Intensive Interaction

Intensive Interaction (II) is a gentle intervention that can be particularly useful in enhancing two-way communication with individuals with complex needs, such as autism, sensory loss and severe learning disabilities, who have limited or no verbal abilities.

We first introduced Intensive Interaction in 2009. It is used throughout our services to build positive relationships with the people we support and helping them to develop.

In October 2012, we underlined our commitment to this approach by organising an Intensive Interaction conference.

A report on our conference is available here.


Intensive Interaction was originally developed in the 1980s by teachers Dave Hewett and Melanie Nind at the now closed Harperbury Hospital School, Hertfordshire, which supported students with profound learning disabilities and challenging behaviour.

Recognising that they could not teach their students without first getting to know them, they developed Intensive Interaction as a way to help them enter the world of their students.

In this approach, the communication partner takes the lead from the person who is learning to become more social and communicative by responding to selected aspects of behaviour, for example by altering their voice, gaze or body language.

How does it work?

By responding to and joining in with the service user in things they like to do, the communication partner appears less threatening and more interesting and is able to build the other person’s confidence through repetition, structure and developing patterns of communication over time.

Intensive Interaction is about communication partners spending time together. Sessions are intended to be fun and playful and take place at a pace and intensity that does not overwhelm the service user. The approach can be used daily, while recognising when the service user needs to pause or rest.

From adopting Intensive Interaction, we know this intervention can have a hugely positive impact on service users’ behaviour, overall happiness and well-being, as these case studies demonstrate.

For more information, please contact us.