TEACCH - (Treatment and Education of Autistic and Related Communication Handicapped Children)


Division TEACCH’ is a section of the Department of Psychiatry at the School of Medicine, University of North Carolina; it was founded in 1966 by Dr Eric Schopler, with the aim of providing services to children with autism, and their families. Today TEACCH is a North Carolina State Education Programme, with the primary aim of helping prepare people of all ages with autism to live and work more effectively at home, at school, and in the community, by reducing or removing ‘autistic behaviours. Division TEACCH also operates as a research centre, and an international centre for interdisciplinary training in autism, training professionals from over 20 countries. There is no equivalent to the complete TEACCH service in Europe, though the programme in Antwerp is very similar; in the UK, several schools have incorporated elements of TEACCH into their curricula.


TEACCH is not a technique or a method - it is a complete programme based on the principle that the person with autism is the priority, rather than any philosophical notions, such as inclusion or facilitated communication; autistic people are recognised as a distinctive group, and are encouraged to develop their own potential, rather than meet pre-determined expectations of normal. Respect is engendered for the culture of autism. TEACCH rests on several key concepts, including:

- Structured Teaching It has been found that children with autism benefit from a structured educational environment. Organising the physical environment, developing work schedules, making expectations clear and explicit and using visual materials have been effective ways of developing skills and encouraging their use.
- Parent Collaboration Parents work with their children as co-therapists so that techniques can be continued at home.
- Assessment for Individual Treatment A regular assessment (PEP Psycho Educational Profile) ensures that the programme is tailored to the individual’s needs as they progress. - Generalised communication strategies For example, a functional approach rewards a child for saying shoe by helping him to put his shoes on and play outside, rather than rewarding the robotic repetition of the word shoe with food in an isolated learning situation.
- Skill Enhancement Emerging skills and interests are identified and developed, as opposed to concentrating solely on remediating deficits.


A comprehensive study was carried out by the Department of Health and Social Services in Northern Ireland (D. Sines, 1995-6, A Study to Evaluate the TEACCH Project, University of Ulster). Of the 72 parents and professionals who responded, 86% described TEACCH as effective, citing examples of improvements is self-help skills and social skills, and a reduction in inappropriate behaviours. Communication, concentration and independence were also improved. Over 90% claimed that TEACCH has enhanced the quality of life of children and adults with autism.

The Autism-pdd Resources Network (US) has produced a critical assessment of TEACCH, available at www.autism-pdd.net/teacch.html. The programme is accused of being a behavioural management system which mentally shields the subject form their surroundings.

For an extensive research report, detailing research carried out by or in collaboration with Division TEACCH, visit the Division TEACCH website (http://www.teacch.com/resrepo.htm).


The Current Director of Division TEACCH is Dr Gary Mesibov:

Division TEACCH
Department of Psychiatry
School of Medicine
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Email: Gary_Mesibov@unc.edu or teacch@unc.edu 
Website: http://www.teacch.com

Further information on TEACCH in the UK can be found from:

The National Autistic Society
393 City Road
Email: nas@nas.org.uk
Website: http://www.nas.org.uk

An extract from Mesibov’s book The Effects of Autism on the Family (ISBN: 030641533X) is available from the NAS Information Centre, for £1.

A complete listing is available from TEACCH.

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