Our Patron – Phoebe Caldwell


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 autistic children and adults across the UK whose previous experience had been social and emotional isolation. Phoebe’s work was recognised in 2009 when she won the Times/ Sternberg Award, a national 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, rather than as we might like them to be. The Caldwell  Autism 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 autistic people 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 care-givers.

The Caldwell Autism Foundation works with Phoebe to promote her approach and, by means of our national network of Consultants, to bring her expertise to a wider audience. As Phoebe says, “If you have autism, the brain is like a kaleidoscope where the pattern never settles. I use body language to tune into people on the spectrum. It’s easy to learn”.

Phoebe is the author of several books and research papers and has produced a number of training films. You can visit Phoebe’s own website here.