Intensive Interaction: Theoretical Perspectives


Edited by: Dave Hewett

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    About the Editor and Contributors


    Dave Hewett has been working in the field of special education for 35 years. He was headteacher at Harperbury Hospital School throughout the 1980s, where the team worked on the development and first research on Intensive Interaction. With Melanie Nind he produced the first Intensive Interaction book in 1994. Since 1990 he has been an independent consultant, continuing to publish and work on the development and dissemination of the approach. He is now Director of the Intensive Interaction Institute, broadcasting Intensive Interaction increasingly worldwide.


    Mark Barber worked in the UK as a special educator for 20 years before moving to Australia, where he has introduced Intensive Interaction to over 90 schools and services for learners with severe-profound intellectual disabilities. Mark currently divides his time between working as Intensive Interaction Coordinator and Leading Teacher at Bayside Special Developmental School in Melbourne and working as a consultant in profound intellectual disability, providing training and support to schools and practitioners in a variety of settings. He coordinates Intensive Interaction across Australia and New Zealand.

    Graham Firth is Intensive Interaction Project Leader at Leeds Partnerships NHS Trust. In the 1980s Graham worked for six years as a care assistant at a large residential hospital for adults with learning disabilities in Leeds (UK), before leaving to pursue a career in teaching. Initially spending several years working in primary schools, Graham then went on to teach adults with severe or profound learning disabilities. After becoming dissatisfied with the then asocial pedagogy, he started to work more interactively before formally adopting Intensive Interaction as his main teaching strategy. In 2003 he joined the Leeds Partnerships NHS Trust, where he now works to support others to adopt, sustain and develop their Intensive Interaction practices or services. He is currently the editor of the UK Intensive Interaction Newsletter and the Leeds Partnership NHS Trust's Intensive Interaction webpage (at, and is a member of the trust's Severe Challenging Behaviour Team.

    Cath Irvine qualified as a speech and language therapist in 1991 from Manchester Polytechnic (now Manchester Metropolitan University). After three years in a generalist post, Cath began to specialise in learning disabilities working in Wirral, Salford and Somerset. In 1996 Cath was instrumental in introducing Intensive Interaction to adult services across Somerset. Since 2005 Cath has worked independently introducing Intensive Interaction to services in the UK, Montenegro, Moldova and Bulgaria. Cath is a co-director of the Intensive Interaction Institute and is constantly active in seeking practical and strategic solutions for the increased use of Intensive Interaction for those who would benefit.

    Penny Lacey is a senior lecturer at the University of Birmingham for four days a week and an adviser in a special school for primary-aged children with learning difficulties for the fifth day. She has been associated with interactive approaches to teaching and learning since the 1980s, having written extensively on different aspects of the topic for 25 years. At the university, Penny coordinates the distance education programme Learning Difficulties and Disabilities (Severe, Profound and Complex) which attracts students from all around the country and abroad. She also conducts research in the area of education for children with severe and profound disabilities. At school she is supporting staff to develop provision for the most profoundly disabled children.

    Melanie Nind is Professor of Education at the University of Southampton. Her expertise lies in the fields of interactive and inclusive pedagogy. She is best known for her work developing and evaluating Intensive Interaction. She has taught in special schools and further education colleges, before working in the Centre for Autism Studies at the University of Hertfordshire, Oxford Brookes University and the Open University developing and teaching undergraduate and postgraduate courses in inclusive education. Her recent research has focused on education for girls with behavioural, emotional and social difficulties; understanding and developing the concept of access for people with learning difficulties; and studying the interactions of young children with learning difficulties in special, inclusive and home environments. She maintains a keen interest in gender, sexuality and disability rights issues within a broad social justice framework. She is editor of the International Journal of Research and Method in Education.

    Lydia Swinton has worked in the field of special needs for nine years, following the completion of a psychology degree in 2000. In 2005 Lydia qualified as a teacher, and completed her MA in special and inclusive education in 2009. The application of Intensive Interaction with students with autistic spectrum disorder was the subject of her MA dissertation. Lydia is currently a senior teacher at Sunfield School, West Midlands.

    Dr M. Suzanne Zeedyk is Senior Lecturer in Developmental Psychology at the University of Dundee. She has spent the past 20 years researching the nature of human communication, focusing particularly on the early interactions between parents and infants. She is excited by the recent neuroscientific findings that show the infant brain is literally moulded by these early emotional exchanges, and she spends much of her time these days disseminating that knowledge to the public.


    So many people contribute in multifarious ways to a book such as this that it is difficult to know where to start making acknowledgements. Additionally, most of the people I would usually have mentioned as major influences or supporters are contributing to the book. Nonetheless I will indulge some editor privileges.

    In the Introduction I make special mention of Sarah Forde, who runs the Intensive Interaction office. Likewise, Jude Bowen, Alex Molineux and Amy Jarrold at Sage have been, and I believe there is no higher word of praise, optimum.

    I would like to make a particularly personal mention of Vanessa and Philip Bingham, who offered a tranquil and creative haven in Tianjin, China at a time when the very first steps in commencing the project seemed particularly daunting.

    I would also like to thank Jan Gordon, Ian Harris, Helen Janes, Carol Jones, Jacci Kellett, Uwe Kerat, Miranda-Jane McCormick, Lynette Menzies, Julia Rhodes, Gunter Senft, Emily Seyler, Ben Smith, Ellen Winter.

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