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TEACCH is a whole-life approach to helping people with autism, which aims to

equip children for a productive life in


the community. It sets out to provide visual information, structure and
predictability as it is recognised that the optimum
learning channel is visual.
It began in 1966 in North Carolina as a research project which was funded by the
US government. The project,
led by Eric Schopler and colleagues, developed from clinical experience at the
University of North Carolina. It was
established in 1972 as a state-wide programme. Since its foundation, Division
TEACCH has worked with some 4,000
people with autism in North Carolina and has developed over the years in many
parts of the world.
The University of North Carolina continues to be at the core, offering services and
opportunities for training and
research, allowing easy access for clinicians and families to the latest
developments. There is a comprehensive and
integrated service for families that facilitates access to assessment and
intervention.
The approach requires that adaptations must occur in the three major areas of
the childs life: home, school and
community. Starting with a comprehensive assessment, the approach comprises
a number of interconnected elements,
which are based on structured teaching.
Structured teaching
Physical structure
This refers to the way in which the environment is organised. There are clear
visual boundaries segmenting the space
into recognisable parts. This helps the children understand what they are
expected to do in each area. In the area set
aside for work, distractions are kept to a minimum.
The schedule
This tells the child visually what activities will occur and in which order. Using
objects, photos, pictures, numbers or
words (depending on the individuals developmental level) the child is helped to
understand a sequence of events.
Work system
Through these systems the child is taught:
What task/activity do I have to do?
How much do I have to do?
When will I have finished?
What will I have to do next?
Visual clarity
Tasks are presented visually so as to make the expectations clear and highlight
the important information.
Theoretical background
In the 1960s the prevailing approach to autism was psychotherapy. Children with
autism were considered to be
ineducable and were often removed from their parents. Schopler and Reichler
worked with many children with
autism and their families. The experience led them to believe that autism
stemmed from some form of brain abnormality,
rather than from refrigerator parenting.