Part of my role for the Hesley Group is deliver induction training to new support workers. The autistic people they will soon be caring for have a reputation for being challenging to support and so the new starters are anxious to develop a good relationship as quickly as possible. Responsive Communication and Intensive Interaction is a very effective place to start and at the end of the training session I leave the inductees with three pieces of advice when starting an interaction with someone.
The first piece of advice is to ask “What are the offers here?”. Everything that the person does could be an offer to join in – tapping, rocking or singing for example. The first thing that the practitioner has to do is to see the behaviour as an offer. Observing carefully and taking time to ask what the offers are can often help the practitioner to see new opportunities for interaction.
Mel Nind expressed this principle as “imputing intentionality” i.e. we impute (assume) that the person intended their behaviour as meaningful communication. While useful and technically precise, this expression is directed at a particular audience (namely that of educators, speech and language therapists and researchers) and I have found that the language often requires further explanation. Expressing the same principle more simply has helped the people I train to “get it”.