Education and Counseling for Individuals Affected by Autism Spectrum Disorders

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The TEACCH Method: Structured Teaching for Children on the Autism Spectrum

“Are you familiar with the TEACCH method for helping younger students with Asperger Syndrome? How does it work, and can it really help these ‘special needs’ students?”

The TEACCH method emphasizes structure and has come to be called “structured teaching.” Structured teaching is comprised of three components, (1) teaching methods, (2) physical organization, and (3) scheduling:

1. Teaching Methods— Teaching methods are all behaviorally based. The goal for all programs is to maximize independence. This component includes antecedent and consequence strategies:

Antecedent strategies include:
  • using clear and concise language
  • providing prompts which are student-specific and effective
  • prompting only as much as necessary before a student responds incorrectly
  • presenting materials in an organized manner
  • getting student attention before giving instructions

Consequence strategies employed include:
  • basing reinforcer selection on student preference and motivation
  • clearly defining consequences/reinforcers
  • giving clear feedback regarding correct and incorrect responses
  • giving frequent reinforcers
  • providing reinforcers immediately following the desired behavior

2. Physical Organization— This component should include the following:
  • “teacher only” materials should be inaccessible
  • all areas should be free of clutter and/or broken items
  • play areas should not be located near exits to decrease the likelihood of the child leaving the classroom
  • the classroom should be clearly laid out so the children 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
  • work and play areas should be well organized with all relevant materials available
  • work areas should be arranged in the least distractible setting
  • work areas should be clearly marked so the child can independently find his or her way to different locations within the classroom independently, and the boundaries within those areas should be clearly marked

3. Scheduling— There are two levels of scheduling that are crucial to the structured teaching method – the daily classroom schedule, and the individual schedule:

The daily classroom schedule allows teachers and students to clearly know what will be happening during the day and should balance opportunities for individual, independent, group and leisure activities throughout the day.

Individual students should also have smaller schedules within scheduled activities to clearly define the expectations during the class period. The individual schedules:
  • should be a clear and consistent signal in the classroom which indicates time for a transition (e.g., timer, teacher instruction, student monitors clock, etc.)
  • should contain information about which teachers and/or assistant will be in which area
  • should help the student transition by letting him or her know where to be and what to do
  • should inform the child about where and when to begin and end tasks

The developers of this method have based their model on the idea that to effectively teach children on the autism spectrum, teachers must provide high levels of structure (i.e., they should set up the classroom so that these children understand where to be, what to do, and how to do it – all as independently as possible). As mentioned above, important aspects of structured teaching include:
  • visually structured activities
  • visual schedules
  • structured work/activity systems
  • routines with flexibility
  • predictable sequence of activities
  • organization of the physical environment

With the TEACCH method, there is an emphasis on both (a) improving skills of young people with Asperger’s and High-Functioning Autism, and (b) modifying the environment to accommodate their deficits. Several reports have documented progress in kids who have received TEACCH services, as well as parent satisfaction and improvement in parent teaching skills. In a controlled trial, researchers discovered that kids treated with a TEACCH-based home program for 4 months (in addition to their local day treatment programs) improved significantly more than kids in the control group who received local day treatment services only.

The Aspergers Comprehensive Handbook

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