Reviewed by Suzanne Bennett, Quality coordinator/staff trainer in Personal Outcomes, and Staff of Glenvale & Hall Lodge Sunbeam House Services, County Wicklow.


Creative Conversations consists of a video and a booklet. The video shows four separate sessions of carers being guided by Phoebe Caldwell to use interactive conversation with four adults who have multiple and profound disabilities. These sessions are interspersed with explanatory discussions between Phoebe Caldwall and Pene Stevens.

A ten-page booklet is also included, giving a short outline of each of the participants, and some brief notes under the headings: Interaction, Observation, and Visual and hearing impairments, and a list of useful references.

A group of nurses and care staff from two high support units of Sunbeam House Services in Arklow, viewed this video. The group were impressed with the accessibility of the material, one does not need to be an expert in order to learn how to use Intensive Interaction. The interactions between the person and the carer do not rely on verbal language. In the video Phoebe guides the carer to respond to the individual’s own way of communicating, which may be a facial expression, a body movement, breathing rhythms, or a sound.

Some staff commented that they already do this, but not in a formal way. In the video Phoebe encourages staff to first observe everything a person is doing in order to discover how they communicate with themselves, and then guides the carer to build on each response, in order to develop a two-way interaction.

SHS staff felt that this was a development of what they were doing already, and were encouraged by the video to move to the next level of interaction by accepting responses from an individual as their way of communicating, and giving a definite response.

As a staff trainer I can see how useful this material would be, both for new staff at induction level, and with existing staff teams working with people with profound learning disabilities. It would be important that all support staff working with an individual were trained together, to develop their interactive skills with that individual, to avoid the danger of a person becoming too dependent on a particular carer, if he or she is the only person with whom they can have an enjoyable interaction. SHS staff suggested focusing on one person at a time while staff developed their Intensive Interaction skills.

All staff who viewed the video requested further training. The references in the booklet are a useful starting point for trainers to design a module in developing communication skills. The Creative Conversations Video could form an integral part of this training. This video pack would be of particular interest to staff trainers, care staff, nurses, psychologists and family members involved in supporting someone with profound learning disabilities.

CREATIVE CONVERSATIONS: COMMUNICATING WITH PEOPLE WITH PROFOUND LEARNING DISABILITIES, by Phoebe Caldwell, with Pene Stevens (2005). Pavilion, Brighton (, ISBN 1 84196 134 5. Stg£135.13.