Intensive Interaction

  • What is it?

It is a way of starting communication with a child who for one reason or another is still at the early stages of communication development. They may have a severe learning difficulty or be Autistic and find it hard to communicate or be social.

A way of teaching the pre speech fundamentals of communication to children that we learn as a baby and toddler through interaction with others.

It is not about speech though following intensive interaction may help speech develop

  • What are Pre Speech Fundamentals?
  • Enjoying being with another person communication requires you to enjoy being with another person
  • Developing the ability to attend to another person to learn to communicate we have to pay attention to other people
  • Sustained attention and concentration in order to learn from an activity we need to be able to pay attention long enough to receive and understand the messages coming to us.
  • Learning to do sequences of activity with another person. To get the idea of conversation we need to understand cause an effect and turn taking. I do something then you do something then I do something which makes you do something.
  • Sharing personal space in communication, particularly in the early stages of development , we are usually seeking some form of bond or relationship and in order to do this we usually need to be physically close.
  • Using and understanding non-verbal communication developing eye contact, facial expressions using gesture
  • Using vocalisation with meaning learning different noises communicate different things
  • Self-regulating not getting over excited or bored
  • Anticipation developing anticipation in familiar routines which develops the idea that communication is rewarding and fun.


  • What does it look like in practice?

It is much like what you would do with a baby. But you are doing it with an older child.

It is highly practical all you need is you and them.

Take the child’s lead – respond to their actions, sounds, gestures. You are playfully imitating them to help break into their world. Showing that you value them and enjoy being with them.

Treat the things the child does as communication so we are responding to them as a communicator.

Use observation as you interact so you are quick to interpret their communication and the communication stays positive. For example – they may turn their back indicating they have had enough or push your hand away.

You can do intensive interaction at any time and place. Seize opportunities when they arise and/or plan time with the child when you can give them all your attention and nothing can distract you.

Intensive interaction is based on research and is often listed on advice from Educational Psychologists.  Studies have shown that participants developed behaviours that helped to sustain interactions – looking, smiling, vocalising. They developed the ability to be able to engage in interaction and learned to initiate social contact. They made advances in their ability to communicate needs and preferences through vocalisations, sounds and gestures.

See video clip of this in action at clips are also available on you tube that demonstrate this approach