A special event was hosted yesterday at Fieldhead in Wakefield to promote a valuable technique that helps staff working in learning disability services engage and communicate with the people they care for. The event was organised by South West Yorkshire Mental Health NHS Trust and attracted professionals and academics from across the UK.
The technique, called intensive interaction, defies the common belief that people with disabilities such as autism, cannot interact with others. It focuses on finding common ground with an individual and responding to them by using their sounds and movements. It has proved highly effective in enriching the quality of life of people with learning disabilities and reducing distressed and disturbed behaviour.
The day-long event, included talks by leading world expert Phoebe Caldwell, leading world researcher Suzanne Zeedyk and leading world theorist, Dr Peter Coia.
Dr Coia, who works for the Trust as a clinical psychologist, said: "Intensive interaction is all about discovering ways to have a conversation with someone who is essentially non verbal. It’s about recognising that people with severe learning disabilities are human beings with feelings, just like the rest of us. They, like everyone else have an innate desire to communicate but instead of using words, they express themselves through their behaviour. However, because we fail to respond in a way that has meaning for them, they are left feeling frustrated and isolated."
He continued, "Instead of restricting them and obstructing their behaviours, we have to try to understand, interpret and respond to them, thus finding a common language via which we can relate. This event has been about sharing that insight with staff working in learning disability services and showing them not only how to use the approach effectively, but also the ways in which it can change lives for the better."
Social worker Mandi Gay attended the event and said, "I have found this event incredibly useful and have learned to approach people with learning disabilities in a whole new way. Being able to interact is key to any human’s happiness and I’ve realised that people with severe learning disabilities are no different."