TEACCH Method

September 7, 2022

The TEACCH method is an educational approach to autism therapy usually provided in a classroom setting. TEACCH stands for Treatment and Education of Autistic and Communication Handicapped Children. It was developed by experts at the University of North Carolina to meet the specific needs of children with autism.

The TEACCH model uses structure, visual cues, and routine to facilitate learning and build independence. The TEACCH method can be used alongside other autism treatments.

What is the TEACCH method? 

The TEACCH method relies on structured teaching.

According to the TEACCHⓇ Autism Program, the core values of the TEACCH method are:

  • Demonstrating a commitment to making a positive difference in the lives of others.
  • Creating a culture of collaboration and partnership, where everyone is respected and valued.
  • Delivering excellence through innovative and responsive practices.
  • Appreciating the unique strengths of every individual.
  • Emphasizing the importance of continuous lifelong learning.
  • Cultivating an environment that actively promotes inclusion, diversity, and equity.

The TEACCH method uses structured teaching to provide a stable, predictable environment that is conducive to learning and teaching independence. Children with autism have several characteristics that make structure necessary for successful learning. 

Many children with autism have difficulty understanding and using language. Written or spoken language directed at the child is known as receptive language. When a child cannot understand directions, they may appear not to follow them simply because they do not understand. They may also become frustrated and express it with aggression or other maladaptive behaviors. 

Many children with autism are also hypersensitive to sensory input. This may cause them to become easily distracted, overwhelmed, or have trouble concentrating. A predictable environment can help to limit sensory overstimulation. 

The TEACCH method for autism emphasizes different strategies to aid learning and avoid stress.

What does the TEACCH method look like? 

There are five key principles of the TEACCH method. The TEACCH method is adaptable to each child's needs. The specifics of the TEACCH model will look different for each child based on their unique strengths and interests. 

Physical structure

It may not always be possible to set up a perfect location for learning, but there are some basic principles to follow when thinking about the physical structure of the classroom. The room should be set up to minimize distractions and maximize visual cues. 

Students should have a separate work area set up to limit distractions. A screen around the desk can decrease visual distractions. It may also be helpful to make sure the work area is as far from windows, mirrors, and loud noises as possible. 

Organized physical spaces with clear functions help children understand what is expected while they are in that space. Separate areas for playing, eating, and working with clear boundaries provide additional visual cues to indicate the type of activity that will occur there. The room should also be as neat and organized as possible to limit visual overstimulation. 

Schedule

A detailed schedule lets students know exactly what will happen and when. Schedules should take the form of whatever is easiest for the child to understand. It might be words, pictures, or drawings. 

Schedules help students with autism to be more independent since they know exactly what will happen next. 

Work system

A work system is set up to let students know what is expected of them. Common work systems are working from right to left or top to bottom. 

Using the work system, the teacher can set up materials for an activity in the correct order of the work system for the child to complete. If tasks are always set up this way, the student will not have as much difficulty figuring out what to do. 

After learning the work system, the student has more opportunities to work independently. 

Routine

An organized physical space, established schedules, and work systems help children with autism build stable routines. Routines can decrease the stress that uncertainty causes. 

Visual-based cues 

The TEACCH method encourages teachers to use many different ways to communicate instructions. Additional context clues, visual aids, and gestures can be helpful additions to verbal or written directions to allow children to complete tasks more independently.

Distinct physical spaces, large signs, or color coding are examples of how visual-based cues are used in the physical structure of the classroom. 

Visual aids are also used in the daily schedules to let students know which activities are coming up. Pictures or drawings can be used in the description of different tasks to help increase understanding.

Gestures are another way to communicate a task visually. Instead of just asking the child to pick up blocks verbally, the teacher could also point to the blocks. The added gesture of pointing can increase the child’s understanding of the task.

What are the benefits of the TEACCH method?

The TEACCH method was developed to meet the specific needs of children with autism using evidence-based methods. Studies have shown improvements in developmental abilities and symptoms of autism and decreased incidences of undesirable behaviors. 

The TEACCH method usually takes place in a classroom, but it can also be provided in a home setting. 

Research has found that the TEACCH method can decrease the stress levels of both the caretaker and the child. Parents may feel less stressed because they are involved in their child's therapy.

Conclusion

The TEACCH method uses structured teaching with an emphasis on stable, predictable routines to improve learning in children with autism. The key principles of physical structure, schedule, work system, routine, and visual-based cues facilitate independence. 

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