Treatment and Education of Autistic and Related Communication-Handicapped Children
TEACCH is a complete program of services for autistic people which makes use of various associated
techniques depending upon the individual person's needs and emerging capabilities. The main goal of
TEACCH is to help autistic children grow up to their maximum ability by adult age. Advocates of TEACCH
state that it aims for a 'whole life' approach in supporting children, adolescents, and adults with an Autistic
Spectrum Disorder such as Autism or Asperger syndrome, through the help of visual information, structure
and predictability. There is an emphasis on a continuance of care so where services are available, it is
possible for an individual with an Autistic Spectrum Disorder to be supported from two years of age into
TEACCH principles involve changing the behavior and skill level of the person as well as developing an
environment that matches the person’s needs. It is a state program that tries to respond to the needs of
autistic people using the best available approaches and methods known so far for educating them and to
provide the maximum level of independence that they can achieve. This includes helping them understand
the world that surrounds them, acquiring communication skills that will enable them to relate to other people
and giving them the necessary capability to be able to make choices concerning their own lives. The
TEACCH method considers the main focus of treatment to be ‘autism’ as a whole, rather than on ‘behavior’.
TEACCH is a structured technique specialized to the person’s visual processing strengths by organizing the
physical structure of the room and providing a visual conduct to supply information about activities.
Structured teaching places heavy reliance upon teaching through visual means due to the difficulties that
children with autism have with processing verbal information. Visual structure is provided at a variety of
levels such as organizing areas of the classroom, providing a daily schedule using pictures or written words,
as well as visual instructions and visual organization signaling the beginning and end of tasks.
This technique is based upon the observation that children with autism learn and connect information
differently than other children. It assumes that many inappropriate behaviors of children with autism are the
result of difficulty understanding what is expected of them. Educational strategies are established individually
on the basis of a detailed assessment of the autistic person learning abilities, trying to identify potential for
acquisitions rather than deficits. TEACCH also involves frequent program revisions according to the child's
maturation and progress.
The TEACCH method gives means of communication to the person these comprehension and expression
capabilities will enable him/her to understand better what is being told/asked and to express his/her needs and
feelings by other means than behavior problems.
The assessment called PEP; Psycho Educational Profile tries to identify areas where the person falls behind,
areas where the skill has yet to be mastered, and areas where the skill is emerging. These domains are then
put in an education program for the person. This is a must since there is a great variability of skills, even in
the same autistic person, from one domain of ability to the other. As opposed to behavior modification, these
strategies do not work on the behavior directly but on underlying conditions that will promote learning
experiences. They also make use of recent cognitive psychology research results about some differences in
particular areas of brain processing in autistic people as opposed to typical people.
Direct behavior modification is reserved for those behaviors that endanger the person and for which the
above strategy didn't work, at least so far. This is very rare. The intention is toward improving
communication skills and character to the maximum of the child’s potential, using education as a means to
achieve that goal. When behavior problems occur, they are not treated directly either. The approach calls for
efforts to understand the underlying reasons for this behavior problem: anxiety, physical pain, difficulty with
the task, unpredictable changes, boredom, etc...
The principles and concepts guiding the TEACCH system have been summarized as:
- Improved adaptation: through the two strategies of improving skills by means of education and of
modifying the environment to accommodate deficits.
- Parent collaboration: parents work with professionals as co-therapists for their children so that techniques
can be continued at home.
- Assessment for individualized treatment: unique educational programs are designed for all individuals on the
basis of regular assessments of abilities.
- Structured teaching: it has been found that children with autism benefit more from a structured educational
environment than from free approaches.
- Skill enhancement: assessment identifies emerging skills and work then focuses upon these. (This
approach is also applied to staff and parent training.)
- Cognitive and behavior therapy: educational procedures are guided by theories of cognition and behavior
suggesting that difficult behavior may result from underlying problems in perception and understanding.
- Generalist training: professionals in the TEACCH system are trained as generalists who understand the
whole child, and do not specialize as psychologists, speech therapists etc.
Characteristics of Structured Teaching
• Emphasis is placed on developing individual plans to help people with autism and their families to live
together more effectively by reducing or replacing autism related behaviors that interfere with independence
and quality of life
• The physical layout of the classroom is arranged in a way that avoids distractions
• Materials are clearly marked and arranged
• Individual needs of students are considered when planning the physical structure on the classroom as
well as the instructional lessons
• Schedules are a must! Individuals with autism typically have difficulties with logical memory and
organization of time. Class and individual schedules help to overcome such difficulties.
• Prompts and reinforcements are used in an organized, systematic matter to build success
• Directions are given both verbally and with alternative forms such as writing, PECS, or gestures.
• The focus of teaching is on strengths and to correct as a “remedy” to their difficulties
• Takes a broad-based environmental approach by examining diverse areas and components of the
• Most effective when applied across age groups and agencies
• Guides individuals with autism are prepared to live and work more effectively at home, at school, and
in the community