Elspeth Bradley, Hope Lightowler, Janet Gurney, Jemma Swales, Jennifer Heath, Kate Richardson, Phoebe Caldwell

Responsive Communication

Combining attention to sensory issues with using body language (intensive interaction) to interact with autistic adults and children



Responsive Communication is a groundbreaking book which has been put together by a team of authors led by Phoebe Caldwell, who during her long-time practice in this field has found some unique paths to achieving deep and meaningful engagement with autistic people and people with profound and multiple learning disabilities. The authors offer a range of fascinating and informative perspectives on the approach and application of responsive communication, from backgrounds including expert by experience, communication, service management, occupational therapy, neuroscience and psychiatry. What this range of contributors has in common is a sense that before we can address communication, we need to attend to the sensory features of autism and reduce the information processing distress that may be hindering our ability to get in touch with our autistic partners.

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Responsive Communication will benefit support staff, professionals and family members supporting autistic adults and children and people with profound and multiple learning disabilities.


ISBN: 9781912755363

Publication date: July 2019


Phoebe Caldwell, Elspeth Bradley, Kate Richardson, Janet Gurney, Jennifer Heath, Hope Lightowler and Jemma Swales

For over thirty years, Phoebe Caldwell DSc has pioneered the development of communication support for individuals on the autistic spectrum, opening up channels of communication and emotional engagement for thousands of individuals across the UK whose previous experience had been social and emotional isolation. Phoebe’s work was recently recognised nationally when she won The Times/Sternberg Award, which celebrates the achievements of people aged 70 or over who have done most for society in their older age. Internationally, Phoebe collaborates with a range of professionals from countries including Denmark, the Netherlands, Russia, Australia and Canada.

Phoebe’s way of working is distinctive in that it is rooted in respect for the identity of the individual as they are. The Caldwell Foundation uses the term Responsive Communication to describe Phoebe’s approach to communication support.

At the heart of Phoebe’s work is her one-to-one work with individuals on the autistic spectrum who find communication difficult. When Phoebe provides this one-to-one support, family and care-givers are there observing so that they can learn the approach and use it themselves with the individual. In this way, Responsive Communication is used as a continuous communication tool so that the individual always has a meaningful point of reference.

Phoebe is employed by the NHS and local authorities to work with difficult-to-provide-for individuals. As part of this, she trains professionals, therapists, managers, practitioners, parents and carer-givers.

Phoebe is the author of several books and research papers and has produced a number of training films.


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