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5 Key Principles of the TEACCH Method

What the TEACCH Method Is About

  • Physical Structure
  • Consistent Schedules
  • Establishment of Expectations
  • Maintenance of a Routine
  • Implementation of Visually-based Cues

A person interested in education, applied behavior analysis or a related field of expertise should be aware of these five key principles of the TEACCH method. The TEACCH, or Treatment and Education of Autistic and Communication Handicapped Children method of teaching children with autism, was developed by the University of North Carolina in the 1970s. It promotes structured learning environments with a focus on visual learning for children with a range of disabilities.

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1. Physical Structure

Physical structure is the first part of the TEACCH method. It refers to the individual’s surroundings or environment. Clear physical boundaries are in place for all of the day’s activities. For example, playing takes place in one part of a room, and eating takes place in a cafeteria.

2. Consistent Schedules

Consistency in the timing of events is the second principle of the TEACCH method. This can be established through verbal communication, written communication and drawings or pictures. For example, a schedule for a five-year-old in a preschool class for children with autism might include a board with pictures of the day’s schedule. Those pictures might include the American flag for the pledge of allegiance, a picture of a book for storytime and a picture of crayons for art. The second row might include a picture of a plate for snack or lunchtime, a picture of a playground for recess time and a picture of a ball for gym class.

3. Establishment of Expectations

In the TEACCH method, the third principle is the establishment of expectations. These expectations may be behavioral, activity-based, academic or for communication. Having a clear set of expectations makes it easier for a parent, caregiver, educator or therapist to set up consequences or interventions when the expectations are not met. This principle also includes activity measurements. The goal is to set up the child for independent work and functioning.

4. Maintenance of a Routine

Setting up and maintaining a routine is essential for a person who has autism. People with autism typically thrive on consistency. When something that is outside of their routine occurs, this may cause them to withdraw or become uncooperative for the activity or event. Parents, caregivers and educators all need to work together in order to maintain consistency in a routine from one environment to another and one school year to another.

5. Implementation of Visually-based Cues

According to the Autism Speaks organization, the visually-based cues that are a part of the TEACCH method are designed to supplement the verbal information provided by an educator, caregiver or therapist. The visual information could be written on paper or on a computer. It could also be drawings or graphics, such as a picture of a shirt on a bin so that the child knows that shirts go in the bin.

A person who wants to work with children who have autism should understand each of these five major principles of the TEACCH method. While this method might not be the best one for every child who has autism, it is still a useful tool to know, and it could be a good one to try before moving on to other education and behavioral modification techniques. Familiarity with these five key principles of the TEACCH method is essential to educators, psychologists and others who work with children who are on the autism spectrum.