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An important method
Female teacher and young boy high five

There have been several research studies carried out on the efficacy of Intensive Interaction.


The majority of experienced practitioners are convinced of its value:

For children at early levels of development, perhaps we should be contemplating the need for Intensive Interaction or 'Social Communication' Co-ordinators, in the same way that we consider having Maths or English Co-ordinators.

Kellett, 2000


A different way of teaching and learning

Intensive Interaction is a classic process-based way of teaching and learning. It shies away from the behaviourist skills teaching approach.

We would argue that there are practical reasons for using behavioural approaches. They are effective for some skills learning. We would also argue that there are practical reasons for using alternatives to behavioural approaches. These centre around their inadequacy for teaching complex areas like sociability and communication and the comparative power of interactive approaches to facilitate these important and complex developments. Intensive Interaction was developed for this very practical purpose. We are also aware however, that Intensive Interaction fits with a certain way of seeing the world, that to operate within its principles and to use its methods requires us to think in certain ways. It is because of this respect for the individual with learning disabilities for what they are, this willingness to work with them rather than do things to them, that makes a conflict with behavioural approaches somewhat inevitable.

Hewett and Nind, 1998

The use of language
A teacher and a young boy use verbal and
                  non verbal cues to communicate

One of the most notable areas of Intensive Interaction is its use (or rather non-use) of language. With the notable exception of active, fun, learning times (drama, poetry, story telling, etc.) language needs to be used with great subtlety and caution.


As a general rule, in exactly the same way as we use language to support signing, less is more.

It's not what you say, it's what you don't say (1)

In this clip, Edward goes out to play.


  • Poster

The member of staff takes a minimalistic approach, why is this effective?

What key words does the member of staff use that are so effective?

It's not what you say, it's what you don't say (2)
Young boy and teacher interact using guitar
                  and ipad

Always ask yourself the following key questions:

  • Are we using language wisely?
  • Does it have to be said?
  • What are the key words?
It's not what you play, it's what you don't play

Musical Interaction is an interesting variation of Intensive Interaction. It has developed through the work of Wendy Prevezer (2000) and Margaret Corke (2002, 2011).


It is strongly based on the principles of Intensive Interaction, does not require musical ability on the part of the teacher and is a lot of fun.

Musical Interaction requires:

  • Interactors: through face, body language and voice;
  • Social interaction games: such as burst-pause; anticipation games; rough and tumble; give and take; physical activities (clapping, tickling, rocking, rowing, peek-a-boo, hide and seek, throwing things backward and forward);
  • Music: though not necessarily what we might consider to be conventional music with recognisable tunes; anything that makes sounds, including voices, is sufficient;
  • Structure to the lesson: all round in a circle; a musical introduction; an age appropriate hello song; time for small group and peer interactions; time for one to one interactions; an age appropriate goodbye song.
The power of Musical Interaction (1)

In this clip, music interactionists play the guitar to a couple of children.


  • Poster

Why is Musical Interaction
so effective?



The power of Musical Interaction (2)

If essential growth and learning is to take place, then the learner needs to have a voluntary and active input (Corke, 2002, 2011).


It is important to move away from the more traditional music sessions, where only conventional tunes are played. In place, music should be used to teach interaction and communication skills.


In this way, Musical Interaction acts as a motivational communication tool and allows and encourages:

  • Valid musical experiences; and
  • Personal interactions.

Its great strength is that it is suitable for all learners (PMLD, SLD or ASD), particularly those at the earlier stages of
communicative development.


Musical ability on the part of the teacher helps. If all parties are focused and enjoying themselves then it is not essential.

Find out more
opened book

Corke, M. (2002) Approaches to Communication Through Music, London: David Fulton.


Corke, M. (2011) Using Playful Practice to Communicate with Special Children, London: David Fulton/Nasen.


Hewett, D. and Nind, M. (eds) (1998) Interaction in Action: Reflections on the Use of Intensive Interaction, London: David Fulton.


Kellett, M. (2000) Sam's story: evaluating Intensive Interaction in terms of its effect on the social and communicative ability of a young child with severe learning difficulties, Support for Learning, 15 (4), 165-717.


Leaning, B. and Watson, T. (2006) From the inside looking out – an Intensive Interaction group for people with profound and multiple learning difficulties, British Journal of Learning Disabilities, (34), 2, 103-109.


Lovell, D.M., Jones R.S.P. and Ephraim, G. (1998) The effect of Intensive Interaction on the sociability of a man with severe intellectual disabilities, International Journal of Practical Approaches to Disability, (22), 2/3, 3-9.


Prevezer, W. (2000) Musical Interaction and children with autism in: Powell, S. (ed.) Helping Children with Autism To Learn, London: David Fulton.