Methods and Strategies: Treatment and Education of Autistic and Related Communication Handicapped Children (TEACCH)
The TEACCH program, developed at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, provides community-based services to children with autism and related disorders from preschool age through adulthood. The school program offers individualized instruction emphasizing skills appropriate for the child’s age and developmental level in a highly structured learning environment. General domains for skill development are communication, socialization, practical skills, and a fostering of independence and preparation for adult living. Children of preschool age enrolled in traditional TEACCH models may attend half-day or full-day programs. Typical classrooms for preschoolers have six students with autism, one teacher, and one assistant teacher. Additional related services such as speech-language therapy may be provided at school.
The key elements of structured teaching include:
Highly Structured Learning Environments
The learning environment is clearly defined with concrete physical boundaries. Separate areas are designed for specific activities including independent work stations, play areas, and group work areas. Work areas are free of distractions. Visual organization, visual clarity, and visual instruction are stressed throughout the environment and routine.
Daily Individual Schedules
A personal schedule is designed for each student. The daily routine is displayed visually through picture symbols, photographs, line drawings, and written words in a top to bottom or left to right progression. The student is taught to manipulate the schedule independently. Activities within the schedule may be color-coded (independent work - yellow; circle time - red, etc.)
Individual Work Systems
Work tasks for specific skills are physically displayed in baskets with the “work” to be
completed placed to the student’s left. The student completes tasks independently and places the materials in a basket to his right. The exact task and amount of work are clearly defined. Initial tasks are taught utilizing chaining∗ and shaping+ techniques until independence is achieved. Upon completing work, the student refers to his individual schedule to transition to the next activity. Work tasks are changed frequently as the student progresses. Examples of work tasks for younger children include: matching, sorting and sequencing activities, assembly activities, and functional academics (pre-math and pre-reading).
The curriculum is developmentally sequenced and functionally based. Key areas include functional communication, vocational and independence training, community-based instruction, and leisure and social training.
Training of family members to carry over activities in the home is strongly encouraged. The home environment may be modified to provide visual structure. Families may request packets of activities which are completed at home. These packets contain instructions, material lists, and feedback forms. Communication between home and school is frequent through direct contact or communication notebooks.