published 12 Dec 2016
by Us in a Bus
in Practice category with
You may have read or heard some news recently about “Life, Animated”, a film detailing a family’s journey towards meaningful communication with their son, who has autism. And like us, you may have thought “Ooh, this is a bit like Intensive Interaction. ”
Owen, who doesn’t have a learning disability, became ‘obsessed’ (the Suskind family’s word; not one we would use) with Disney animated films. It seemed that he could only function within the films, not in the real world that expected so much of him. Professional advice was to redirect him from this repetitive interest as it would restrict his development. However, it was only when his family began to realise that when they entered into Owen’s experience of the film, they made themselves understandable to him. He could articulate his feeling, his fears and his hopes when they were in his world, rather than expecting him to be in theirs. Disney became the bridge that enabled Owen to develop and grow into the capable, confident young man he is today. The family have called their approach Affinity Therapy and are promoting their film about it, “Life, Animated”.
Wonderful and life affirming as this story is, I am frustrated on 3 counts!
- I wish it wasn’t called a Therapy. Beyond doubt, the approach has a therapeutic impact, but the name implies you need to be a trained ‘Therapist’ to use it. This could alienates all those people who already have the empathy and perception to be using this approach quite naturally, and more importantly might alienate people from simply having a go at noticing what is most meaningful in someone’s life and using it to bridge the communicative divide.
- The Suskinds state that this approach relies on typical cognitive abilities and therefore may not work with those who have learning disability. Oh but it CAN and DOES! Those us who have found our way into Augmented Mothering/Creative Conversation/Intensive Interaction/Responsive Communication know beyond doubt that careful observation and patient, creative connection with an aspect of whatever seems of vital interest to the person we are supporting, can open up doors that we didn’t even imagine were there.
- An opportunity to make the link with an existing, well researched, excellently documented and wonderfully effective approach (Intensive Interaction) wasn’t made.
This is the second time in a few months that we have had this reaction – a mixture of genuine interest in the family’s story and frustration that the editor hasn’t done her research deeply enough. A couple of months ago, research on “Super Parenting” was published; this also seemed to us to parallel some of the fundamental concepts of Intensive Interaction. Us in a Bus intends to be as proactive as possible in 2017 in encouraging the oxygen of publicity to flow fiercely through the blood of Intensive interaction.