Autism support strategies
There are many frameworks for supporting people with autism. Three interventions suggested as helpful by the National Autistic Society are described here. The individual and their own needs must be considered first, as different approaches may work more or less effectively for different people.
The SPELL framework, developed by the National Autistic Society, is based around five key pillars:
- the importance of STRUCTURE in making the world predictable and manageable
- POSITIVE approaches and expectations as a way of building people’s strengths
- an EMPATHY for the way a person with autism perceives their world, so that things they find positive can be focused on, and things they find distressing can be avoided
- LOW-arousal approaches, in both a sensory and interactional sense
- LINKS with families and supporters to ensure consistency and predictability in how people are supported.
SPELL also stresses the individuality of each person with autism as the basis of all interventions with them. Applying SPELL principles can support people across the autistic spectrum, and can complement other approaches such as TEACCH.
TEACCH stands for the Treatment and Education of Autistic and Communication-handicapped Children, and although there is an education focus, it is also used with adults. It was developed in North Carolina in the 1960s and 1970s, and now forms the basis of a range of interventions with children and adults with autism, such as diagnosis and assessment, individualised support, special education, social skills training, employment training and support to families.
The TEACCH programme aims to support people with autism to manage their home, educational and professional lives, by addressing environmental obstacles, and working with people to adapt their behaviours. There is a focus on structured learning and skill development.
Social stories and comic strip conversations
These two methods were developed by Carol Gray in the 1990s. ‘Social stories’ explain clearly and simply what happens in social situations, for example, using a social story to help an autistic person understand what is going to happen in a medical procedure. Comic strip conversations are more visual, using colour, shapes and stick figures to tell the ‘story’ and are sometimes used to explain in a step by step way how to do something in the social world.
There is software available for both social stories and comic strip conversations, and when working with autistic people who prefer technological means of communication these may have some advantages.
- Centre for the Advancement of Positive Behaviour Support(2014), BILD
- ‘Social stories and comic strip conversations with students with Asperger syndrome and high-functioning autism’(1998), Springer.
- ‘Strategies and approaches’, The National Autistic Society