Training Opportunities

In Spring 2017 I will be offering 3 courses on Musical Interaction and Intensive Interaction
15th March 2017 9.30 – 3.30pm Musical Interaction Training
This full day training will help participants to develop a person centred responsive approach to music-making and communication.  No musical experience necessary.  See attached flyer for more details. £95 per place if booked before 31st Jan 2017
PDF Flyer – Musical Interaction Training 15th March 2017
15th May 2017 9.45am – 12pm – Intensive Interaction Essentials
Half day session covering the core concepts underpinning Intensive Interaction and Responsive Communication.  £55
15th May 2017 12.30pm – 2.30pm – Recording Intensive Interaction
Half day session covering practical methods for recording Intensive Interaction in different settings.  These methods were approved by OFSTED in Woolley Wood’s most recent inspection. £55
Book on both Intensive Interaction sessions on 15th May for a reduced fee of £95
Places on all courses can be booked by calling 07896 977388.
Kind regards

Currently I am working at four care settings near Doncaster run by the Hesley Group. Two of the services are secondary schools, one is a college for 18-25 year olds and the other is for adults. All four settings are residential services for people living with autism (sometimes in combination with a severe learning disability) and the support workers find many of the service users challenging to care for.
My favourite job title for what I do on these four days is “Social Learning Mentor”. Why? Because this describes the three main aims of my work:
To improve the quality of life of the service users by helping them to learn fundamental social skills.
To help the staff learn how to bridge the communication gap and develop deeper relationships with the person they support.
To facilitate the development of a community of practice (social learning) centred around 1 and 2.
I know how to achieve my first objective because there is a very effective method… Intensive Interaction. As Dave Hewett recently said on a video “We should be using an intervention that focuses dynamically and socially on the major aspects of the impairment which is social communication”. This is exactly what intensive interaction does and the efficacy of the approach is evidenced, not only by the major textbooks on the approach, but in the way that practitioners light up when they describe the benefits of their work. Practitioners really seem to love this way of working. I’ll come back to this in a minute.
Dave Hewett continues to say that we should use this approach a lot with the supported person. This I know to be true because, not only have I seen Dave’s videos and other case studies, I have also seen first hand the profound impact sustained intensive interaction can have upon a persons quality of life. However, because I only work one day a week in each Hesley setting, I can’t apply this sustained approach on my own.
This brings me my second aim, and the my main theme for this post, to train the staff in intensive interaction so that they can help the service user too. Well, this was my original aim but over sustained periods of mentoring and training support workers, I found that this purpose, to do intensive interaction to teach communication skills, didn’t create enough passion for all of the staff to take it up. In a recent conversation, Graham Firth (II Project Leader in Leeds) confirmed my theory as to why this is true. While he and Dave Hewett are used to training people, parents and staff who have already decided to learn Intensive Interaction and attend one of the courses that the Intensive interaction Institute offer, my work often involves training and inspiring staff who have not chosen to be trained. This makes a big difference. While a training day offering intensive interaction to the wider public as an approach to deal with a challenge of teaching communication skills can attract attendees who share and have been inspired by this common purpose, I have to find a common challenge that unites the closed population of staff in the places that I work. Teaching communication skills will inspire some staff for sure but for a true community of practice to flourish I ended up looking for something more universal.
Supporting the people that live in the Hesley Group care setting can be very challenging and consequently the job can be quite stressful. Acknowledging this was an important step in connecting with the staff (rather than giving them something else they had to do on top of their workload) and I started to look at what the benefits are for the practitioner rather than placing the emphasis on the service user. I already mentioned that practitioners ‘light up’ when they describe their Intensive Interaction practice and so I wondered if I could offer the approach as something that could find this joy in an otherwise difficult job.
I describe this feeling as “this is why I came to work” and I started to ask staff what makes a moment like this for them. The answers seem to fall into two camps, either the fruit of the staffs hard labours (like teaching someone to use a spoon for a year and finally seeing the person achieve this) or making a connection with the person they support, stepping into their world, seeing them happy, making them smile.
So, I started to offer Intensive Interaction to support workers as an approach to find these moments of “this is why I came to work”. I asked staff what happens to the stress of the day when you find a moment like this. The universal answer is that the stress disappears and you can go home “buzzing… feeling really warm knowing that I done a really good job”. All it takes is seconds of meaningful connection, play, co-created dialogue, smiles, recognition or new permission and a stressful negative day can become a positive one.
While one of these moments is enough for a difficult day to turn positive (and this fact alone should be enough for anyone to give it a go), it is through the repetition of these moments that trust and relationship with the people we support are forged. With a deeper relationship the care work can become more straightforward and much more satisfying and we can take pride from knowing that we are helping a person to be less isolated and to experience the joy of human interaction.

