Find Your Program is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

The Five Aspects of the SPELL Approach

The Five Facets of the SPELL Method

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

Established by the National Autistic Society, the SPELL approach consists of five aspects that support positive environments and treatment methods for people with autism. This unique design 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 elements.

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


The first aspect of the SPELL approach 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 those who are autistic. Helping autistic patients find some sort of structure in their lives can ease their fears and reduce any anxiety resulting from uncertainty. Structure can also boost self-confidence in autistic persons leading to more independence.

Positive Expectations and Approaches

According to the National Autistic Society, the best way to build up the self-esteem of autistic individuals is to focus on their unique abilities, interest, and strengths. While many autistic persons tend to avoid unfamiliar situations, positive encouragement can help them overcome their apprehension. Creating realistic expectations that are based on the patient’s abilities can increase confidence and reduce anxiety as well.


The third SPELL approach aspect is empathy, and what this means is that it is essential for caregivers to try to understand the way autistic persons 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 people with autism. Because of this, it is important to keep interactions calm and focused. The environment where interactions take place should also be calm limiting such distractions as noise, bright lights, busy colors, and 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, and various sensory diets.


The last aspect of the SPELL approach consists of links, and what this means is that there are positive benefits associated with sharing information between autistic persons, their families, and their caregivers. 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.

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