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Children and young people with profound learning disabilities to benefit from Intensive Interaction research

Posted on 1 March 2023

The National Institute for Health and Care Research has awarded £1.8m to examine the effectiveness of a commonly used communication approach with people with Profound and Multiple Learning Disabilities (PMLD).

child with learning difficulties and her teacherImage: Shutterstock.

The ‘INTERACT trial’ will be managed and delivered by a multidisciplinary team of researchers from across the country, including academics from the University of York. 

The funding will enable researchers to conduct a large-scale randomised controlled trial (RCT) to understand the impact of ‘Intensive Interaction’ – an approach used to enable more effective communication between people with PMLD and their environments. Despite the wide use of the method, there is limited evidence as to if and how it works. 


Participants in the trial will include family carers and practitioners who support children and young people with PMLD. They will be trained to deliver Intensive Interaction. The team will identify their experiences of using this approach and the impact it has on their quality of life. 

Professor Catherine Hewitt, Co-Director of the York Trials Unit and joint lead investigator on the project, said: "The funding will enable us to bring together expert researchers from different institutions to work with families and carers of children and young people with PMLD. By collaborating in this way we can advance this area of research and make a real difference to those young people and their families."


Dr Kerry Bell, Assistant Professor at the York Trials Unit and one of the project's co-investigators, added: “Collaborating with specialist schools and teachers to involve them in this research is important. By working together we ensure that all stakeholders have a voice in the research, leading to better-informed outcomes for the young people.”

Further information:

The funding is awarded by the Health Technology Assessment, National Institute of Health Research HTA Project: NIHR151428 

Research Team

  • Dr Jill Bradshaw, Joint Lead (Intervention)
  • Dr Nick Gore, Tizard Centre, University of Kent 
  • Professor Catherine Hewitt, Joint Lead (Trial)
  • Dr Alison Booth, Dr Kerry Bell, Dr Arabella Scantlebury, Clinical Trials Unit, University of York
  • Professor Judy Clegg, University of Sheffield
  • Professor Lindsay Pennington, Newcastle University
  • Dr Fliss Kyffin, Bangor University
  • Professor Lucy Zeigler, PPIE member
  • Jenny Miller, Promoting a more inclusive society (PAMIS)
  • Amanda Allard and Marie Hunt, Council for Disabled Children

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