How would you feel?

I was told a story today about an interaction that took place in the playground at Woolley Wood.  The teaching assistant said that she approached the child as she was playing in the sandpit and, after she sat down next to the child, the child stood up and walked away.  The teaching assistant’s reflection was that the child does not like being approached when playing in the sand pit so she decided not to try again.
This led to some interesting discussions.  First I explained that the reflection that the child does not like being approached was actually an assumption in contrast to a deduction made through reflective practice.  When we begin to analyse how we approached the child by asking questions like “what did I actually do?”, “what could I have done differently” we begin to see that there are in fact many ways that we could have approached and many ways that we could have tried to join in or cue the play.
As an example I asked the teacher to imagine the following:  You are sat on the back seat of an empty bus and a new unfamiliar passenger gets on board, walks all the way down the isle and sits right next to you.  How would you feel?  On another day you are sat in the same seat on the bus but this time the seat next to you is one of the few empty seats.  A new unfamiliar passenger gets on board and they walk down the isle and sit on the empty seat.  How do you feel this time?
The teaching assistant explained that in the first example she would feel unnerved and would feel like moving away from the new passenger while in the second example she wouldn’t mind that the new passenger had sat next to her.  I think that this how most of us would feel in the same situation too and I also believe, thinking back to our initial story of the playground, that the child in the sandpit moved away because he/she feel like we would on the empty bus. To help us with our Intensive Interaction practice we can now turn the the metaphor around and ask ourselves where we would sit if we were that new passenger.
This example can help us think about our approach to Intensive Interaction.  In terms of positioning, there are many different ‘seats’ that we could choose when we engage with a child.  The teaching assistant above chose one position and, to the child, this may have felt like someone sitting on the adjacent seat on an empty bus.  To work out what is acceptable to the child we need to become scientists and experiment.  Try further away (the other end of the bus) and if the child does not move away then try closer positions on subsequent occasions.  By employing reflective, empathic (and patient) practice in this way we can find a position where the child acknowledges our presence but does not feel too anxious.
What we do next of course is another matter :0)  I’ll write about this in another post…

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