Friends of Hayden

an older woman with gray hair and a green scarf


‘If you have autism, the brain is like a Kaleidoscope where the pattern never settles.’ (Donna Williams)

Phoebe Caldwell is an expert practitioner who has spent the last fifty years working with people on the autistic spectrum, many of whom have severe behavioural distress and some but not all, intellectual disabilities. She held a Joseph Rowntree Research Fellowship for four years. She trains professionals, therapists, managers, practitioners, parents and support workers, in the successful approach known as Responsive Communication – a combined method which pays attention to Sensory Issues as well as to Personal Body Language (Intensive Interaction). She also works directly with individuals. She is employed by the NHS, Social Services, Community Services, and Schools, and directly by families, to work with ‘difficult to engage with’ individuals. She is the published author of fourteen books on autism (with translations into Russian, German and Norwegian). Her latest books, which combine best practice with neurobiological research, are ‘Responsive Communication’ (written with six other practitioners, including a Psychiatrist, a Speech Therapist, an Occupational Therapist, two Service Managers and a wrongly diagnosed Service User), ‘The Good Box’ (an update with additional new research material of The Anger Box), and ‘Autism – Respecting Difference’ (focusing on how it feels to be autistic, and how environmental factors can trigger behavioural distress). Together with Janet Gurney, she has produced a major training film, ‘Responsive Communication’, dealing with the practical and theoretical aspects of autism.

In 1992, Phoebe’s work was the subject of a TV Everyman Program, and in 2009, she won the Times Sternberg Award for her work to improve the outlook for people with severe autism. In 2011, she was awarded an honorary Doctorate of Science (DSc) for her work on communication with people on the autistic spectrum and those with profound learning difficulties.


Age is catching up with me and I am no longer able to travel, but due to the miracles of the internet, I am able to work on Zoom and Skype together with film, both locally and round the world.

autism respecting difference book cover

This book is dedicated to Hayden .

Autism: Respecting Difference is a concise, straightforward introduction to the sensory and emotional experiences of autism, designed to help support staff, professionals, and families better understand and engage with autistic people in order to offer meaningful and effective support. It is difficult to know how other people feel, since we all assume we see, hear, and generally experience the world in the same way. For autistic people, the world they experience can be very different to ours. Autism: Respecting Difference is designed to help people who are new to autism understand how it might feel to be autistic, and how over- and under-sensitivities to incoming signals can overload the autistic brain, triggering anxiety and pain. Illustrated by artist Jodie Zutt, the book takes readers on a journey into the ‘brainworld of autism’ in order to better understand and support those who live each day with the challenges of this condition. Adopting a Responsive Communication approach, it explores how to reduce sensory overload while simultaneously establishing emotional engagement and interaction via use of an individual’s body language and themes that have particular meaning for them.