Do What You See (Intensive Interaction Essentials)

For an approach to be taught and passed on effectively, the practice should be communicated in a way that is simple and easily understood.  For Intensive Interaction, I believe that the most straightforward explanation is ‘do what you see’.
‘Do what you see’ means exactly that.  If your partner is on the floor then you get on the floor.  If your partner lifts one hand then you lift one hand.  If your partner makes a sound then you make the same sound.  If your partner stops then you stop.  If your partner starts then you start.
‘Do what you see’ is the first practical exercise that I give the trainees on my course.  There are several reasons for this:

  • Positioning – by following the instruction to ‘do what you see’ trainees get down to their partners level and adjust their body language, volume and energy to that of their partner.
  • Pace – By doing what you see, a practitioner starts when their partner starts, and stops when their partner stops.  This immediately addresses the common problem of doing too much.  Doing what you see also means you are also as certain as you can be that you are doing things at the right pace – because it is your partner’s pace.
  • Partner led – If you are doing what you see then your partner must be leading the content of the interaction.
  • Knowing what to do – In the beginning I tell trainees that they are only allowed to do what they see.  This can really help people understand what to do because without a concrete instruction like this trainees can feel like they have too many options and will often stop being responsive because they are thinking too much about what they should be doing.   To ‘Do what you see’, all you have to do is carefully observe your partner’s behaviour and respond by doing the same thing.  Everything you need to know is right in front of you.
  • Being Responsive – If you are only ‘doing what you see’ then you must be following an important principle of intensive interaction, that of being responsive.
  • Being Taskless – In order to ‘do what you see’ then you must let go of your own agenda and habitual task oriented approach. All we are allowed to do is what the child is doing.
  • Being Mindful – To be able to ‘do what you see’ you must accept your partners behaviour, stop striving for how you would like things to be, be patient and trust yourself, your partner and the approach.
  • Validating and affirming – By ‘doing what you see’ you are validating and affirming your partner’s behaviour.

All of this then is communicated in the instruction ‘Do what you see’ and I use this instruction in several ways:

  • As an exercise for trainees – Can you ‘do what you see’ for 2 minutes? I want to know that the trainees on my course can do this.  I think that for a person to be able to be a good practitioner they must be able to let go of their ideas/preconceptions and just do what they see for 2, 5 or even 10 minutes.
  • As a starting point – Whenever I begin Intensive Interaction I start by ‘doing what I see’.

Trainees often see several results when they start to ‘Do what they see’…

  • Recognition – Their partner seems to recognise that they are joining in with their behaviour
  • Permission – Their partner seems to give more permission to share their space
  • Enjoyment – Their partner begins to respond to the shared behaviour with pleasure
Of course there can be more to Intensive Interaction than just doing what you see. A natural interaction is co-created by both partners and involves meaningful turn-taking and dialogue like a series of questions and answers. When we ‘do what we see’ we have only one choice in how we return our partner’s behaviour – we have to do the same thing. As explained above this exercise is often enough for recognition, permission and enjoyment which is a wonderful outcome, especially for those new to the approach. To have only one option in how we respond can sometimes feel limiting however and we might feel like we would like to respond in a different way. This is fine of course (as long as the response is appropriate), but I will only talk about this part of the practice once a trainee has shown me that they can first ‘do what they see’.

The last thing to say is that this idea of ‘Do what you see’ is proving important to the development of a community of practice at Woolley Wood.  Intensive Interaction is an approach that is designed to be passed on.  For this to happen effectively however it must be easy to understand and and communicate.  What is the likelihood of the practice being shared by those who have attended my course if my explanations are complicated or lengthy?  An idea like ‘Do what you see’ is easy to explain and share across the staff team and I have observed that this is happening at Woolley Wood.

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