What is TEACCH?

Division TEACCH started in 1966 as part of the Department of Psychiatry of the School of Medicine at the University of North Carolina in the USA.

It began as a Child Research Project to provide services to children with autism and their families. In 1972 the North Carolina General Assembly passed legislation which enabled Division TEACCH to become the first comprehensive state-wide community-based programme of services for children and adults with autism and other similar developmental disorders.

Today TEACCH provides a wide range of services to a broad spectrum of toddlers, children, adolescents, adults and their families including diagnosis and assessment, individualised treatment programmes, special education, social skills training, vocational training, school consultations, parent training and counselling and the facilitation of parent group activities.  TEACCH also maintains an active research programme and provides multidisciplinary training for professionals dealing with children/adolescents/ adults with autism and their families.

The primary aim of the TEACCH programme is to help to prepare people with autism to live or work more effectively at home, at school and in the community. Special emphasis is placed on helping people with autism and their families live together more effectively by reducing or removing ‘autistic behaviours’.

The TEACCH concept

The principles and concepts guiding the TEACCH system have been summarised as:

  • Improved adaptation: through the two strategies of improving skills by means of education and of modifying the environment to accommodate deficits.
  • Parent collaboration: parents work with professionals as co-therapists for their children so that techniques can be continued at home.
  • Assessment for individualised treatment: unique educational programmes are designed for all individuals on the basis of regular assessments of abilities.
  • Structured teaching: it has been found that children with autism benefit more from a structured educational environment than from free approaches.
  • Skill enhancement: assessment identifies emerging skills and work then focuses upon these. (This approach is also applied to staff and parent training.)
  • Cognitive and behaviour therapy: educational procedures are guided by theories of cognition and behaviour suggesting that difficult behaviour may result from underlying problems in perception and understanding.
  • Generalist training: professionals in the TEACCH system are trained as generalists who understand the whole child, and do not specialise as psychologists, speech therapists etc.

(Extract from Approaches to autism: an annotated list published by The National Autistic Society, 1993 revised 2003)