This is why I come to work! (or Intensive Interaction and staff engagement)

Currently I am working at four care settings near Doncaster run by the Hesley Group.  Two of the services are secondary schools, one is a college for 18-25 year olds and the other is for adults.  All four settings are residential services for people living with autism (sometimes in combination with a severe learning disability) and the support workers find many of the service users challenging to care for.
My favourite job title for what I do on these four days is “Social Learning Mentor”.  Why?  Because this describes the three main aims of my work:

  1. To improve the quality of life of the service users by helping them to learn fundamental social skills.
  2. To help the staff learn how to bridge the communication gap and develop deeper relationships with the person they support.
  3. To facilitate the development of a community of practice (social learning) centred around 1 and 2.

I know how to achieve my first objective because there is a very effective method… Intensive Interaction.  As Dave Hewett recently said on a video “We should be using an intervention that focuses dynamically and socially on the major aspects of the impairment which is social communication”.  This is exactly what intensive interaction does and the efficacy of the approach is evidenced, not only by the major textbooks on the approach, but in the way that practitioners light up when they describe the benefits of their work.  Practitioners really seem to love this way of working.  I’ll come back to this in a minute.
Dave Hewett continues to say that we should use this approach a lot with the supported person.  This I know to be true because, not only have I seen Dave’s videos and other case studies, I have also seen first hand the profound impact sustained intensive interaction can have upon a persons quality of life. However, because I only work one day a week in each Hesley setting, I can’t apply this sustained approach on my own.
This brings me my second aim, and the my main theme for this post, to train the staff in intensive interaction so that they can help the service user too.  Well, this was my original aim but over sustained periods of mentoring and training support workers, I found that this purpose, to do intensive interaction to teach communication skills, didn’t create enough passion for all of the staff to take it up. In a recent conversation, Graham Firth (II Project Leader in Leeds) confirmed my theory as to why this is true.  While he and Dave Hewett are used to training people, parents and staff who have already decided to learn Intensive Interaction and attend one of the courses that the Intensive interaction Institute offer, my work often involves training and inspiring staff who have not chosen to be trained.  This makes a big difference.  While a training day offering intensive interaction to the wider public as an approach to deal with a challenge of teaching communication skills can attract attendees who share and have been inspired by this common purpose, I have to find a common challenge that unites the closed population of staff in the places that I work.  Teaching communication skills will inspire some staff for sure but for a true community of practice to flourish I ended up looking for something more universal.
Supporting the people that live in the Hesley Group care setting can be very challenging and consequently the job can be quite stressful.  Acknowledging this was an important step in connecting with the staff (rather than giving them something else they had to do on top of their workload) and I started to look at what the benefits are for the practitioner rather than placing the emphasis on the service user.  I already mentioned that practitioners ‘light up’ when they describe their Intensive Interaction practice and so I wondered if I could offer the approach as something that could find this joy in an otherwise difficult job.
I describe this feeling as “this is why I came to work” and I started to ask staff what makes a moment like this for them.  The answers seem to fall into two camps, either the fruit of the staffs hard labours (like teaching someone to use a spoon for a year and finally seeing the person achieve this) or making a connection with the person they support, stepping into their world, seeing them happy, making them smile.
So, I started to offer Intensive Interaction to support workers as an approach to find these moments of “this is why I came to work”.  I asked staff what happens to the stress of the day when you find a moment like this.  The universal answer is that the stress disappears and you can go home “buzzing… feeling really warm knowing that I done a really good job”.  All it takes is seconds of meaningful connection, play, co-created dialogue, smiles, recognition or new permission and a stressful negative day can become a positive one.
While one of these moments is enough for a difficult day to turn positive (and this fact alone should be enough for anyone to give it a go), it is through the repetition of these moments that trust and relationship with the people we support are forged.  With a deeper relationship the care work can become more straightforward and much more satisfying and we can take pride from knowing that we are helping a person to be less isolated and to experience the joy of human interaction.
 
