Interactive Approaches

Portland College have put together a variety of resources to support parents / carers using interactive approaches with young people.


You may also want to look at the resources for Sensory Exploration.

Interactive Approaches

Interactive approaches (including intensive interaction) are a way of having a chat and building a relationship with someone who finds any sort of communicating very difficult. It helps people to spend time with others in a relaxed and sociable way.

The approach supports the development of the ‘fundamentals of communication.’ These are the communication skills we develop to help us interact with others. These include; turn taking, making eye contact, vocalisations (sounds before words). The approach is based on research into parent child interaction and how we develop very early social skills.

Interactive approaches can include:

  • Intensive Interaction
  • Sensory Stories
  • Bag books

Describe the learner cohort you have used this with?

Intensive interaction was developed to use with people with early levels of development, those with PMLD, those with Autism or those who are ‘hard to reach’ with typical communication.

Intensive Interaction works really well for people who don’t use easily recognisable ways of communicating or for people who may be at a pre-intentional stage of communication.

Top tips and key considerations

  • The approach should use the learners ‘language’ whatever that be.
  • The approach doesn’t rely on words
  • The whole point of Intensive Interaction is to share control of the conversation – your role as a parent or staff member is to listen, respond and encourage
  • Use your instincts, relax and enjoy just being with the person. There is no right or wrong way to do Intensive Interaction, as long as you follow the principles outlined in the resources
  • It relies on noticing what is important to the person and what interests them. This could be something quite obvious or something very subtle.
  • It can be difficult to follow the principals of intensive interaction initially however some approaches such as sensory stories and bag books help to embed the approach in a more structured format which some people find easier to implement.

What resources are required?

Resources are not necessary to deliver this approach, however some resources such as;

  • How to guides
  • Links to videos showing how to and how the approach works
  • Sensory stories which use household items
  • Preferred sensory tools can be beneficial to use in the interactions.
  • A personalised ‘spending time with me’ document can help share interaction ideas for individual learners.