A Speech and Language Therapist (SALT) who I had met at one of my workshops recently raised the thorny question, which she had been asked, of ‘Should we use Intensive Interaction when in public?’  Thorny, because maybe the question might reveal more about people’s comfort zones than it does about what is in the best interests of the person they are supporting.

I think this is a really important question; the SALT who raised the issue was spot-on about us ALL being bound by the idea of social normality and fearing judgement.  When we are able to step through our own comfort zone, switch our ‘self’ consciousness into consciousness of the person we are supporting, then we are able to give them the support the need most, when they need it, irrespective of place.

A few of my thoughts:

  • We all have public and private ways of communicating (the way I yell at my husband in the supermarket is different from the way I yell at him at home!).  This can be reflected in our intensive interactions.  My public way of responding to the person’s movements or sounds might be more muted in a crowded place than they would be in a private one.  But the important thing is that I am still responding in a way that the person recognises/expects/needs me to.  We can encourage carers and families to explore how they can be more muted but still be responsive (e.g. using touch in response to sound or movement).
  • In some situations, when our person is becoming stressed, we know that if we do not acknowledge them through Intensive Interaction, then their distress will increase to the point of melt-down.  Most of us would prefer that not to happen in public, for our person’s sake and for our own!  I can’t think of a better reason for disregarding our own shyness or discomfort about Intensively Interacting in public – it’ll attract a LOT less notice than a full-blown demonstration of distress.
  • Having some cards in your pocket, printed with the message “I see you are watching me using Intensive Interaction to support my friend/son. If you want to know more please call me later or visit www.intensiveinteraction.co.uk” can make a huge difference to how comfortable you feel.  You may never use them, but knowing you can wordlessly offer an explanation to a stranger (who may be genuinely concerned, not just nosey or judgemental) will increase your confidence.  And you have just advocated for your person to have the type of support they need exactly when they need it, in order to be part of the community like everyone else.  (It’s very easy to print your own cards these days).

So I absolutely agree with the SALT that intensively interacting in public is fine – it gives the person the message that they are worthy of being listened to and that rapport can be maintained wherever they are, even if it is in a slightly different way from when they are at home.  Roll on the inclusive and integrated society!

Janet Gurney

Director of Training


Published by

Us in a Bus

20 Apr 2017

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