 
 
 

Storytelling & Leadership – 4 Point Story Method

Storytelling is the art of engaging, moving and inspiring people but it is difficult to do without a good story.  The stories that are most likely to inspire people will be about people.  This 4 point story method can help leaders to quickly identify and develop powerful stories of how an intervention, service or programme impacted upon patients, staff and organisations involved.
In my last post I showed how the results of a healthcare improvement project could be expressed as a set of outcomes (which on their own can be dry and unmoving) or as a story (which ‘makes it real’ as one twitter user replied).  As natural storytellers, it is easy to see the difference and, because we tell stories every day in our interactions with our friends and family, it should be straightforward to get the hang of what makes a good story.
The following method I have derived from the value creation framework developed by Etienne and Bev Wenger-Trayner that I am pioneering in the care settings that I work in every week.  This tool is designed to evaluate the efficacy of social learning interventions and communities of practice through ‘horizontal’ qualitative stories of how people engage with the communities activities that are then supported by ‘vertical’ indicators and data.  While this is a powerful method in itself, it is also more complex than is necessary for our storytelling needs and, if we look at the principle behind the framework, we find a very useful story structure.
As I explained, powerful stories centre on specific people.  The 4 point story method uses four questions to elicit the story of how a person engaged with a specific intervention, what they got out of it, how they applied this new knowledge and what the result of this was.
4 point story method for powerful value stories

  1. What happened?
  2. What did the person get out of it?
  3. How did the person apply this?
  4. What was the result?

Eg.

  1.  What happened? Doctor Smith watched a film on patient leadership as part of the 2016 Transformathon.
  2. What did she get out of this?  She was inspired to start a patient leadership programme in her hospital.
  3. How did he apply this? She contacted the Yorkshire and Humber Leadership Academy to ask about any other local programmes that she could learn from.
  4. What was the result? Dr Smith is now collaborating with a local established patient leadership programme to develop a programme in her context.

The validity and power of the story lies in the casual link between each of these questions and the emotional content of the story provided by Dr Smith.  For qualitative evaluations such as this to be convincing, the story must irrefutably show that the result is a direct consequence of the initial engagement with the intervention.  Further power can be added if the story can be supported by indicators and data.  For example, if the above story was used to support the evaluation of the Transformathon, such indicators might be the number of people engaging with the online patient leadership resources and the data might be website statistics.
These four questions help us to elicit these stories and I have used them with a lot of success, particularly in short video interviews such as this video I made for a responsive communication training intervention in a Sheffield special school.  All the staff interviewed were responding to the questions described above and I find that the interviewee is encouraged to talk directly about the important themes.
The next part of this series will look at the value creation framework in more depth…
 

