What is TEACCH?
Treatment and Education of Autistic and related Communications Handicapped Children (TEACCH) is a ‘whole-of-life’ intervention.
The approach looks at the skills and strengths children already have, and it aims to build on these to promote development.
Who is TEACCH for?
TEACCH is for autistic people of all ages and skill levels.
What is TEACCH used for?
The TEACCH program is used to promote learning and development – in particular, communication and social skills, independence, coping skills and skills for daily life like dressing, washing, cleaning teeth and so on. The way TEACCH is used depends on the age of the person involved. For example, a TEACCH program might focus on early intervention for a young child or supported employment for an adult.
Where does TEACCH come from?
TEACCH was developed in the mid-1960s in the United States, based on the work and theories of Eric Schopler, an autism researcher. TEACCH is based at the University of North Carolina in the United States.
What is the idea behind TEACCH?
The TEACCH approach is based on the idea that autism is a biological disorder – that is, it’s caused by a problem in the body or brain.
The key idea is to teach children in a way that makes the most of their strengths and works around their areas of difficulty. The teaching approach is very structured and uses clear schedules that children can understand.
What does TEACCH involve?
Before beginning a TEACCH program, children are assessed to determine their developmental level. The program is tailored to individual needs.
For children, the TEACCH program involves attending an early intervention centre. Structured teaching is central to the program’s approach. The program also uses schedules to make daily life predictable for children and help them understand their daily activities. The learning environment is physically organised with specific areas for different types of activities.
Children usually learn together in classes. The classes complete various activities during the day, like group time, playtime, individual learning, skill-building and snack time.
Children’s daily activities vary according to their individual needs. Children have individually tailored visual schedules of their own activities – for example, these could be wall charts or books. As children become more skilled, their environment becomes less structured and they become more independent.
The program can be modified so that it’s run mainly within a family’s home. This can gradually reduce the need for trained therapists and practitioners. Parents are seen as contributors to the therapy and are actively involved.
As with many early interventions for autism, this approach is time intensive.
The cost of this therapy varies depending on the service provider.
You might be able to include the cost of using TEACCH in children’s NDIS plans. You can contact the NDIS to find out.
Does TEACCH work?
Some research has shown positive effects from this therapy, but more high-quality studies are needed.
Who practises TEACCH?
Professionals delivering this program need to be trained by the TEACCH organisation to become certified. This training is mainly available in the United States, but it’s also available in other countries. In Australia, individual practitioners might be certified by TEACCH.
Parent education, training, support and involvement
TEACCH is an intensive program. If your child is taking part in a TEACCH program, you’re expected to play an active role and act as a ‘co-therapist’. Parent education, training and support services are available.
Where can you find a TEACCH practitioner?
TEACCH is offered by a few schools in Australia. Contact the TEACCH Autism Program for more information.
If you’re interested in this program, you could talk about it with your NDIA planner, NDIS early childhood early intervention (ECEI) coordinator or NDIS local area coordinator (LAC), if you have one.
There are many therapies for autism. They range from those based on behaviour and development to those based on medicine or alternative therapy. Our article on types of interventions for autistic children takes you through the main therapies, so you can better understand your child’s options.