SPECAL is a person-centred approach to the care of people with dementia which could also have the potential to reduce carer stress and lead to improvements in quality of life for people with dementia and their carers. The approach prioritises meaning over detail. It has 'three golden rules' for the care: do not ask direct questions, learn from the expert by listening and discovering what is important to the person with dementia, and do not contradict. This article describes the origins and rationale of SPECAL. It also looks at the controversy of the approach which has received criticism from the Alzheimer's Society. The authors also outline plans for an evaluation.