“A spell is a tool that we use to teach communication skills and socialization strategies, which can have immediate and long-term effects on the individual,” explains Shannon Amoah. The Elemy Learning Studio’s founder discusses how SPELL helped her son with his autism.
The SPELL Approach to Autism is a method that uses the technique of spelling. The method has been used for years, but now it is being used in schools and homes to teach children with autism.
Structure, Positive Approaches and Expectations, Empathy, Low Arousal, and Links (SPELL) is an acronym that stands for Structure, Positive Approaches and Expectations, Empathy, Low Arousal, and Links. This framework is tailored to the specific requirements of children on the autism spectrum, allowing treatment and intervention plans to be coordinated effectively. The SPELL technique benefits all persons on the autism spectrum, regardless of age or degree of autism, but it is particularly effective for youngsters.
Struggling with change is one of the most prevalent symptoms of autism, and persons with autism benefit from habit and ritual. SPELL enables persons on the autistic spectrum to design organized settings using visual information, allowing them to become more autonomous and independent. As the person with autism has a greater understanding of what is expected of them, they will be less reliant on others and will experience less anxiety.
The SPELL in Five Easy Steps
The National Autistic Society created SPELL as the greatest strategy to supporting persons on the autistic spectrum. SPELL benefits not just autistic people, but also their caregivers, parents, teachers, therapists, doctors, and others.
The acronym SPELL is made up of five components:
- Structure. Structure is critical for persons with autism, as is learning how to build it. Understanding how the world works may be difficult and unpleasant for those who have difficulty interacting and communicating. People on the autistic spectrum have a difficult time reading body language and facial emotions, so they need extra help. Helping autistic persons build order in their life helps reduce stress and anxiety caused by uncertainty. When people with autism have more structure in their life, they might feel more confident, which can help them gain independence.
Structure should allow the autistic person to forecast as many future occurrences as possible. Working with the person with autism to change their surroundings, choice, learning, and communication to build up routines that will work best for them is an important part of providing structure. This may be built on existing procedures that have been improved to ensure that each step is clearly defined. This is particularly critical for youngsters. Structures may be developed and reviewed using visual calendars, schedules, or programs that the kid helped construct.
- Positive expectations and methods. Focusing on a person’s talents and abilities is one of the finest ways to encourage someone on the autistic spectrum as they seek for greater independence. Positive reinforcement, such as praise for shown abilities, may assist persons on the autistic spectrum overcome their fear of entering unknown environments. Many autistic youngsters shun new environments and get disturbed when they are subjected to abrupt changes. This stage might assist them in relaxing and focusing on what they already know in order to go ahead.
Once the framework is in place, those dealing with neurodivergent children should not just leave the youngster to their own devices. Work with parents or caregivers to ensure that the kid gets praised for following directions and doing well, particularly if the task includes a new skill or one that the youngster is proud of. Intervene actively to improve the child’s quality of life. Finding physical, emotional, and educational assistance, as well as expanding the child’s social support network, may be necessary.
- Empathy. People with autism need empathy from their parents, carers, instructors, and therapists. It’s critical for individuals who care about someone with autism to know what that person enjoys, gets enthusiastic about, and finds attractive. This may also help you understand what causes discomfort in persons on the autism spectrum, so you can respect their emotions and provide greater support with positive reinforcement as a caregiver.
Applied Behavioral analysis (ABA) therapists should use empathy to evaluate a child’s progress and problems while they go through behavioral treatment. This could include keeping track of stressors that lead to escaping or aversive behaviors, removing or reducing known stressors as much as possible, regularly inspecting the therapy space for stressors, speaking with parents or other caregivers about potential stressors, and self-examining to identify any potential stressors.
- Arousal is low. In persons with autism, new experiences and changes in events may cause overstimulation, thus caregivers, parents, teachers, and therapists must assist the person stay calm throughout interactions. Therapists should limit stimuli in the room during SPELL sessions in a manner that is favorable to the person. Lowering the lights, giving soft or calming toys, finding methods to lessen noise, and providing sensory distraction items like fidget spinners or weighted blankets are all examples of this.
Empathy is used to create an emotional and physical environment that minimizes arousal. To maintain a low arousal experience, it is critical to build a nonconfrontational and nonjudgmental style of interaction, keep to routines for planned treatment sessions, and do frequent audits of self and space.
- Links. Links, which are positive social relationships between persons on the autism spectrum, their families, and their caregivers, are the last phase in SPELL. These links allow everyone to exchange knowledge in order to better assist the person with autism, reducing misunderstanding regarding treatment plans, symptoms, support techniques, positive improvements, and other approaches.
It is critical for ABA therapists, parents, schools, and other caregivers to maintain a high degree of communication consistency, which includes scheduling frequent meetings and conversations.
SPELL fosters a positive outlook on life.
When it comes to aiding a child or adult on the autism spectrum, SPELL is a critical tool. It gives a general picture of how all types of caregivers, including parents and ABA therapists, should interact with the autistic person and with one another. While SPELL is not a treatment plan in and of itself, it may significantly enhance the quality of life for autistic people.
SPELL’s Strategies and Interventions (August 2020). The National Autistic Society is a non-profit organization dedicated to improving the lives of The SPELL Framework for Understanding and Responding to Autism (2018). Pavilion Publishing and Media Ltd. is a publishing and media company based in the United Kingdom Training on the SPELL Framework. Kent University is a public university in Kent, England.
The “spell autism” is an approach to teaching children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. It uses a method called the SPELL Approach. This approach is used in many schools and programs around the world.
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Janice is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst. She graduated from the University of British Columbia with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and Special Education. She also holds a Master of Science in Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA) from Queen’s University, Belfast. She has worked with and case managed children and youth with autism and other intellectual and/or developmental disabilities in home and residential setting since 2013.