is TEACCH? Frequently, statements are made that misrepresent
our TEACCH approach. "TEACCH does not allow Occupation
Therapy,"& "TEACCH has low expectations," or "TEACCH does
not believe in inclusion," people will say emphatically.
Our TEACCH approach is quite different and much more flexible
than many of these false descriptions would suggest. This
short statement is designed to present the major priorities
of the TEACCH approach.
in the early 1970s by our founder, Eric Schopler, the
TEACCH approach includes a focus on the person with autism
and the development of a program around this person's
skills, interests and needs. The major priorities include
centering on the individual, understanding autism, adopting
appropriate adaptations, and a broadly based intervention
strategy building on existing skills and interests. By
focusing on the individual we mean that the person is
the priority, rather than any philosophical notion like
inclusion, discrete trial training, facilitated communication
etc. We emphasize individualized assessment to understand
the individual better and also "the culture of autism,"
suggesting that people with autism are part of a distinctive
group with common characteristics that are different,
but not necessarily inferior, to the rest of us. Emphasizing
assessment and the culture of autism requires us to understand
people with autism as they are and to build our programs
around where each person is functioning. This does not
suggest lower or higher expectations; it simply requires
starting where people are and helping them to develop
as far as they can go. This is different from espousing
a model of "normal" behavior for everyone and requiring
people with autism to fit into that mould, whether that
is comfortable for them or not. Structured teaching is
an important priority because of the TEACCH research and
experience that structure fits the "culture of autism"
more effectively than any other techniques we have observed.
Organizing the physical environment, developing schedules
and work systems, making expectations clear and explicit,
and using visual materials have been effective ways of
developing skills and allowing people with autism to use
these skills independently of direct adult prompting and
cueing. These priorities are especially important for
students with autism who are frequently held back by their
inability to work independently in a variety of situations.
Structured teaching says nothing about where people with
autism should be educated; this is a decision based on
the skills and needs of each individual student. Some
can work effectively and benefit from regular educational
programs, while others will need special classrooms for
part or all of the day where the physical environment,
curriculum and personnel can be organized and manipulated
to reflect individual needs.
Cultivating strengths and
interests, rather than dwelling solely on deficits, is
another important priority. Obviously any program working
with handicapped people has to maintain a balance between
developing skills and remediating deficits. In this sense
TEACCH is no different from any other program. On the
other hand, most programs dealing with developmental disabilities
emphasize remediating deficits and focus their entire
efforts on that goal. Our approach, respecting the "culture
of autism," recognizes that the differences between people
with autism and others can sometimes favor people with
autism. Their relative strengths in visual skills, recognizing
details, and memory, among other areas, can become the
basis of successful adult functioning. TEACCH has also
observed that capitalizing on their interests, even though
they might be peculiar from our perspective, helps increase
their motivation and understanding of what they are doing.
These strategies enhance efforts to work positively and
productively with these people, rather than coercing and
forcing them in directions that do not interest them and
that they cannot comprehend.
The TEACCH approach is also broad-based, taking into account all aspects of the lives of people with autism and their families. Although independent work skills are emphasized, it is also recognized that life is not all work and that communication, social and leisure skills can be learned by people with autism and can have an important impact on their well being. An important part of any TEACCH curriculum is developing communication skills, pursuing social and leisure interests, and encouraging people with autism to pursue more of these opportunities.
In addition to these techniques of understanding autism, developing appropriate structures, promoting independent work skills, emphasizing strengths and interests and fostering communication, social and leisure outlets, the TEACCH approach is most successfully implemented on a systems level. Based on the concept that co-ordination and integration over time is as important as consistency within a given situation, the TEACCH approach is most effective when it is applied across age groups and agencies. Frequently professionals obsess over maintaining a consistent environment from day to day but then a child jumps from technique to technique when changing settings over time. Division TEACCH believes that the interests of people with autism are best served with coordinated and co-operative programming based on consistent principles over a lifetime. Therefore, we try to maintain continuity in our approach while integrating new ideas slowly and only after they have proven effective. Our TEACCH principles, developed in 1974, have stood the test of time; adults brought up using those practices are now the most productive and successful in the world with lives that are full, rich and meaningful.
AHA/AS/PDD does not endorse or recommend any product or treatment. This site is intended for informational purposes only. Please consult with experienced professionals to determine the most effective treatment for your own child as each child and situation are unique.