Meaningful moments of interaction between support staff and people with profound learning disabilities were explored in a recent study that found that they contributed to greater job satisfaction and motivation.

The study published in the Journal of Applied Research in Intellectual Disabilities looked what makes a moment of interaction meaningful to support staff and what circumstances facilitate meaningful moments of interaction taking place.

Researchers found that meaningful moments of interaction are highly valued by support staff, who believe these moments are valued by persons with profound intellectual disabilities as well.

Support staff considered moments of interaction meaningful when a person with profound intellectual disabilities responded, anticipated or changed his or her behaviour or mood positively in response to an initiative by them. When a person with profound intellectual disabilities initiated contact, support staff valued the moment of interaction even more.

Implications for daily practice

Finding ways to contribute to the emotional wellbeing of a person with profound intellectual disabilities was often perceived as challenging. Staff mentioned it could be a persistent search to find out what made a person with profound intellectual disabilities unhappy or happy and find the best way to support. Therefore, a moment they succeeded, was perceived as meaningful.

The authors said: "During a meaningful moment of interaction, support staff felt connected to a person with profound intellectual disabilities and/or they felt they could be of meaning to a person with profound intellectual disabilities. Therefore, they described these meaningful moments as the core aspect of their job. 

"During these moments, they experienced joy and emotional nourishment, which contributed to their job satisfaction and gave them the energy they needed to continue the intensive work."

Five direct support staff took part in the study using unstructured, in-depth interviews. The interviews were analysed using interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA).