TEACCH® Approach

TEACCH developed the concept of the “Culture of Autism” as a way of thinking about the characteristic patterns of thinking and behavior seen in individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD).

“CULTURE OF AUTISM”

•  Relative strength in and preference for processing visual information (compared to difficulties with auditory processing, particularly of language)
•  Frequent attention to details but difficulty understanding the meaning of how those details fit together
•  Difficulty combining ideas
•  Difficulty with organizing ideas, materials, and activities
•  Difficulties with attention. (Some individuals are very distractible, others have difficulty shifting attention when it is time to make transitions)
•  Difficulty with concepts of time, including moving too quickly or too slowly and having problems recognizing the beginning, middle, or end of an activity
Communication problems, which vary by developmental level but always include impairments in the social use of language (called “pragmatics”)
•  Tendency to become attached to routines, with the result that activities may be difficult to generalize from the original learning situation and disruptions in routines that are upsetting, confusing, or uncomfortable
•  Very strong interests and impulses in engaging in favored activities, with difficulties disengaging once engaged
•  Marked sensory preferences and dislikes.

TEACCH developed the intervention approach called “Structured TEACCHing”, which is based on understanding the learning characteristics of individuals with autism and the use of visual supports to promote meaning and independence. TEACCH services are supported by empirical research, enriched by extensive clinical expertise, and notable for its flexible and individualized support of individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and their families.

PRINCIPLES OF STRUCTURED TEACCHING:

•  Understanding the culture of autism
•  Developing an individualized person- and family-centered plan for each client or student, rather than using a standard curriculum
•  Structuring the physical environment
•  Using visual supports to make the sequence of daily activities predictable and understandable
•  Using visual supports to make individual tasks understandable

COMMON MYTHS AND MISUNDERSTANDINGS ABOUT THE TEACCH APPROACH

MYTH: TEACCH is only for children

FACT: TEACCH works with individuals of all ages with ASD. For example, our supported employment and residential/vocational program for adults is highly-regarded, with very effective demonstrations of the application of Structured TEACCHing principles and techniques for adults. On an individual, as-needed basis, we provide personal counseling, marital counseling, and vocational guidance to college students, graduate students, and other individuals with ASD who have careers and independent lives.

MYTH: TEACCH is only for individuals with intellectual disabilities

FACT: TEACCH works with individuals with ASD at all developmental levels, from individuals with significant mental retardation to those with superior intelligence and academic achievement.

MYTH: TEACCH is only for students in self-contained classrooms

FACT: Structured TEACCHing can be provided in any educational setting, including regular education classrooms, “specials” such as music, art, PE, and foreign language, speech/language and occupational therapy sessions, as well as in the cafeteria, school bus, and playground. It is not necessary for a student to be in a self-contained or special education setting in order to receive the visual information and organizational supports of Structured TEACCHing.

In addition, services based on the TEACCH approach are now used with individuals from early childhood through adulthood in a variety of settings, including early intervention programs; public and private school classrooms; families’ homes, residential programs, and private housing; play and other social groups; summer camps and other recreation programs; individual and group counseling sessions; and both competitive and sheltered employment sites.

MYTH: TEACCH programs do not teach language

FACT: Professionals from TEACCH were innovators of methods for teaching and supporting language development in students with ASD. We consider meaningful, spontaneous communication to be a vital goal for all people with ASD. We do suggest that activities for learning language and/or social communication have a visual or physically concrete component because of the relative strength in visual processing and difficulty with auditory comprehension that is characteristic of students with ASD.

MYTH: By focusing on independence, TEACCH further isolates already lonely people with autism spectrum disorders

FACT: Although Structured TEACCHing values independence highly and has established it as an important educational priority, developing enjoyable social interactions and meaningful social relationships are also important priorities. Structured TEACCHing can be an excellent foundation for facilitating social activities that would otherwise be too unpredictable and confusing for students with ASD.

SUMMARY

The TEACCH approach is a family-centered, evidence-based practice for autism, based on a theoretical conceptualization of autism, supported by empirical research, enriched by extensive clinical expertise, and notable for its flexible and person-centered support of individuals of all ages and skill levels.