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Work of special unit staff recognised with award 11 July 2007

FOUR special unit staff have gained recognition for their work in developing basic communications skills in young people with severe learning difficulties.

Senior speech and language therapist Jan Gordon and special unit managers Jackie Fargher (Onchan School), Pauline Killey (Peel Clothworkers’ School) and Carole Williams (Scoill Phurt le Moirrey) were named Practitioners of the Year at a conference for those working in the field of intensive interaction. Pauline Killy, Carole Williams, Jackie Fargher and Jan Gordo

The conference, entitled ‘Developing Intensive Interaction in Theory and Practice’, took place in Leeds and the award was presented to Jan, who works in various units, by Dave Hewett, consultant and director of the Intensive Interaction Institute.

Jan explained:

‘Intensive interaction is an approach to teaching the pre-speech fundamentals of communication to children and adults who have severe learning difficulties and/or autism and who are still at an early stage of communication development.’

She added:

‘The fundamentals include use of and understanding of eye contacts, facial expressions, non-verbal signalling, turn-taking, concentrating and attending to another person. The learning takes place with enjoyable and repetitive interactions – activities where the teacher generates the content and the flow of the activity by letting the learner lead and responding to and joining in with the learner’s behaviour.’

The approach was developed during the 1980s by staff at Harperbury Hospital School, Hertfordshire, which educates people who have severe learning difficulties on the campus of a large, long-stay hospital.

The Isle of Man team won the award for its work in developing intensive interaction in special units and for writing the Department’s policy on the subject.

Mr Hewett praised Jan’s ‘unstinting work in the promotion of early communication work with people who have autism and the more severe learning difficulties and in the creation of an enthusiastic team’.

He said she had ‘displayed a devotion to her own learning and development, becoming a high-ability practitioner and technically knowledgeable on intensive interaction’. At the conference it was announced the Intensive Interaction Institute is being formed.

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