Understanding Suraj – An invaluable resource for anyone supporting someone with profound intellectual and multiple disabilities (and others)

That person that I’m working with, I’ve got as much to learn from them as they have from anybody else around them. And I want to be open to that. And I don’t want their life to be a wasted life; that’s the other thing isn’t it. Somebody whose maybe going to live for 40 years and then die, and nobody managed to unlock that potential and nobody managed to get in there because that is just a wasted life. I don’t want that to happen, don’t have to have wasted lives do they. They’re human beings with just as much potential as anybody else, and that’s unlocking, let’s find out what’s in there. Let’s not let it be wasted; let’s learn from that person.  – Rebecca Leighton in Understand Suraj DVD.

I was so excited to receive my copy of Understanding Suraj: Uncovering the person behind multiple disabilities from NL Productions UK, and I wasn’t let down.

This is a 45 minute DVD presented in four parts, including a background of Suraj narrated by his father, an observation of Suraj, and unpacking the current approach to being with Suraj. The story is honest, showing the disturbing self-injurious behaviour that Suraj had used for years, and using the voices of support workers and therapists to talk how they now approached Suraj.

Some viewers may struggle with the various strong English accents of narrators in Understanding Suraj. While the DVD appears  to begin with subtitles, these don’t appear to continue (as far as I could see). While I’ve spent time with Graham Firth, one of the narrators, I did need to spend some time re-getting my ears around his northern accent. Similarly, just getting the quote above took me several minutes of re-listening to capture some of the phrases.

While the narrators discuss Intensive Interaction (Nind & Hewett http://www.intensiveinteraction.co.uk) as a framework underlying the communication approach with Suraj, it is not essential that you have background knowledge of the approach to follow the story. Following viewing the film, viewers may want to learn more about Intensive Interaction.

I recommend this DVD to anyone supporting people with profound intellectual and multiple disabilities, and particularly for those who may use self-injurious behaviours. I think this would be a great DVD for teams to watch and discuss. Some of the practices they see on the DVD may be the same as what they are already do, and some may be markedly different. It would be useful for teams to discuss whether they would consider using the methods with people they support, and unpack why they may or may not do things and the subsequent potential implications of these choices for them and the people they serve.

Speech pathologists and occupational therapists may also find Understanding Suraj an invaluable resource. It may challenge current practice or support ways of working. The DVD shows that dynamic interactions must be the centre communication supports (communication supports must go beyond personal communication dictionairies, chat books and object of reference).

I also think that this would be an excellent resource for staff at the NDIA – it gives such a rich picture of one individual, the experience of families and support workers, and the possibility of an improved life through working towards the best possible relationships between staff and the person they serve. These relationships need to be thought about, planned, informed and supported. Sometimes they occur naturally with amazing support workers. But too often, in line with Rebecca Leighton’s words (specialist speech and language therapist), the time is not given to unlock and spend the time to get to know the person in their full potential.

The DVD can be ordered through DL Productions UK – http://www.nlproductionsuk.co.uk/styled/DVD%20Understanding%20Suraj/. It is also available through Amazon UK, but this does not appear to be able to be shipped to Australia at the moment. A short intro the the video is also available on YouTube – http://youtu.be/inWvCsumQLk

DVD cover Understanding Suraj
DVD cover

I was excited to see this snippet today called Understanding Suraj (read about it in the most recent UK Intensive Interaction Newsletter). I will definitely by buying the whole DVD. What do you think of it, how did it make you feel?

Approaching Best Practice for adults with PIMD in day services

I had the pleasure of spending a day at WALCA in Bexley, NSW, last week.

There were many things about the service that make me suggest they are approaching best practice.
Most notable was their InterCom service in IGLO:). This part of the day service included two staff dedicated to supporting the communication of the service users. The staff had built particular expertise in Intensive Interaction and other communication strategies. They had an area of the day service where they could bring clients for one to one work. In addition, they had other staff spend a day in the part of the service so that they could model and share what they’d learnt. 
They showed and discussed a video that they had made of the work. They impressed me with their ability to describe the outcomes for service users and how these had been bought about: people who were now taking turns in sound play, people who had started the service screaming most of the day and now smiling in interactions… Very impressive, and showing the value of day services when time is dedicated to staff learning and nurturing their ability to bring about and describe outcomes.

Intensive Interaction course at Deakin Uni

Cross posting for Mark


Dear colleague, the accredited Masters Level Unit of Study: Intensive Interaction: Theory to Practice is available again in 2013, at Deakin University Burwood Campus

Intensive Interaction is an approach to supporting the communication of learners with complex intellectual disabilities and often severe communication impairments which originated in UK and has been gaining increasing interest in Australia since its introduction in 2003.

