John Jamieson School

John Jamieson is an open and welcoming, generic, all age Special School and National Teaching School which caters for pupils with a learning difficulty

Intensive Interaction

At the East SILC we use Intensive Interaction with our learners everyday. Intensive Interaction is an approach to interacting with and teaching early communication and interaction skills to those who do not find it easy communicating or being social.  It has been developed for those whose communication and learning disabilites are more severe or complex; who need to develop the ‘fundamentals of communication’.   It can be useful when communicating and relating is made more difficult by additional physical or sensory impairments and/or autism.

‘’The Fundamentals of Communication’’  include:
  • Enjoying being with another person
  • Developing the ability to attend to that person
  • Concentration and attention span
  • Learning to do a sequence of activity with the other person (developing shared attention)
  • Taking turns in exchanges of behaviour
  • Sharing personal space
  • Using and understanding eye contacts
  • Using and understanding facial expressions
  • Using and understanding physical contacts
  • Using and understanding non-verbal communication
  • Learning to regulate and control arousal levels
  • Emotional understandings and outcomes
  • To be playful and to have fun.
  • Learning use and understanding of vocalisations, having your vocalisations become more varied and extensive, then gradually more precise and meaningful.
Intensive interaction is also useful for individuals who have some speech and language ability, but need further work to develop their social skills and relationships with others. It supports the individual to relate better to those around them and to learn to enjoy communicating with others.

The principles of Intensive Interaction are based on the natural communication development of very young children, but the approach is applicable to all age groups.We can use intensive interaction at any time and in any place.  It can be used to teach or just as a way of being people, and can be done anywhere and at any time. Intensive Interaction requires the communication partner to adjust their communication to a developmentally appropriate level for the individual concerned. Interactions centre on playful and enjoyable exchanges. The key is to use methods which maximise the individual’s chances of engaging meaningful with their environment and those around them.

Top tips for Intensive interaction: 
  • Take the individual’s lead: respond to what they do by joining in, commenting, imitating. 
  • ‘Tune-in’: to the individuals' communication, mood, non-verbal signals etc. 
  • Use timing and rhythm, and repetition.
  • Pause: don’t rush or try to fill silences.
  • Focus: give quality one-to-one time.
  • Reflect: on their responses and yours.
  • Observe: spend time watching how they communicate and what they enjoy.
  • Enjoy! Relax and have fun. If you enjoy it then they are more likely to as well.
Further Intensive Interaction information can be found:
  • Hewett, D., Barber, M., Firth, G. & Harrison, T. (2011) The Intensive Interaction Handbook. London: Sage Publications.
There is also an Intensive Interaction discussion forum on Facebook ( and many videos by Dave Hewett available on YouTube (
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