Storytelling and Social Learning Leadership

I am a professional storyteller and have been trained in Social Learning Leadership by Etienne Wenger and Bev Wenger Trainer.  Storytelling is the art of engaging and inspiring people and it is the skill that has most impacted on my work – being able to talk seems crucial for creating momentum for change.
When I was training in storytelling 10 years ago I attended a workshop facilitated by Mats Rehnman, a Swedish storyteller.  One of the concepts that he taught on the course was the difference between the story and the commentary on the story.  For example, a commentary would be to say that the “the boy was sad” as opposed to “the boy stared at the floor as a single tear rolled down his cheek”.  In the first example there is no picture, while in the second the listener sees the boy and infers the sadness.
How is this relevant to leadership? The most common mistake that I hear people making in presentations or elevator pitches is to talk in generalities rather than specifics, that is to say to use commentary rather than stories.  A colleague asked me this week to listen to her powerpoint presentation and made this exact mistake.  After 10 minutes there had been little content to enjoy or move me emotionally.  Talking in generalities like this would sound like:
Stakeholder:  How is the project going?
Project Leader: Well, 6 in 10 patients showed improved wellbeing scores, attendance was up, and the staff culture survey showed the job satisfaction has improved.
As in the above example of a commentary, we can see that there is nothing in the way of imagery and nothing emotional left for the audience to infer.  On hearing my colleagues presentation, my advice was to bring use more specific stories and anecdotes.  Tell a story of one patient rather than talking about ‘patients’.  Give us some feedback from an actual nurse rather than talking about the ‘staff’.  The result might sound something like this.
Stakeholder: How is the project going?
Project Leader:  visited the ward last Wednesday to evaluate the work and one of the patients beamed when he saw me and said that this work is what keeps him going.  At handover I chatted with one of the male nurses and he told me that he had observed that one of the patients had actually relaxed and joined in during the session that took place the previous week. The nurse said that, even though leading session isn’t his cup of tea, he tried running the activity himself and with some degree of success (albeit without the guitar).  He and the patient now have a new way to be together and the nurse said this has helped his day to day work because this particular patient was often aggressive.  I also interviewed the ward manager and he simply lit up when he told me that the work had brought out the best in the patients and the staff.
The first example is simply a string of facts and this is unlikely to ignite the emotions of the teller or inspire the audience.  The second example however tells a story and as the listener we can see the image of the patient beaming, the male nurse relating his experience and the ward manager being excited.  In contrast to the telling of dry facts, the teller will be moved because the story has emotional content and imagery.  If the teller is emotionally moved then the audience will reciprocate this and will engage more with the teller and the tellling.
In social learning leadership these ‘value stories’ are very important to communicate the value of an intervention or project.  The power of the story comes from the casual link from a specific event to what someone got out of it, how they applied this and finally what the result was.  The dry data and indicators are then used to support this value story rather than being the main focus of the presentation.  With these specifics in mind and it is much easier for a leader to tell a powerful and moving story.  In storytelling this is called letting the story tell itself.  Even a very skilled storyteller will find it difficult to inspire an audience without a good story.
For more information about the application of storytelling in leadership and social learning training get in touch using the contact page to start a conversation.  

Alone or Lonely? Does the person you support have the ability to choose?

There is a difference between being alone and being lonely.  I think that being ‘alone’ is when you are by yourself and content with the situation while ‘loneliness’ is the unhappiness that arises when a person is on their own but would rather have the company of others.
When supporting a person with a communication disability we must consider that a person, who is observed to be on their own, may or may not be content with the situation.  I have encountered many support workers who have told me that the person they support likes to be on their own, rocking in the corner of the room or sat quietly on the sofa.  “Maybe… maybe not” is my reply.  How do we know for certain if a person wants to be on their own if they lack the very skills that a typical person would use to initiate an interaction with other people?
One way I explain the situation to the staff that I mentor is like this.  The people we support sometimes want to be on their own and they can often communicate this need to us, often in an extreme way – pushing, shouting, nipping or other challenging behaviours.  Likewise, the people we support can sometimes communicate when they would like to be with us perhaps by hugging, holding, dancing.  But there is a grey area in between these two poles where perhaps the people we support would like to be with us but feel unable to start the interaction, feeling anxious, lacking confidence, feeling fearful.  In this situation the people we support would be lonely (and suffering from loneliness) rather than being content with being alone.
How do I as a practitioner know that this might be the case? Because when I use an approach like intensive interaction or responsive communication it is at these times that I might approach someone, when the person is on their own and not pushing people away or becoming obsessed with sensory stimulation.  And when I  approach people sensitively at these time what do I find?  I often find that, if I have offered myself in the way that the person I am supporting needs me to be, such a person might begin to enjoy my company and show pleasure in being with another human being, rather than pushing me away as might be the case if they were happy being alone.
As I said above, there is a question (rather than certainty) over whether a person wants to be alone when they are observed to be by themselves.  We should be careful about assuming that a person with a severe communication disability (arising from autism, learning disabilities or dementia) is content if they are by themselves and we should be aware that this assumption can spring from our use of the same criteria that we use with our friends and family for determining whether a person wants be alone ie. assuming that if they are by themselves they are content and could reach out for human contact if they wanted.  For a person who lacks fundamental communication skills our assumption should rather be that ‘this person may not have the ability to reach out for the social contact that they desire and need’ and we should investigate how to approach the person sensitively to determine whether their isolation is in fact something they desire or would rather was not the case.  So, the next time you see someone by themselves, ask yourself this: is this person content with being alone or is loneliness damaging their mental health?

