The Five Aspects of the SPELL Autism Approach

The Five Facets of the SPELL Method

  • Structure
  • Positive Expectations and Approaches
  • Empathy
  • Low Arousal
  • Links

The National Autistic Society’s Framework for the SPELL approach consists of five principles that support positive environments and treatment methods for an autistic person. These principles are deemed vital elements and best practice for successfully working with individuals on the autism spectrum.  The unique SPELL methodology forms the basic foundation used in training individuals who interact regularly with autistic persons and their families. Each letter of SPELL stands for a particular element necessary for the proper care of persons with autism, and the following sections explain each of these five SPELL aspects.

You may also like: Top 25 Online Master’s in Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)


SPELL autism


The first aspect of the SPELL framework is structure. The world can often seem like a very stressful and scary place to most any person but these feelings are often magnified in an autistic child or adult. Creating structured environments can help autistic patients can ease their fears and reduce any anxiety resulting from uncertainty. Structure can also boost self-confidence in an autistic person leading to more independence.

Featured Programs

Positive Approaches and Expectations

According to the National Autistic Society, the next SPELL technique is to build up the self-esteem and reinforce self confidence of an autistic person.  THe best way to do this is to focus on their unique:

  • abilities
  • interests
  • strengths

While many autistic children and adults tend to avoid unfamiliar situations, positive approaches can help them overcome their apprehension and reduce anxiety. Reward strategies and positive reinforcement  can be used to encourage appropriate behaviors.  Creating realistic expectations that are based on the patient’s abilities can increase confidence and reduce anxiety as well.


The third part of the SPELL framework is empathy, and what this means is that it is essential for caregivers to try to understand the way autistic children and adults view the world. They will need to learn not only what excites autistic patients and appeals to them, but they will also need to determine what scares them and what may cause them to experience stress. Understanding how persons with autism feel and respecting their feelings can lead to more effective communication and stronger relationships.

Low Arousal

Over-stimulation can lead to high levels of stress and anxiety in autistic children and adults. Because of this, it is important to keep interactions calm and focused. A calm environment with low arousal can help reduce anxiety and aid concentration.  The environment where interactions take place should also be calm limiting such distractions as:

  • noise
  • bright lights
  • busy colors
  • offensive odors

This is not to say that certain types of arousal cannot be used during interactions. Examples of acceptable stimulation include:

  • low-key music
  • massage
  • various sensory diets


The last aspect of the SPELL framework consists of links.  This means is that there are positive benefits associated with sharing information between:

  • autistic persons
  • their families
  • their caregivers
  • other professionals

By maintaining links and keeping communication open, there will be a smaller chance of confusion associated with treatment methods and approaches. Helping patients create links with outside support groups can also help encourage self-esteem and independence.

Putting it All Together Using the SPELL Approach

Interacting with and caring for an autistic individuals require caregivers to follow certain procedures set forth by the National Autistic Society. These procedures are more commonly known as the five aspects of the autism SPELL approach and are described in the sections above.

SPELL helps create a supportive worldview for working with autistic people.  Following SPELL will ensure individuals with autism are treated with dignity and respect.