Over many years the NAS schools and services for adults have developed a framework for understanding and responding to the needs of children and adults with autism.

Our framework is also useful in identifying underlying issues; in reducing the disabling effects of autistic spectrum disorders and in providing a cornerstone for communication. It also forms the basis of all autism-specific staff training and an ethical basis for intervention. Here we look at how we have used this approach on the NAS website.

The acronym for this framework is SPELL. SPELL stands for Structure, Positive, Empathy, Low arousal, Links.

Structure

A team of in-house experts have worked with usability experts Nomensa, to ensure a logical navigation structure for the site.  We also provide a sitemap, linked to at the bottom of every page, which shows how this vast website is structured in order to help you to understand a little more about the way the site is laid out. The sitemap may also prove useful for the visually impaired who may prefer to navigate that way. 

Positive 

We aim, where possible, to provide a realistic but positive reflection of autism spectrum disorders.

Empathy

We seek to provide an empathic approach to information provision on this website.  We have to cater for what is a very broad spectrum of conditions as well as extremely diverse audiences: from a parent whose child has just received a diagnosis and whose first language is not English (see In other languages), all the way through to very high functioning individuals for whom their autism or Asperger syndrome is a positive asset. (See "Some thoughts on cures" in Is there a 'cure'?' where the views of the Autistic Liberation Front, Aspies for Freedom and similar groups give their views.)

Low arousal

We have attempted to provide as clean a site design as possible, uncluttered by moving text, animated images or Flash. In balancing the needs of the organisation and those of the user, we have ended up with quite a busy front page at April 2010 but the site will undergo ongoing user testing and review to ensure that the site develops in line with what you, the users, have asked for. We are liaising with the BBC who have done some specific work around the web design needs of users with Asperger syndrome.

Links 

We have a principle of making as many links between relevant internal pages and to external websites as possible to ensure people find as much information as they require.  People with ASDs can sometimes get overwhlemed by large amounts of links so we are constantly working to avoid this scenario.  We hope the new design, launched in April 2010, will help us to achieve this goal.