Finding a shared language with Sarah

Sarah is a selective mute and has limited methods of communication to express her needs and wishes. This left her feeling very frustrated and before she moved to a Voyage Care service, she was classed as extremely challenging with incidents occurring several times a day. She moved from a long-stay hospital to a Voyage Care Supported Living Service in Norfolk.

Support workers at the service realised using Intensive Interaction techniques could help to find a way for Sarah to communicate. Intensive Interaction is a way for individuals who are non-verbal to experience a shared language with support staff.

Using body language, eyes, and movements such as finger tapping, staff can work with each person to develop their own style of communication. Staff mirror the individual’s actions and respond to them in a very personalised way.

For Sarah, she chose to communicate by tapping her walker and staff responded by also tapping her walker. This began to relieve Sarah’s anxiety and had an impact on her challenging behaviour. Voyage Care staff also developed a routine with Sarah, understanding that her teddy bears calmed and relaxed her. Specific bears needed to be close to her when she performed tasks such as having personal care or taking her medication. Her support workers observed and recorded Sarah’s behaviour and over time they developed a way for her to communicate with them.

The Voyage Care team has also had additional Intensive Interaction training, personalised to Sarah’s needs. This has helped them to get to know Sarah and develop a much greater understanding of her likes, dislikes, wants and wishes. As a result her challenging behaviour has been dramatically reduced and any incidents now are managed and minimal.

You can find out more about our Supported Living and Outreach services here. If you would like to speak to our friendly enquiry team call us on 0800 0353 776 or email

This person chose to remain anonymous, therefore, we have changed some information to protect their confidentiality.