Opening like a flower

These were the words that one teacher used today as she watched a 13 minute interaction with one child who had previously shown no interest in initiating interaction.  Last week I recommended to the staff team that they use sensitive touch in support of their intensive interaction practice.  The reason for this strategy was that staff were tending to keep their distance when trying to interact with the child for fear of making him feel anxious.  The result of this approach was that the child simply did not notice that the staff were there for him.  We thought a little about how his communication development compared with that of a typical child and decided that his communication skills were at the level of a child 6 to 12 months in age.  We talked about the importance of sensitive touch for communication development with a child of this early age and concluded that it made sense to intentionally apply this to the child in question.
Over the course of the week the staff managed to engage the child in many interactions and found that running their hand up his back gently soothed his anxiety if he became unhappy.  Today one teacher managed to sustain a 13 minute interaction by developing this ‘theme’ after which the child initiated a social interaction with the teacher for the first time.  This felt like a great success for all concerned and gave the staff confidence in the approach.

Knee pads for all!

Effective Intensive interaction practice requires good positioning. Unfortunately for creaky adults this means that we need to get our eye level down low.  Next week I am going to introduce kneepads to the foundation and ks1 classes with the aim that it will help staff to be more comfortable if they have to get up and down frequently to interact with a child from the most effective position.

Intensive Interaction at Woolley Wood School

I am currently employed as Intensive Interaction Co-ordinator by Woolley Wood School in Sheffield.  It is my job to develop and implement a consistent school wide approach to Intensive Interaction.  This is proving to be very interesting work and over the course of the first year of the project I came to the conclusion that the discussions that I was having with staff as I mentored their practice might well be of interest to others outside of the school.  As we deliver the project in 2014/15 therefore, I will be blogging weekly about the progress in the school and will cover topics such as  practice, principles, resources and recording methods.

Developing a healthy community of practice

Our first day of contact time when well today.  The day started with a full school briefing which seems to have been well received from staff.  Taking these opportunities to speak to all of the staff is critical to my strategy this year in order to involve all members of staff in the community of practice or, more specifically do everything I can to help staff feel that they are all involved in and can contribute to  a practice that is developing and moving forward.
I made 3 class visits over the course of the day and had some very interesting discussions with staff about the practice.  Key issues that came up were:

  • Assumptions being made about why a child disengaged rather than reflecting on the many factors that may have resulted in this behaviour e.g. eye level, direction of approach, volume, object of child’s interest, what happened exactly when the child left etc.         We are much less likely to find a way to reach the child if we do not analyse these factors and try to find out how we can change our interaction style to best suit the child.
  • Preconceptions about what a child finds meaningful about an object/interaction/behaviour.  The children that at Woolley Wood behaviour in atypical ways and it can therefore be difficult for us to empathise and understand the world from their point of view.  If we try to be carefully observe what is happening moment-to-moment without habitually judging what we see then we are more likely to see things as they actually are.  If we can do this then we are better placed to see the world from the child’s point of view and make an appropriate response.
  • Falling into the habit of leading task-based interactions.  I had several conversations with staff about this and it is important to wait and see what will happen rather than lead it.  What I usually say in a conversation like this is that all the information you need to know about what you need to do is right in front of you, you just need wait and look in the right way.

The objectives for 2014/15

Last year I worked in the school for 4 hours per week.  With limited contact time my main focus was upon modelling Intensive Interaction and mentoring the teachers.  Unfortunately this meant that I did not have a great deal of direct contact time with the teaching assistants or time for supporting administrative work.  My  aims for this year therefore will be:
1.  Expand the community of practice to involve all teachers, teaching assistants, senior management team and external stakeholders through more direct contact time, an internal newsletter and external blog.
2. Implement a clear and efficient recording system and models of best practice for recording and filming.
3. Continue developing Intensive Interaction practice and repertoire.

School briefing

On Wednesday we will be using the class team meeting slot at 8.45am to deliver a whole school briefing on Intensive Interaction.  There is only 20 minutes so I will need to be succinct but this will take a step towards one of this year’s goals which is to bring the teaching assistants fully into the community of practice and develop a consistent school wide approach to Intensive Interaction.

New session record books

A large part of the day was spent testing out, proofing, printing and putting together the new session record books.  There will be one book for each child and the form has been designed to be filled quickly while still recording all the important information we need.  I will be testing the form out over the coming months and we will upload it once its efficacy has been proved.

Intensive Interaction development at Woolley Wood

My name is Matthew Laurie and I am the Intensive Interaction Co -ordinator at Woolley Wood Special School in Sheffield.  Over the coming year we will using this blog to tell the story of the Intensive Interaction development work that is taking place at Woolley Wood.  We will be pioneering new recording systems, approaches to teacher mentoring, videoing and Intensive Interaction practice.