You are on page 1of 1


1. The actual process of interaction

Childrens spontaneous movements, sounds and words are valued and incorporated into individual and group sessions. Interactive games and songs therefore develop in diverse and often unexpected ways. These developments give me ideas to keep up my sleeve and offer as suggestions to others. By observing and experiencing exactly what happens when two people share a song, Ive learned strategies that enable children to take an active part, such as using both subtle and dramatic pauses at key points. Ive seen new life brought to old favourites... Have you tried Head and Shoulders slowly and fast, quietly and loudly, forwards and backwards? Such contrasts often surprise and delight the children, and tempt them to communicate their preferences.

4. Rosanna Rib Xylophone

This simple wooden instrument is ideal for sharing, and is attractive, versatile, portable and sturdy. It can be held vertically and played from both sides; you can even see each other between the bars. Its great for non-verbal musical conversations. Not being tuned to specific notes, you cant play a tune on it, which can help people to lose their inhibitions. It often stimulates exploration, and reinforces learning about up and down in space and pitch. Available in kit form, to sand, decorate and string up. 13.00 plus p&p, from Kate Baxter, tel. 0115 9609528 or e-mail (Note: A beater is included, though not the one pictured, as shorter, sturdier beaters are needed for young children. Sanded, painted and varnished dolly pegs work well.)

7. One small dog

Quite apart from the well-known physical and mental health benefits, having a dog means daily walking, which gives vital space and time for creative thinking. Ive even been known to use non-directive techniques on my four-legged friend by singing a commentary on her activity, to practise fitting words to a tune. Contrary to popular belief, even musical people need to practise. On my early morning walks I rehearse songs (internally, not usually out loud!) and make up or adapt words, to the steady beat of my footsteps. A new song may take one or several dog walks to compose, depending on complexity.

Top: Wendy with her autoharp Right: Rosanna Rib Xylophone Below: One small dog

8. Informed Intuition
Phil Christie at Sutherland House coined this phrase, to describe how staff work interactively. Our instinctive, playful responses to the children are backed up by knowledge of their individual needs and personalities, as well as early communication skills, autism and interactive approaches. Knowledge gained from reflecting on our own practice by thinking about, discussing and watching video of sessions also informs how we implement our intuitive skills.

5. The Autoharp
If youve never played an instrument and would like to strum as you sing, this could be your starting-point. Its a zither with chord buttons: you simply press a button with one hand and sweep across the strings with the other, to produce a rich harp-like sound. The buttons are labelled, so you can follow guitar chords from songbooks. I use mine mainly to accompany songs for groups, and its worked wonders for my singing confidence. Children and adults are drawn to it, and its hardy enough to put on the floor for toddlers to explore with supervision. Information and courses:

7 Wendy Prevezer is both a speech and language therapist and a musician She works as a music specialist at Sutherland House School in Nottingham for children with autism and runs musical playtime sessions for babies and toddlers in her local community She also gives courses and workshops on using music to facilitate social and communication skills

2. One decent drum

Following a childs lead as he explores a drum often leads to shared play and turn taking: drum conversations can be addictive! Quiet children may express themselves confidently with hands or beaters, and many are fascinated to hear their own sounds, movements and words reflected back to them in drumbeats. In a group, a drum provides a powerful joint focus, and can be used in songs and games to facilitate interaction. A hand-held one (for example, a bodhra n, tambour or lollipop drum) may be passed round or offered to individuals and pairs; a bigger one can stand centrally to draw children in together. If you cannot invest in one quality drum, do explore the sounds you can make with boxes and tins - you may be surprised.

9. Video facilities
The benefits of having sessions on video far outweigh the discomfort. We find the least intrusive way is to put the camcorder on a high shelf, wedged at an angle to cover most of the room. Videos can show progress in communication skills, including subtle qualities of interaction that may not have been recorded otherwise. When watching, we sometimes see and hear communication that we missed at the time, and revise our own evaluation. We can share developments with parents and other staff, and some children love watching and commenting on their own sessions. Edited tapes of extracts are also invaluable for training, to illustrate techniques and responses.

6. Game-Songs with Prof Doggs Troupe

Generally I try to avoid recommending just one songbook, but this was my inspiration for flexible songs in the 1980s, when I was discovering non-directive techniques. Its definitely stood the test of time: Ive used Say hello and We can do anything several times a week for years, and am not yet bored. The songs are catchy, easy to learn and very popular, with opportunities to sing about whatever a child does or says. When a dinosaurs feeling hungry and Walking through the Jungle can also provide frameworks for more complex verbal conversations. By Harriet Powell (1983; 2001 with CD), pub. A.&C. Black.

3. Fabrics
A simple piece of material can be a brilliant aid to shared play. Chiffon scarves, thrown and blown, scrunched and hidden or put over faces, often engage a child. A sheet provides a place to hide for peek-aboo, making eye contact fun and worthwhile for its own sake. Two people under a sheet often gaze at each other in a more sustained way, leading to face and voice play. A Go to sleep song is often a first step into imaginative play, but coloured fabrics can be houses, rivers, tents, grass and so on as well as blankets. Groups also have great fun with pieces of fabric. Shaking and stopping together, raising it above heads, or stretching it and letting go, can lead to play routines and songs which act as frameworks for interaction.

10. Ourselves
I learned from Dave Hewett many years ago that a responsive adult is the most wonderful and flexible piece of equipment in interactive work. The way you use your face, voice and body can enhance the quality of interaction and relationships, whether or not you incorporate fancy props and instruments. I spend much of my working life helping others to see that their human ability to be sensitive and flexible, to behave contingently, and to enter into an interweaving of behaviour with the pupil is the most valuable resource of all. Quotations from Hewett, D. (1989) The most severe learning difficulties: Does your curriculum go back far enough? In: Ainscow, M. (Ed.) Special Education in Change. David Fulton Publishers. I also highly recommend: Nind, M. & Hewett, D. (2001) A Practical Guide to Intensive Interaction. BILD Publications.

You might also like