Is TEACCH Educational Programm Effective?
The current investigation deals with the profound study, in-depth analysis, and constructive discussion of the phenomenon of TEACCH approach in terms of treatment of autism and especially in terms of its impact on communication with and interaction among children with the aforementioned disease. This approach is considered to be quite efficient, modern, and promising in terms of autism treatment. Hence, the current study intends to investigate the essence of the TEACCH approach, outline key advantages and disadvantages, as well as identify its actual effectiveness. Furthermore, the effort to present and discuss potential perspectives and directions for further improvement and development of the TEACCH approach will be also made in the course of the current investigation.
The Definition of the Concept of TEACCH Approach
The relevant and constructive discussion of the investigated issue is possible in terms of concise and consistent comprehension of the phenomenon of TEACCH as an approach to the course of autism treatment as well as a subject for the current study. Therefore, definition of the aforementioned phenomenon is necessary. The TEACCH is an abbreviation of ‘Treatment and Education of Autistic and Related Communication-Handicapped Children’. According to the article “Training and Education of Autistic and Related Communication Handicapped Children (TEACCH)” (n.d.) provided by the credible source Autism Speaks:
TEACCH is a special education program developed by psychologist Eric Schopler and colleagues at the University of North Carolina in the early 1970s. Today it is used by many public school systems and preschools. It has also been adapted for home-based teaching and for use with adults in residential care settings.
It is also appropriate to dwell upon the historical background and gradual development of the TEACCH approach. Actually, the phenomenon of TEACCH was introduced and began to develop and evolve in 1966 as a constituent part of the Department of Psychiatry of the School of Medicine at the University of North Carolina in the United States of America. The initial stage of its actual development was the Child Research Project. The major aim of the Child Research Project was to introduce and guarantee all the services, which may be useful and relevant for children with autism as well as for their families. The emphasis was put on the alignment of the treatment at the special establishments, which the Child Research Project comprised with the treatment of patients suffering from autism at home as far as home was regarded as the most influential and effective place due to its significant role in lives of the ill. Furthermore, in 1972 the North Carolina General Assembly introduced legislative norms and standards, according to which Division TEACCH became capable of becoming the first comprehensive community-based program on the state-wide scale. The introduced program comprised the sequence of services for children as well as for adult patients with autism problems and other similar developmental disorders.
According to the article “TEACH” (n.d.):
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.
Actually, the approach of TEACCH comprises such a policy that is referred to as Structured Teaching. This policy underlines the significant role of the classroom environment that is predictable and highly structured. Furthermore, the Structured Teaching approach tends to emphasize the importance of the visual learning use as far as this aspect of studying is considered to be the strength of many patients who suffer from autism. The environment of the classroom impacts sufficiently both development and treatment of every patient who suffers from the disease, as well as the overall atmosphere and interaction between the participants of the classroom activity. As a direct consequence, the efficiency of the overall treatment is improved to a certain extent.
Furthermore, it is significant to underline the fact that the basis of the TEACCH approach is the so-called “culture of autism”. The culture of autism, as it is comprehended and represented in terms of the TEACCH approach, covers the scope of philosophy that tends to regard people who have such a disease as autism. As stated in the article “Training and Education of Autistic and Related Communication Handicapped Children (TEACCH)” (n.d.):
Characteristics that are different, but not necessarily inferior, to the rest of us. A typical TEACCH classroom has separate, defined areas for tasks such as individual work, group activities and play. Teachers use pictures, or “visual supports,” to help communicate schedules to help students transition between activities.
Hence, it is apparent that the key elements of the TEACCH approach comprise certain philosophy to be followed in terms of values and priorities, visual support as an obligatory and crucial element of the whole course of the autism treatment, and, finally, a relevant, constructive, and appropriate environment in the classroom as the background for effective communication and interaction.