Experiences of Intensive Interaction and Dementia

It was quite natural for me to try intensive interaction and responsive communication as a way to connect with people with dementia. I think the first time I tried was in 2011 – at the time I was working at an autism care setting with the people that were the most difficult to reach and I had just started a new care home project for people with dementia. Only a couple of weeks into the project I encountered some older people who were unable to participate in small group interactions due to their dementia and communication difficulties. Observing such people before entering into a one-to-one interaction, I couldn’t help but be reminded of responsive communications with people with autism and severe learning disabilities. I was faced with people who were exhibiting non-verbal behaviours: tapping, singing, murmering, walking… all of which were treated as obstacles to communication by those looking through the lens of the verbal communication that we are all so used to. But from the perspective of intensive interaction and responsive communication, reminded as I was by my experience in autism services and special schools, these behaviours were offerings, ways-in and opportunities for the precious shared experiences that can lead to relationship.
And so I remember my first few encounters. We met people in the living room of the residential care home and one lady was sat back in her chair, her body rigid. Her gaze was fixed, her face tense in a fixed anguished expression. She was frequently vocalising – a low pitch monotone ‘ahhhhhhhh’. I sat with her and joined in with her behaviour, vocalising with her, starting when she started and stopping when she stopped. The whole time I attempted to ‘just be’ without expecting anything or making any demands. In hindsight (and having now worked in various acute mental health units for people with dementia) this lady was living with perhaps the most advanced dementia I have seen but as I sat with her I felt that she relaxed, her facial expression changed and her gaze moved toward my face. I felt a connection with the lady which, according to care staff was unusual.
I found this first experience enlightening and I felt that further investigation was worthwhile. So one week I turned to a gentleman who had so far hummed along to a few tunes when I had been engaging the group in some singing and music making. He was in his late fifties and, once I was with him one-to-one, I found that he could engage in verbal turn-taking but only half his words were clear and his sentences did not make sense to me. He would say something with all the non-verbal body language of somebody who had said something very meaningful but I was unable to understand. Trying to talk to him in a traditional sense would therefore be tricky, staff would ask what he means or would turn-take saying ‘ok’ or ‘right’ when he stopped talking. His dementia was not as advanced as the first lady but I thought it would be appropriate to try joining in with his verbalisations and body language. The results were interesting. He would vocalise a jumbled up group of syllables and smile and I would repeat the syllable and smile back. His response was to smile back and affirm what I had done. We had some rapport. We continued our enjoyable verbal turn taking and I imagined that, if foreign person who did not understand english had entered the room, they would have thought, from verbal exchanges and positive non-verbals, that myself and the gentleman engaged in an enthusiastic and meaningful discussion.
For me, these two examples highlight some interesting points for consideration when using intensive interaction with people with dementia. If we define intensive interaction as a responsive, taskless and mindful approach to communication whereby the practitioner joins in with and celebrates the behaviours of their partner with the aim of sharing a positive experience of social inclusion, then using such an approach with a person with advanced dementia like the lady in the first example (a person who seems to have lost the ability to self reflect) can result in the sort of positive meaningful interaction that is familiar to anyone with experience of using intensive interaction with people with learning disabilities or autism.  Due to her dementia it seems that the lady had lost her ability at the fundamentals of communication and is in a similar position to a person with a severe learning disability who may be yet to learn such fundamental social skills. Therefore our approach may look the same. What we do with a person with less severe dementia may be have to look different however.
After the interaction with the gentleman in the second example I did question whether, due to his milder dementia, he was reflecting on what I was doing and whether he was sometimes asking meaningful questions, however indecipherable, and hoping for meaningful answers from me beyond my joining in with his sounds. For much of the time we interacted I felt my intervention was appropriate but it was quite possible at times that he was wanting a meaningful verbal response in which case my intervention could have been counter therapeutic with the gentleman getting frustrated that I was not understanding them. A sensitive interaction in this case might might not therefore look like a ‘classic’ intensive interaction with one person copying the behaviours of the other.
What should we do then in this situation? Well, we just need to go back to the principles rather than the applications. I defined intensive interaction above as a responsive, taskless and mindful approach to communication. We can still do this without directly copying a persons behaviour… in this situation I often involve music and dance as structures for responsive, creative communication but, since describing this will require another post then I suggest just thinking about the principles… put down your agenda, remain totally mindful, be ready to respond at any time and celebrate the person you are with. See what happens… it can only be positive.

