Gina Davies - Autism and Intensive Interaction
Specialist Speech & Language Therapist Gina Davies spent a second day at the National Autistic Society 10th Anniversary Professionals Conference to share more of her extensive experience with autism and intensive interaction as a therapeutic intervention.
She began the breakfast session by giving permission to the professionals in the room to develop individualised approaches for their pupils, but also for themselves. Reminding us all that we also need to be invested and engaged in what we are teaching to be the best model of what we expect from the children – no multi-tasking, no verbal prompting for good sitting/listening/looking – just unbridled enthusiasm for the activity that sparks curiosity.
Now developing ‘ready to learn’ behaviours are a huge part of any child’s development and first experiences of education, but we also must take some responsibility as educators to ensure that what they are expected to learn is at least useful, but better if it is fascinating and engaging. It must also be developmentally appropriate for the individual – both metaphorically and literally, you need to walk before you can run.
And most importantly for autistic children, the skills and enjoyment that can come from making a connection; from sharing an experience with another and the breadth of learning (termed ‘horizontal progress’ by Davies) that is of equal value to the linear nature of predetermined curricula. She finished the formal part of the seminar by asking delegates to reflect upon this question: if everything you do and are is felt to be in need of correction or change, your communications, your actions, your efforts – what impact will that have on your engagement and your mental health?
We are brought full circle to the thematic thread of this whole event - to accepting and valuing the neurodiversity of our communities.
To demonstrate the effectiveness of Intensive Interaction for all human beings, not just autistic children receiving therapeutic interventions, Davies then takes to the floor with irresistible activities that have the most experienced professionals engaged like we wish our students would be. Who would have though some paper cups could entertain a group of grown adults for this long!