One of the things that makes Kids Cooperate a special place to support your child's growth is our multi disciplinary approach. We are always looking for inspiration from different programs and philosophies of practice. Here is an introduction to the TEACHH program with some pieces you can take away for inclusion in your own parenting style.
The TEACCH Program
Started as a Public Health Program available in North Carolina, TEACCH offers a full range of services to those on the autism spectrum. Many of the methods and philosophies employed by this system have spread across countries and continents and are now becoming part of good practice all over the world.
Though maybe not an approach we may choose to follow to the letter, as with any system, we can cherry pick the benefits of TEACCH to help us improve our understanding of our children and help them to thrive in a world that they might need extra help in navigating.
What is TEACCH?
The TEACCH (Treatment and Education of Autistic and related Communication handicapped Children) approach emphasizes understanding what it calls the 'Culture of Autism'. While acknowledging common difficulties those on the autism spectrum face, such as discomfort with change and transitions, trouble integrating ideas and struggles in disengaging, it also highlights strengths.
Building on strengths
TEACCH recognizes that those on the autism spectrum have particular strengths in processing visual information, excellent attention to detail and great responses to logical organizational arrangements. These strengths are integral to the practical applications this approach recommends.
A visual approach
To create an environment in which children on the autism spectrum can thrive, it is advised that we utilize their superior visual processing abilities. This could involve replacing auditory requests, commands, prompts and instructions with visual versions.
5 TEACCH techniques to use at home
1. For some families, this might include a pictorial representation of the day's activities.
2. Other families may use pictures to communicate what they need their child to do, whether that be to put on their shoes or complete a whole sequence of chores.
3. Another use of this technique is to illustrate the required result in a visual form when working on a task. For example, having a stamped letter placed in front of a child as an example is likely to drastically improve their success in sticking stamps to letters, as it appeals to their strongest processing faculty.
4. This approach stresses that even children with HFA and average to advanced verbal skills can benefit from pictorial presentations of communication. Another example of this you might be familiar with is a social story, whereby a new situation is introduced by the means of a pre-emptive story with pictures or comic strips illustrating what is expected to happen. The child is then able to mentally rehearse what will be required of them and the new situation becomes somewhat less frightening and easier to deal with.
5. Of course we know that those on the autism spectrum prefer a regular routine. Even the predictability of preparing a time table to map out the day each morning can be of enough comfort to offset any out of the ordinary activities. For children with a grasp of time, a specific time range to let them know how long an unfamiliar activity might take can calm anxiety and prevent upset, particularly when presented in a visual form. 'Between 10 and 20 minutes' is a suitable phrasing, as long as it really does finish within the time specified. This or even a sandtimer can be a great help in easing transitions.
A respectful philosophy
Whether or not we choose to implement or see validity in the strategies put forward by TEACCH, investigating the philosophy that gives rise to their recommendations can help us understand the basis of these methods. Here are 5 foundational principles of TEACCH:
1. Respect for the differences of those on all levels the autism spectrum.
Rather than seeing differences caused by autism as inconvenient hindrances to neurotypical life, TEACCH attempts to reframe these differences as nuances to be understood and worked with, rather than against.
2. Respect for parents as co-therapists
Parents can often feel disempowered when faced with professionals of all different schools of thought. TEACCH respects all parents as, to some degree, experts on the subject of their own children, and encourages them to be as involved in their child's treatment programs and education as they can be.
When all adults in the child's life get together and share the information they have, the child will be better served in a way that will help them make progress.
TEACCH methods aim to open up as many channels of communication with those on the autism spectrum as possible. By using visual strategies and employing communication methods that make our children comfortable, we can improve our understanding of and depth of relationship with them.
An important goal of TEACCH is to work for the inclusion of those on the autism spectrum to the maximum extent their capabilities allow.
4. Commitment to in-depth knowledge
TEACCH encourages all people that live and work with those on the autism spectrum to build up an in-depth knowledge of autism in all its aspects: social, medical, psychological, educational and affective.
Without sticking to just one approach, getting to know autism and its causes and effects from all angles makes for well-informed parents, carers and educators who are able to make informed decisions about care, education, lifestyle and behavior management.
5. Focus on autonomy
In accordance with the respect for those on the autism spectrum and their differences, the TEACCH approach strives to work with each child to help them reach autonomy to the maximum of the their potential. Education is seen as a means to achieve this goal, so it must remain flexible in order that it can serve this objective.
Keeping the goal of maximum autonomy at the forefront of our interactions with our children will help us keep a flexible approach. If we want to help our children strive towards their full potential for independence, our knowledge, understanding and approach, and the tasks we offer them, must continually evolve. Though our children need a stable and consistent framework to operate within, we must recognize the fact that as they move closer and closer to autonomy, we must accommodate and facilitate their growth.