Treatment and Education of Autistic and related Communications Handicapped Children (TEACCH)

Treatment and Education of Autistic and related Communications Handicapped Children (TEACCH)

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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 people with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), 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 spectrum disorder (ASD) 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 spectrum disorder (ASD) 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 weaknesses. 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.

What children do during the day also varies 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 spectrum disorder (ASD), this approach is time intensive.

Cost considerations

The cost of this therapy varies depending on the service provider.

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 also talk about it with your NDIA planner, NDIS early childhood partner or NDIS local area coordination partner, if you have one.

There are many treatments for autism spectrum disorder (ASD). They range from those based on behaviour and development to those based on medicine or alternative therapy. Our article on types of interventions for children with ASD takes you through the main treatments, so you can better understand your child's options.


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