TEACCH (Treatment and Education of Autistic and Communication related handicapped CHildren) is an evidence-based service, training, and research program for individuals of all ages and skill levels with autism spectrum disorders. TEACCH was developed at University of North Carolina (UNC) Chapel Hill in the early 1970s by Eric Schopler and colleagues. There are currently 9 TEACCH centers located across North Carolina. The TEACCH method has also been adopted and implemented by teachers across the country. The TEACCH method can be implemented in any school setting, but it most often implemented in self-contained special education settings. TEACCH methods are based on the premise that people with autism are predominantly visual learners, so intervention strategies focus on physical and visual structure, schedules, work systems and task organization. Individualized systems aim to address difficulties with communication, organization, generalization, concepts, sensory processing, change and relating to others.
At the core of TEACCH is the idea of structured teaching. Structured teaching is comprised of 3 components: physical organization, scheduling, and teaching methods. The developers of the TEACCH method have based their model on the idea that to effectively teach students with autism a teacher must provide structure. This means they should set up the classroom so that students understand where to be, what to do, and how to do it, all as independently as possible.
The classroom should be clearly laid out so the students know where they are supposed to be and what they’re supposed to be doing. There should be adequate space for independent and group work and the work areas should be arranged in the least distractable setting. The work areas should be clearly marked so the student can independently find their way to different locations within the classroom independently and the boundaries within those areas should be clearly marked. Play areas should not be located near exits to decrease the likelihood of a student leaving the classroom. All work and play areas should be well organized with all relevant materials available, all “teacher only” materials should be inaccessible and all areas should be free of clutter and/or broken items.
There are two levels of scheduling which are both important to the structured teaching method. First is the daily classroom schedule. This schedule allow the teachers and students to clearly know what will be happening during the day. The overall schedule should also contain information about which teachers and/or assistant will be in which area. The daily schedule should balance opportunities for individual, independent, group and leisure activities throughout the day. In addition to the daily overall schedule, individual students should also have smaller schedules within scheduled activities to clearly define the expectations during the class period. The individual schedules should help the student transition by letting them know where to be and what to do, and it should inform them about where and when to being and end tasks. Lastly, there should be a clear and consistent signal in the classroom which indicates time for a transition (i.e. timer, teacher instruction, student monitors clock, etc.).
The teaching methods used in the TEACCH method are all behaviorally based. The goal for all programs is to maximize independence. Antecedent strategies utilized include getting student attention before giving instructions, using clear and concise language, presenting materials in an organized manner, prompted only as much as necessary before a student respond incorrectly, and providing prompts which are student-specific and effective. Consequence strategies employed include giving clear feedback regarding correct and incorrect responses, clearly defining consequences/reinforcers, providing reinforcers immediately following the desired behavior, giving frequent reinforcers, and basing reinforcer selection on student preference and motivation.