Training and Education of Autistic and Related Communication Handicapped Children (TEACCH)

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.

TEACCH employs an approach called Structured Teaching, which emphasizes a highly structured and predictable classroom environment and the use of visual learning (a strength of many persons with autism).

The TEACCH approach is based on a respect for "the culture of autism." It embraces a philosophy that people with autism have "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.

For example, a student may sit at a work station and complete activities such as matching pictures or letters. Lessons emphasize the use of visual supports. Some feature symbols and matching words for answering questions and requesting items from the teacher. The use of visual supports can help relieve frustration for nonverbal children. In addition, it can foster the recall of words for those who are starting to speak.

The TEACCH program developed in North Carolina includes an array of services such as evaluations, parent training and support groups, social and recreation groups, counseling and supported employment. However, these services may be missing from programs in other states that have adapted its methods.

What does TEACCH look like?

While TEACCH can help persons of all ages, it is generally used with children in school settings or home-based programs. Most schools use TEACCH primarily in self-contained autism classrooms.

The intervention begins with an assessment of emerging skills. Work then focuses on enhancing them. This involves creation of an individualized lesson plan in place of a standard school curriculum. The plan creates a highly structured environment to help the individual map out activities.

Teachers and aides use visual supports to organize the physical and social environment. The aim is to help the student more easily predict and understand daily activities and respond in appropriate ways. Visual supports likewise help the student approach specific tasks in a step by step manner.

Whether used in a classroom or primarily at home, TEACCH programs work best when parents and professionals work together as co-therapists to extend lessons and techniques seamlessly across all environments.

Who provides TEACCH?

North Carolina has several regional TEACCH centers and many TEACCH-trained psychologists, special education teachers and speech therapists. In addition, many out-of-state instructors come to the University of North Carolina for training. TEACCH is now used across North America and internationally to facilitate learning among children and adults with autism. You can find out more at the TEACCH Autism Program website.

Autism Speaks continues to fund a wealth of research aimed at developing and improving behavioral interventions that enhance education, function and quality of life. You can explore these studies using our Grant Search here.

For more information and resources related to autism, please see our Treatment overview, Video Glossary, FAQs and special sections on Symptoms, Diagnosis, Learn the Signs, Your Child’s Rights, Asperger Syndrome and PDD-NOS. We also offer a number of resource-packed tool kits for free download (here and here). They include our 100 Day Kit for families who have a child recently diagnosed with autism. These resources are made possible through the generous support of our families, volunteers and donors.