This intervention is a type of framework which encourages independence and self autonomy in someone with autism. It identifies particular problems related to autism and looks at ways of reducing these problems thus enabling the person to reach their potential.

This information is useful for anyone who works with autistic children or adults or is connected in some way. It may also be useful for parents and families of someone with autism.

What does SPELL stand for?

SPELL stands for ’Structure Positive Empathy Low arousal Links’. These are all aspects of this framework which are focussed upon in this intervention to reduce dependency and encourage self-awareness and independence.

The aim is to promote these aspects as strengths which the autistic child/adult can develop to enable them to live a normal life (or as normal as possible).


Many autistic people prefer to function within a tightly ordered routine. This enables them to cope with everyday life and remain in their comfort zone.

They prefer to do the same thing over and over again and often have an intense focus on a particular object or activity.

What SPELL does is to give the autistic person a structure –which they are already familiar with and enjoy –but with the intention of reducing their dependence on a routine and to learn flexibility instead.

The autistic person is informed of what will happen and what they need to do but with a degree of autonomy. They will not be ’spoon fed’but encouraged to think and act for themselves.


This means setting the autistic person a set of achievable goals which are reinforced with positive feedback. The child or adult is encouraged to learn new skills as well as building upon existing ones but within the framework of praise and reward.

This will boost their confidence and self esteem. It also means encouraging the child/adult to engage in activities which are challenging or even uncomfortable but will push the boundaries. They will be shown how to respond to situations such as this and ways of tolerating the unexpected.

Life is unpredictable so it is important that the autistic person is prepared for this by means of coping strategies which will reduce anxiety levels and enable them to deal with anything untoward.


This is the ability to sense what someone else is thinking or feeling and to sympathise with them. This applies to anyone who works with autistic children and adults as they need to understand the world from their perspective.

What we may find normal or commonplace can be overwhelming or bewildering to someone with autism.

So, anyone working within the SPELL framework has to step into the autistic child’s/adult’s shoes and see things from their viewpoint. Doing this will enable them to respect and respond to the person appropriately and will build a rapport.

Low arousal

This refers to the methods and surroundings used in dealing with an autistic person so as to reduce anxiety and stress. An autistic person is often prone to sensory overload which means that they are unable to tolerate noise, smells, textures and tastes in the same way ’normal’people do.

The aim is to support the autistic person in learning new skills but ensure that this is carried out in a stress free environment. It is important that the autistic person is not overloaded with information or distracted by strong colours or sounds.


This refers to the forming of strong links between all these aspects of the framework and their relation to the autistic person and their family.

Encourage open communication between all parties involved and ensure that everyone understands what the framework means and what is expected of them.

The SPELL framework works well with other interventions for example the TEACCH method.

© Medic8® | All Rights Reserved