Phoebe Caldwell

Maybugs and Mortality


A different perspective on living and ageing



Maybugs and Mortality speculates in a wholly different way on what it means to be alive. It is about an accidental encounter between the author and ‘Maybugs’, a maybug (cockchafer) on its last legs, that led to a light-hearted and partly autobiographical exploration of the latter half of their respective life cycles. Phoebe Caldwell, pioneer of responsive communication with autistic people, has spent a lifetime understanding and responding to barriers and challenges in communication between individuals, enabling autistic children and adults to engage with a world that is sensorily confusing. In this fascinating and diverse book, she draws on her work, personal experience and scientific advances in psychology and neurobiology to consider key aspects of the shared life-cycles and mortality of maybug and human. From this unique perspective, she examines themes such as consciousness, self-awareness and the need to reach out beyond ourselves in order to find confirmation and understanding. A fascinating and informative read of interest to anyone interested in human behaviour, psychology and autism.

‘While I do not think I actually like insects, Maybugs came with a wealth of stories – if the flight path is erratic, the destination is fascinating. I have learned respect and at times, felt an odd affection for my fellow traveller.’ (Phoebe Caldwell – Maybugs and Mortality)

Click here to read a sample of Maybugs and Mortality

See other titles by author Phoebe Caldwell here.


This book will be of interest to healthcare professionals who work with anyone on the autism spectrum, as well as parents of autistic children, those with a general interest in human behaviour, psychology and autism.


ISBN: 978-1-912755-21-9
Publication: July 2019


For over 40 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 one of social and emotional isolation. Phoebe’s work has been 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 terms Responsive Communication and Intensive Interaction 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, Intensive Interaction 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.


‘Maybugs and Morality’ is a unique book: every short chapter is full of insights into the creatures and humans; it leavens its wisdom with wit, and once started is difficult to put down.’ John Killick

‘This delightful, highly informative, and entertaining book is composed by an outstanding wordsmith, polymath and biological scientist. Many university examination questions commenced thus: “Compare and contrast…”; this splendid tome does exactly that using a most unlikely foil for the human existential condition, the seemingly unworthy scarab. An educational joy.’ Dr Mike Holden

A delightful mélange of the erudite and the humorous memoir’ –a joy to read!’Isobel Hamid

One laughs loudly through so much of this unusual book and yet the serious side gives much food for thought – a thoroughly god read’. Gay Hall

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