When a demand is not a demand (I'll choose the place, you choose the time)

My ideas for blog posts come directly from my conversations during mentoring and training. To explain things to a new trainee I often have to find a different explanation and sometimes I think that it might be useful for other people to hear this too.  This happened this week when I was mentoring the new group of staff on my course.
The situation was that a child was playing with a wooden train set on a table.  His pattern of behaviour was as you might expect, adding bits of track, pushing the train down the track and also, because there was sand on the table too, blocking and burying the trains in sand.  The teaching assistant reported that when she had tried to play with him in the past he would often push her away and that she was finding it difficult to engage with him.
I began by advising that perhaps she could try to share his space by being less direct and just playing with the trains herself in the same space rather than trying to engage him directly.  The result of this was that the child was happy with her being alongside him as a fellow train-player and the teaching assistant found that she could share his space for longer than before.
When we looked back at the video of the interaction the teaching assistant noticed one of her direct attempts to engage the child that hadn’t worked well.  She had added a few pieces of track herself and had then asked the child if they wanted to push a train down the new piece of track.  The child just ignored her.  When I asked the teaching assistant what had worked well she noticed that just sitting beside the child playing with trains had resulted in the child choosing to reach out and engage with her.  My way of explaining what was happening went something like this.
The key here is to understand the difference between an instruction and an offer.  I am giving an instruction if I am choosing the time I want my partner to respond ie. by saying “it’s you turn” or “do you want to push the train now?”. Given such an instruction (which can also be non-verbal), my partner is left with only two choices: to do what I have instructed or to refuse.  In my experience of people with communication disabilities I find that a common response is to refuse, ignore or react negatively, responses which do not seem to be helpful when we are hoping for our partner to choose to be with us. Often such a partner may be called demand sensitive but is it the demand they are sensitive to or us and our habitual ways of interacting?
An offer however is different from an instruction in that we leave the timing up to our partner. We do something that allows our partner to choose what to do.    In the context of the example above we might, in response to something our partner did, just move one of the trains a little closer to him. Our partner is then free to choose what to do with it.  If our offer is too close it might be seen as a demand, if it is too far away they might not notice it.  If it is just right then our partner might choose to reciprocate our offer.  Other things that the TA could have done include changing her position, amplifying what was happening by joining in with her partners actions using her voice (e.g. saying ‘wheeeeeeee’ when he moved the train), making a pile of sand, building a tower of trains etc.  All of these are not direct attempts to ‘engage’ but responsive offers that leave the child with choice.
This explains why picking up our partners hand and hitting a drum with it during a music session often doesn’t seem to have the desired effect.  Or saying ‘it’s your turn to dance, Mavis’ on a dementia unit.  The reason that we haven’t been successful is that our attempt to engage the person, even with the best will in the world, has been seen as an instruction because our partner feels they have no choice.  In these examples just offering the drum and playing yourself, or playing some music that Mavis might like and dancing a little bit yourself may work as offers that may just be taken up by your partner as they make a self motivated choice to be with you.
To find just the right offer for a person to choose to interact with us and play can take a little time and investigation.  What worked for one person as a good offer may be seen as an instruction by a more sensitive person so our reflective practice is importance in order to discover how to be the person that our partner needs us to be.
So this is why I say that we as practitioners we might be choosing the “place” (how and when we choose to approach for example) but, by understanding how to offer, we let our partner choose the time…
 
 