The Effectiveness of TEACCH in the Process of Communication with Children with Autism
The overall concept of the discussed phenomenon has been presented as a range of basic elements and key aspects targeted at the effective treatment of patients who suffer from autism. Since the basic target of the TEACCH approach is to assist patients with the aforementioned disease with living more effectively at home, working at appropriate places, studying at school, or in general performing successfully in the community, the aspect of communication appears to be crucial and predetermining. In fact, the course of communication and interaction with other people whose behavioral patterns may be quite different and often may even confront the patient with autism problems tends to be inevitable and rather influential for the overall outcomes of any type of activity and cooperation both at home and in the society. Therefore, the current study underlines the aspect of communication as the key one in terms of the TEACCH study and analysis and dwells upon the potential and actual influences and outcomes of the TEACCH approach implementation in the context of autism treatment.
Hence, it is relevant to start with the discussion of 5 basic principles of the TEACCH approach and their direct and indirect impact on the treatment of the communication aspect in children with autism in particular, as well as on behavioral patterns of patients who suffer from the aforementioned disease in general.
One of the aforementioned 5 principles is the course of proper and relevant physical structure. According to Edelson (n.d.), the phenomenon of physical structure should be regarded as the actual outline or surroundings of a certain environment. The environment may be comprehended as, for instance, a group home, a classroom, or home. Moreover, it is appropriate to underline that physical boundaries within any of the aforementioned types of environment are distinctly and vividly defined and even marked properly. As a rule, these boundaries tend to involve kinds of activities such as “work, play, snack, music, and transitioning” (Edelson, n.d.). Hence, every type of activity is presented by certain territory and associative links, whereas every type of activity involves a peculiar scenario of communicative acts and behavioral patterns. Therefore, it is evident that the development of communicative potential and capabilities is presented within every kind of activity and is improved and treated in different ways and by different means in the course of interaction and participation. As a result, autistic behavioral patterns are significantly reduced or even disappear with the course of time and are transformed into a more socially adequate and acceptable form of activity.
The next crucial principle of the TEACCH approach with respect to the treatment of autistic behavioral patterns is scheduling. A schedule is also quite often called a planner and appears to be regarded as a standardized set up, which outlines all the things the patient is supposed to perform or at least try to perform. Furthermore, the planner tends to comprise details of the planned actions. For instance, it may be data concerning such information as when it is assumed to happen or where, etc. The entire period of certain time, for instance, a day, a week, and in certain cases even a month, is concisely presented to the patient by means of words, drawings, photographs, and other possible or preferable means, which tend to be easier or more convenient and usual for the individual to comprehend (Edelson, n.d.). Such an activity is more focused on the inner comprehension and division of factual data than on the outer expression. However, expression of opinion and exchange of personal experience play quite a significant role in the course of motivating patients with autism to participate in the communicative activity.
The third principle comprises reference to the work system. According to Edelson (n.d.), “The work system tells the person what is expected of him/her during an activity, how much is supposed to be accomplished, and what happens after the activity is completed. The goal is to teach the person to work independently.” In fact, the phenomenon of work system is formed and subsequently implemented in practice so that the individual has little difficulty or even none when comprehending what to do and how to behave. For instance, actions or certain tasks are supposed to be conducted in a certain way: from left to right and from top to bottom.
The work system tends to impact the self-discipline of a patient who suffers from autism and, as a direct consequence, it tends to influence positively the level of efficiency of the overall performance of the persons with autism. Hence, it affects the scope of communication as far as it is directly connected with the scope of actual performance and behavioral patterns. It is especially significant in terms of treatment of children with autism as far as their communicative skills are still in the process of formation and may be adjusted, directed, and qualitatively improved in the course of consistent, efficient, and appropriate treatment. Hence, the scope of communication should be specifically and timely treated in order to achieve potential positive results. Children tend to participate in different types of activities – even if they are new – more eagerly and frequently in comparison with adult patients who suffer from autism. Hence, they acquire more experience and more skills so that they can significantly improve their skills, habits, and behavior.
