensive Interaction for teachers, nurses, care staff, parents and others with an interest in engaging with people with profound and complex intellectual disability.

Intensive interaction was developed by Melanie Nind and Dave Hewitt in the 1990s as an educational approach that enabled close communication to be developed between teachers and those pupils with whom they found interactions to be most difficult. Intensive interaction takes as its starting point a behaviour in which the person with intellectual disability is engaging. The teacher imitates that behaviour and uses the subsequent reaction [or non reaction] of the person with ID as the bridge upon which to build an interaction sequence. The operation of this simple idea is the subject of the book.

The three main sections of the book examine how to prepare for an intensive interaction session, what to do during the session and how to evaluate the success of the session. Each chapter offers slightly different advice depending on whether the person you are working with is well known to you or not. While this is a useful distinction, it leads to a quite disjointed chapter format. The content of each chapter explains clearly how you should use intensive interaction techniques. With a few exceptions, it does not explain what you should do because the actual activities need to be based upon the behaviours of the person with intellectual disability—you are mutually constructing the interaction on his or her territory. The book takes a straightforward instructional approach and is easy to understand on that account; the downside is that the style of presentation of the material is quite stilted and at times repetitive.

The final chapters offer some tips on how to keep a successful intensive interaction programme going and how to develop it. Some form of supervision is suggested and the use of video as an evaluative tool is also recommended. This latter suggestion, while useful, might have been developed further to explain exactly how video might serve as an analytic and evaluative tool. Lastly, the book includes a list of further reading, other resources and a useful glossary.

It seems to this reviewer that the book offers a good workmanlike introduction to intensive interaction. It is non-technical and very accessible. It is also somewhat superficial and at times repetitive. It is clear that the writers have a deep knowledge and commitment to intensive interaction and these qualities underpin the worth of the book. This book is of value to those considering using intensive interaction in their work with people with profound and complex intellectual disability and, as such, it can be considered a useful introduction to the subject.

USING INTENSIVE INTERACTION, by G Firth and M. Barber (2011) Jessica Kingsley Publishers. London. ISBN 9781849051095.


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