Guide to the TEACCH Method for Autism
The TEACCH Autism Program has been delivering effective autism training and intervention services for more than 50 years.
Developed as a way to better conceptualize the unique strengths and challenges of individuals with autism, the TEACCH program equips educators, parents, and autism professionals with the necessary skills to improve the social, attention, and executive functioning skills of children and adults with autism.
What Is the TEACCH Program?
Based out of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC), the TEACCH Autism Program is a unique clinical, training, and research program based on the specific learning needs of people with autism. Developed by Dr. Eric Schopler and Dr. Robert Reichler in the 1960s, the TEACCH program became a statewide program by the early 1970s. Its use has since expanded throughout the world.
Structured TEACCHing is the basis of the TEACCH program. Educators and professionals learn how to use structured TEACCHing strategies so they can apply them in the classroom. Such strategies include:
- Physical organization.
- Work and activity systems.
- Individualized schedules.
- A visual structure of materials for tasks and activities.
The program builds on the strengths in visual information processing that many individuals with autism have while developing their social communication, executive functioning, and attention skills.
What Does TEACCH Stand For?
TEACCH is an acronym that stands for Treatment and Education of Autistic and related Communication-handicapped CHildren. It was designed as a model to help professionals and educators conceptualize autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and how to deliver the best services and supports to individuals with ASD.
Although the acronym only references children, the model was designed to support individuals with autism across their lifespan, including into adulthood.
TEACCH Program Goals & Outcomes
The goal of the TEACCH program is to encourage meaningful engagement in daily activities for people with autism, explains Autism Speaks. Students’ educational and therapeutic goals can be achieved through the structured TEACCHing approach. Such goals include:
- Improving attention and executive functioning through the use of organizational supports.
- Use of visual and written information to enhance verbal communication.
- Increased social communication with structured support.
- Increased flexibility, independence, and self-efficacy of each student.
The above outcomes can be achieved by using TEACCHing strategies independently or in conjunction with other educational and therapeutic approaches.
Services Offered by the TEACCH Autism Program
The TEACCH Autism Program in North Carolina offers both clinical and training services. Families affected by autism, as well as professionals working with people with autism, can access resources offered by the TEACCH Autism Program.
Clinical services offered to individual clients and their families include the following:
- Initial referrals
- Diagnostic evaluations
- Individual and family counseling
- Parent support and education
- Intervention services
- Employment services
Education and training opportunities are available for parents, teachers, and autism professionals who wish to increase their knowledge and understanding of autism and effective intervention strategies. For larger programs, such as schools or residential homes for children and adults with autism, consultation services are available.
TEACCH Parent Support Groups
For families living in North Carolina, TEACCH regional centers offer parent support groups and workshops. The goal of these groups is to give parents of children with autism the opportunity to connect with other parents in a safe and supportive setting.
The focus of the TEACCH parent education workshops is on the following:
- Characteristics of autism
- The impact of ASD on communication
- Social development
- Behavior management
- School services
Parents also learn how to enhance their child’s learning at home, as well as how to collaborate effectively with their child’s teachers and care providers.
Examples of parent support groups and workshops offered through TEACCH regional centers include:
- Parent lecture series on autism and structured TEACCHing.
- Group parent TEACCHing sessions for high functioning children with autism.
- Informal support and discussion groups for parents.
The TEACCH Autism Program offers the above services to parents so parents can feel like they are a part of a supportive community and to better understand and appreciate their children’s unique learning styles.
Is the TEACCH Method Effective?
Studies have found that the TEACCH method is effective for both children and adults with autism. A 2011 study on therapies for children with autism spectrum disorders reviewed a range of studies on ASD therapies. The study found that the TEACCH program helped improve motor skills and cognitive abilities in young children with ASD.
A 2003 study on the use of TEACCH methods over time found that TEACCHing strategies help to decrease behaviors in adults with autism. The adult participants in the study also exhibited improved skills in the following areas:
- Developmental planning
- Positive behavior management
Studies as far back as 1997 demonstrate the effectiveness of the TEEACH method for children and adults.
In a study on supporting individuals with autism in gaining and maintaining employment, TEACCHing strategies were used to identify individual strengths and interests, match participants to appropriate jobs, and provide long-term support. As a result, nearly 90% of the participants retained their jobs.
Who Provides TEACCH Strategies?
While TEACCHing strategies are primarily used in the classroom, they can be used effectively by many different autism professionals. According to Autism Speaks, the following types of autism care providers can provide TEACCH services to benefit their clients:
- Special education teachers
- Social workers
- Residential care providers
- Speech therapists
Anyone who wishes to be trained in TEACCHing strategies must complete a certification program through the TEACCH Autism Program in North Carolina. Comprehensive professional certification programs are available online and in person. If you are interested in becoming TEAACH certified, visit the TEAACH Autism Program training page for more information.
Cost of the TEACCH Program
If receiving TEACCH clinical services directly through the TEACCH Autism Program, you may be able to use your insurance to cover the costs. The program accepts the same insurance providers as UNC Health Care. An updated list of accepted insurance plans is on the UNC Health website.
If UNC Health does not accept your insurance plan or it does not cover the total cost of services, financial assistance is available. After creating a My UNC Chart account, which is UNC Health’s patient portal platform, you can apply for financial assistance online. Alternatively, you can also apply for financial assistance by fax or mail. Covering the costs of services provided by TEACCH-certified professionals around the country varies by provider. Always be sure to confirm the cost of services before you begin working with a TEACCH professional.
Many but not all professionals and organizations accept insurance and offer financial assistance. Understanding your financial responsibility prior to receiving services will help create a satisfactory experience for all.
How to Find a TEACCH Program Near You
Although the TEACCH Autism Program centers in North Carolina, TEACCH-certified educators and professionals are available throughout the country. The Autism Speaks Directory is a great resource for locating TEACCH providers, as well as other autism services, in your area. If you would like to visit a TEACCH regional center in North Carolina, the TEACCH Autism Program website offers seven regional centers throughout the state. The counties that each center serves, as well as contact information for general program information, can be found on the TEACCH Autism Program website.
- Clinical Services. TEACCH Autism Program.
- Effects of a Model Treatment Approach on Adults with Autism. (April 2003). Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders.
- Parent Support and Education. TEACCH Autism Program.
- TEACCH. (2011). Encyclopedia of Clinical Neuropsychology.
- TEACCH-Supported Employment Program. (February 1997). Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders.
- Therapies for Children with Autism. (April 2011). Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.
- Training. TEACCH Autism Program.
- What is TEACCH? Autism Speaks.