TEACCH

(This is the third of a series of posts I am doing based on an Autism Spectrum Disorders course I took at UW-La Crosse.)
   This topic was presented in 2 separate sessions by Chileda staff Shari Carlson, ME-PD and Karie Zielke, BS. They gave us a brief history of  TEACCH and more in depth instruction on environment modification, visual schedules, and teaching strategies to foster independence.
  Treatment and Education of Autistic and Communication related handicapped CHildren (TEACCH) has been around since the early 1970's. The late Eric Schopler, Ph.D. founded the program which is now run through the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The TEACCH research generated the idea of a "Culture of Autism". The "Culture of Autism" refers to the characteristics that are most predominate in people on the spectrum. There are ten characteristics sited. Briefly they are:
  1. Affinity to processing visual information
  2. Attention to detail but problems with fitting details together
  3. Difficulty combining ideas
  4. Difficulty organizing ideas
  5. Difficulty with attention
  6. Struggles with communication
  7. Problems with the concept of time
  8. Attached to routines
  9. Strong interests and impulses
  10. Various sensory issues
   Of course folks on the Autism Spectrum likely won't manifest all the characteristics and those they do display will look different on every individual. By identifying these traits as a "culture" rather than symptoms the TEACCH program recognizes the people who have Autistic traits rather than the "Autistics" who are verbal, non-verbal, high functioning, low functioning, etc... In our world today we tend to categorize everything. Once we have a label we have a common language or concept to communicate with. While that can be helpful it can also lead us to assume we know more about someone than we do. Labels often propagate generalizations and assumptions. The TEACCH approach helps the individual build on their strengths in order to help them achieve their highest potential. TEACCH also includes family in the planning and implementation of structure and supports. TEACCH developed the idea of structured teaching. The emphasis is on structure and routine in the physical environment enhanced by multiple kinds of visual supports.
  The resource links for this post include a paper on the Culture of Autism by Gary B. Mesibov & Victoria Shea, a position paper from TEACCH on Autism and the Importance of Choice, and a critical review of an article about the advantages of autism by Taylor Selseth author of the blog "My Autistic Life."
  My next post will cover a some of what we learned about structure in the physical environment, visual supports and ideas for teaching life skills.

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