The approach is recognised an evidence based practice by APS
Deakin University, Burwood Campus.
Participants complete the required readings prepared for this unit. Tutorial support is provided by email.
The unit follows 3 phases of on-campus days at Burwood Site, through the trimester with face-to-face teaching by the unit lecturer
·      Phase 1…..3 consecutive days in January
·      Phase 2……a weekend in March
·      Phase 3…..3 days in April
NB To gain accreditation for learning, participants should attend all 8 days and complete 1x 3000 word assignment and 1x 3000 word reflective diary.

WHEN : Begins January 2013
WHO : anyone who works with people with complex or profound intellectual disabilities

Contact Anne Savige Manager of Educational Projects anne.savige@deakin.edu.au+61 3 924 46384

NB More detail is available in the attachment

Mark Barber PhD
Intensive Interation Coordinator
Bayside SDS
Genoa Street
Vic 3189

New report: UK

From the PMLD Network listserve:
Dear All,

The report on “Communication and people with the most complex needs: What works and why this is essential,” which Sue Caton and I started last year, is now finished. The final report is available at

http://www.mencap.org.uk/document.asp?id=20568 for the main report and

http://www.mencap.org.uk/document.asp?id=20570 for the Easy Read version.

Sue and I would like to thank, most sincerely, all the members of this forum who contributed to the report. Your input was really appreciated, and we hope you like the final version.

Best wishes
Juliet Goldbart & Sue Caton, MMU j.goldbart@mmu.ac.uk

I’ve had a flick through the report and I think it is excellent. It will be of interest to speech pathologists, teachers, service providers, and families. I think it also provides a a good template for other interventions (e.g., physio, OT, music therapy). I must say I’m also well chuffed to see HOP in there (a commitment to give a person 10 minutes of 1:1 time).

Intensive Interaction ‘DownUnder’ 2

Sharing this information…
Intensive Interaction ‘DownUnder’ 2
Friday 4 & Saturday 5 March 2011
Adelaide, South Australia

Our first conference in Brisbane 2008 heard presentations about a broad range of practice and celebrated the many interesting journeys which had led to excellent beginnings and practices in schools and other settings.
However all practitioners know that following the initial surge of response and interactive exploration that is associated with their learners’ early encounters with Intensive Interaction, at some time reaches a plateau. The plateau often begins to open up as the learner begins to explore the familiar structure of established interactions. A similar plateau occurs in the practitioners’ certainty about the direction they are travelling and their own confidence While we are sure many delegates will still be interested to hear accounts of how your interactive seeds have sprouted and your cultures are growing, the theme for the conference in 2011
Australasian Conference on Intensive Interaction in Adelaide is “Exploring the Plateau”
We welcome your contributions about the interactive paths your learners have explored and how you have accompanied them the measures you have taken to embed Intensive Interaction into the ethos of your workplace the good practices and organisational structures you have identified as the most useful to give you the freedom to practice Intensive Interaction in your context. We welcome submissions and contributions from special educators, therapists, administrators, carers
and parents using the approach with learners who experience profound intellectual and multiple disabilities, or those learners whose severe-profound intellectual disabilities are augmented by autistic spectrum disorders.
Building on the momentum that is accumulating in Australia and New Zealand, our conference will again present a forum to reflect on and refine the uses of evidence based practice in a variety of settings, including schools, home and workplaces and provide an opportunity to develop the professional networks which are emerging across the region.
For more information go to http://www.ammp.com.au/iid2/

Intensive Interaction in Australia

Just realised I hadn’t said much about Intensive Interaction in Australia. Mark Barber is doing an amazing job spearheading the development of it in schools in Australia. He and Karryn Bowen has released a new DVD illustrating the technique and some of the use in schools. Give Mark a buzz if you want to find out more about the regular training that he offers. This is a technique with accumulating evidence for how it helps children and adults with PIMD develop fundamental communication skills. http://drmarkbarber.co.uk

handy online resource accross issues

In 2001 Judith Samuel and Marie Pritchard from Oxfordshire UK wrote an article called the The Ignored Minority: Meeting the Needs of People with Profound Learning Disability, in which they outlined the development of a specialist service focusing on the needs of people with PIMD. Nearly ten years later I thought I’d look at where the service is at. It was great to see that they appear to be going strong and have published some of their tools online (e.g. pre hearing screening, continence audit, comfort assessment, and intensive interaction work). Very handy.http://www.oldt.nhs.uk/aboutus/ourservices/community/MDRTResourceCentre.aspx