How to record Intensive Interaction: Classroom Wallchart

My previous post explained how we ascertain a baseline interaction level at Woolley Wood using the engagement profile that was introduced to the Intensive Interaction community of practice by Mark Barber and Graham Firth.  Once we have completed the baseline we can then use the engagement profile to record the interactions that are taking place and, if we are interested in progress, we can then compare this with the baseline level.
To make this work in the classroom I eventually settled on a wall chart format.  More detailed methods of recording were failing because staff, assailed with many other things to record, were not managing to find the time to complete the records and the blank sheets were therefore remaining in the folders.  So I developed this wall chart with the aim of capturing as much information as possible in the most efficient and accessible way.
There are two PDF’s to download. On the first I have have completed an example line on the record so you can see how it works.  The second download is completely blank with no example filled in.
Interaction Record
Interaction Record No example
The wall chart allows for the recording of an ‘average level of interaction’ and a ‘best moment’.  These are self explanatory… the average level is the level that the child seemed to be at for most of the time while the best moment is the highest level episode of interaction that happened.  I felt that the distinction was necessary because when I began exploring the engagement profile many years ago I found it difficult to assign one level to an interaction – a child may have spent 5 minutes showing no social awareness and then suddenly shown consistent attention to the social encounter for 30 seconds.  Does this mean that they are around the level of Attention and Response? I found that with an average level and best moment we could say that such a child would be at the average level of encounter with a best moment of Attention and Response.  This to me seems more accurate.
 
Using the Interaction Record
The most accurate way to record an interaction is to film it.  Watch the film and use the engagement profile questions to ascertain the level and best moment.  Then enter the date on the Interaction record and use the top row (more coloured) to mark the best moment and the lower row (faded) to mark the average level.  If you have not filmed the interaction then you need to make an educated guess as to the levels.  Add your initials in the space provided and then use the last space to note anything that worked well or didn’t work so well.
Recording Intensive Interaction in this way has a number of benefits:

  • All members of the staff team can keep up to date on break throughs or things that are working or not working.
  • The record can be used to support video footage to compare with the baseline and discuss how effective the approach is.
  • As the staff team engage with the method they will share a more accurate understanding of the engagement profile, supporting the development of a community of practice.
  • The method will help the staff team will share an understanding of what level a child is at and how the team can work together to support the child’s communication development.

All of the above things are very important but perhaps even more crucial to me is that this it works and is being used successfully in each classroom.
Any questions please just get in touch.
 
 

Recording Intensive Interaction – Baselines

In order for a recording system to have integrity progress must be compared to a baseline level.  We can use the seven levels of engagement introduced in the last post to assess our partner’s baseline level of communication ability and then use this to ascertain any future progress.
My requirements for a baseline system were as follows:

  • Involves enough data so as to avoid inaccuracies
  • Practical enough for classroom use i.e. not too staff intensive
  • Simple to learn
  • Accurate

After a few months of experimentation we eventually settled on the following method at Woolley Wood using this Baseline Assessment form.
(Download and open or print the file so that you can make sense of the next set of instructions).
Baseline Method

  1. Find another member of staff (or family member) to film the interactions.
  2. Film a three minute interaction.
  3. Find a time to watch the video together with the person who did the filming.
  4. Begin watching the video and after 30 seconds stop the video and use the engagement profile to assess the level of the interaction.
  5. Record this level using a tally mark on the Baseline Form.
  6. Continue watching the video stopping every 30 seconds to make an assessment and mark the form.
  7. At the end of three minutes you should have 6 marks on the Baseline Form.
  8. Over a period of 7-14 days film some more interactions and repeat steps 1-6.

Having completed the above steps you can ascertain the overall baseline level.  Count the tallys in each box to find:

a) The level that was recorded the most times (AVERAGE)

b) The highest level recorded on  the sheet (MOST INTERACTIVE EPISODE)

Write down the levels in the appropriate areas in the top right hand area of the form and the Baseline assessment is complete.
Things to consider

  • In the school we use iPads to film the interaction because it we can watch the video straight away on the iPad screen rather than having to download the film onto a computer.
  • At the school we do five 3 minute videos over a period of 7-14 days.  The purpose of this is so that we have record the interactions when the child is in different moods, on different days and different times and the baseline will therefore be more accurate.
  • Working on a baseline is a good way to familiarise yourself with the levels.

Please contact me with any questions and I’ll do my best to answer them.