The TEACCH (Treatment and Education of Autistic and Communication related handicapped CHildren) Method is not a therapy but rather a therapeutic tool used by teachers in schools to help those with autism understand their surroundings. Developed by Drs. Eric Schopler and Robert Reichler, the program is based at the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill and has become a model for similar programs around the world.
Core services are an essential part of the TEACCH program. These include parent training and support, diagnostic evaluations, intervention groups, counseling for higher-functioning autistic individuals and an employment program and an integrated vocational and residential program. Most TEACCH services are free to North Carolina residents.
Related resource: Top 25 Online Master’s in Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)
Autism Truths notes that autistic students respond well to structure. The TEACCH program helps instructors identify the structure that autistic students need in the classroom in order to succeed. This structure is based on the learning characteristics of individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) which include visual information processing and difficulties regarding attention span and social communication. TEACCH involves a framework with the following elements:
- Physical organization
- Personalized schedules
- Activity systems
- Visual structure of tasks and activities
Training for Educators
TEACCH provides training nationally for instructors who work with ASD students. According to Autism Speaks, the program has developed a Professional Certification Program for professionals who work with ASD individuals, including psychologists, social workers, educators and other service providers. Two certifications are available — Practitioner and Advanced Consultant. The first is for professionals who act as consultants within their work settings. The second is for advanced professionals who receive training to provide lectures to others involved in an ASD setting.
In order to constantly improve outcomes for individuals with ASD, TEACCH also has a dedicated research team that continues to conduct projects to develop information that will improve the lives of ASD individuals and their families. Autism Speaks funds two of the studies. These are TEACCH School Transition to Employment Program (T-STEP) and Longitudinal Study of Adult Outcomes, with the latter also partially funded by Foundation of Hope. The adult study strives to determine what additional services and support is needed by ASD adults. T-STEP involves developing a transitional curriculum to help high school students entering the workforce. A third study developed in conjunction with the University of Colorado, called “Fighting Worries and Facing Your Fears,” aims to help ASD students who also have anxiety.
Why Structure is so Important
Routine and visual structure allow for more success in the classroom for students with ASD. The most functional skill is a strong routine, which involves checking schedules and following through on an established system. By implementing such a system early in life, the routine is learned and can be recalled in a number of situations beyond the classroom. Visual structure regarding organization, instructions, and clarification helps autistic individuals understand what is expected of them. Such cues give autistic individuals a better understanding of their environment.
By implementing learning modalities that work well with ASD students, the TEACCH Approach gives these individuals a better chance of succeeding in life long after they are out of school.