The fourth principle dwells on the significant role of routine and regular processes to be followed by children with autism. Edelson (n.d.) stated that:
According to the TEACCH method, the most functional skill for autistic individuals is a routine which involves checking one's schedule and following the established work system. This routine can then be used throughout the person's lifetime and in multiple situations.
Special importance of the aforementioned principle lies not only in the fact that it tends to embrace both work system and schedule principles, but that it also provides a peculiar type of dependence on the regular actions. Moreover, responsibilities tend to appear at least to some extent as a result of routinely performed sequence of deeds. Furthermore, children tend to remember and get accustomed to newly introduced and properly presented schedules and timetables quite well. However, it is necessary to underline that there are certain range of actions, which are very hard to get accustomed to for children and afterwards to follow. Therefore, all the actions and schedules should be represented in the form of games, cartoon scenes, or book abstracts in order to thrill imagination of children and motivate them to take part in all the types of performance.
The final principle from the list is visual structure of the activity in the course of treatment of autism. Actually, it refers to “Visually-based cues regarding organization, clarification, and instructions to assist the person in understanding what is expected of him/her” (Edelson, n.d.). For instance, a visual structure is supposed to involve incorporation of colored containers that are actually aimed at helping the person in the course of sorting colored things and arranging them afterwards into diverse various groups or displaying a sample of a stamped envelope whereas that patient has been asked to put stamps on envelopes. Such highlighters as color and pictures, etc. are very efficient in the course of interrelation and interaction between group-mates, as well as between a teacher and a child. Furthermore, it is strongly recommended to use motion and animation, not only static pictures. They tend to attract attention quicker and are more effective in terms of certain task performance.
Next significant aspect of the discussed phenomenon is the myth that the TEACCH approach allegedly does not teach the language and, as a direct consequence, it is not capable of providing a relevant and desired effect on the communicative skills and being correspondent to the scope of communication behavioral patterns. The fact is that the professional TEACCH team has been considered to be an innovative genius of the time and, as a result, they created and developed such methods for supporting and teaching the course of development and improvement of the language in children with autism, which affects communicative units and provides a significant basis for their development. As it is underlined on the official website of the TEACCH in the article “TEACCH Approach” (n.d.):
We consider meaningful, spontaneous communication to be a vital goal for all people with ASD. We do suggest that activities for learning language and/or social communication have a visual or physically concrete component because of the relative strength in visual processing and difficulty with auditory comprehension that is characteristic of students with ASD.
Hence, basic requirements and demands, which are supposed to be fulfilled by a relevant program in terms of development of the communication in children with the autism diagnosis, are primarily met by all the key elements and aspects of the aforementioned TEACCH approach.
One more relevant and predetermining aspect of the subject of the current study to account for and analyze is individual approach. The TEACCH is based not only on the culture of autism, but also on comprehension of an extremely essential role of the individual approach. This approach is welcomed in any scope of activity or professional performance. The TEACCH program is especially relevant for the implementation of the individual approach. First of all, any kind of treatment presupposes personalization. Furthermore, children tend to be impacted more successfully provided the requirements of individual approach have been predominantly met. According to “TEACCH (Treatment of autistic and related communication-handicapped children)” (n.d.):
The TEACCH approach calls on a wide range of techniques and services to meet the individual needs of children and families. The ultimate goal is to foster independence and understanding while providing individuals with AU the tools they need to successfully interact in the environment.
Therefore, the significant role of the TEACCH approach is evident and quite promising in terms of future development and adjustment as the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (2011) underlines.
Thus, the phenomenon of autism and its treatment in children requires effective, constructive, and promising programs and projects to deal with. The TEACCH approach unites all the major requirements and needs of the aforementioned treatment course. It provides development of the child, as well as a significant background for the reduction or even dismissal of the autistic behavioral patterns. Hence, it is quite evident that the course of the TEACCH approach to treatment of children with autism is very grounded, efficient, and promising. Furthermore, it is especially effective in terms of developing communication skills among children with autism.
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