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The TEACCH Method for Students with Autism

Instructor: Abigail Cook
The unique needs and abilities that students with autism bring to a classroom require teachers to be creative and resourceful in their instruction. Let's review the TEACCH method and how its evidence based tools help teachers implement effective strategies.

The TEACCH Method

The Treatment and Education of Autistic and Related Communication Handicapped Children (TEACCH) is a training program that teachers use with individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). It includes a variety of techniques and strategies that have been proven to help individuals with autism find success in school and independent living. TEACCH is based on the knowledge that people with ASD are largely visual learners and it incorporates ways to use this strength in different intervention strategies.

This evidence based program is known for being an effective intervention in the classroom, as well as a flexible and individualized resource to support individuals with autism and their families. TEACCH has identified common characteristics of autism that affect the way individuals with ASD learn.

A few of these characteristics include:

  • Strengths in processing visual information
  • Trouble with time management
  • Excessive need for routine

The TEACCH Approach

Structured TEACCHing is the term used to describe the overall TEACCH approach. Structured TEACCHing has taken the common characteristics of individuals and learning styles of individuals with autism to create some basic principles. They include the following:

  • Collaborate with families. Parent concerns and expertise should be included in planning and intervention.
  • Encourage self-initiated communication.
  • Apply generalized skills to several types of activities.
  • Use visuals to organize the learning space. Designate places for materials, appropriate spots for breaks, where to work, etc.
  • Individualize interventions specific to peoples' learning styles and preferences.
  • Make routines predictable and easy to understand.
  • Use of visuals to support language based instruction.

These principles support the unique needs of individuals with ASD because they can be specifically fit for each student. Let's review some different ways structured TEACCHing may look in a classroom setting.

Structured TEACCHing in the Classroom

TEACCH can be implemented to varying degrees in many different ways. The students with autism and their learning styles, needs, interests, and abilities should be the main focus when selecting interventions.

Schedules

Students with ASD are more comfortable in predictable environments. Teachers should take the time to plan a structured routine for the school day that includes a daily classroom schedule. This schedule can be posted on the white board where teachers, assistants, and students can see it at all times. Including visuals in the schedule would add more support for students who have trouble reading. (For example, 'Reading Centers' may include a picture of a stack of books.)

In addition to a classroom schedule, individual students should also be provided with a personal schedule. A student's personal schedule may include a simple breakdown for each section of the day including the materials needed, what to do first, and how to signal when they're finished working.

Implementing transition cues to switch from one routine to another also helps create a predictable environment. A simple example would be to have a timer that signals when activities begin, how much time is left, and when time is out.

Instruction

The way TEACCH is implemented when it comes to classroom instruction can be discussed by looking at a few different strategies.

Presentation

The way material is presented to students with ASD should be specific to the individual, clear and concise, and organized. When teaching a new concept, visuals and modeling are effective tools because they add support for those who have trouble processing language. Task analyzing, or breaking a skill down into small steps, adds order and structure.

Feedback

Any student, especially those with ASD, needs feedback to help them monitor their own performance. Positive reinforcement is a way to give the student something (verbal praise, favorite toy, break time, etc.) after they perform a desired behavior, that increases the likelihood of them repeating that behavior. For example, when a student raises their hand quietly to make a comment, a teacher might say 'Thank you for raising your hand!' Positive reinforcement has been proven to be highly effective in helping students behave appropriately in the classroom.

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