Peer -reviewed research on the efficacy of TEACCH

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    Latest reviewComparative Efficacy of LEAP, TEACCH and Non-Model-Specific Special Education Programs for Preschoolerswith Autism Spectrum DisordersBrian A. Boyd • Kara Hume • Matthew T. McBee •Michael Alessandri • Anibal Gutierrez •LeAnne Johnson • Laurie Sperry • Samuel L. Odom Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013



    Note: SFTAH transferred this from old data base when site was updated, thus date and name lost, all dates 2006 & 2007 changed during changeover to odd dates.Hello, I've been looking around on the net and it seems that there isn't much independent evidence to measure the effects of  TEACCH as a method of education. This is pretty astonishing since it is what LEAs in the UK rely on in their special schools and the NAS promotes TEACCH by hosting training days and conferences.Has anyone come across any independent peer-reviewed research in independent (not TEACCH sponsored) journals that demonstrates the effect of TEACCH in the short and in the long-term as the method of education children with autism? What are the cognitive outcomes, the skills learned, the ability to function in every day life for children educated using TEACCH as opposed to other methods, including ABA?I should welcome reference to any relevant papers, and if possible, a link to getting them on-line.Thank you,Margaret



    The TEACCH approach was developed in North Carolina in the 1970s, and is now probably the most well-known and commonly used intervention in the UK. It is based on the conceptualisation that children with ASD are visual learners, and has developed a model of ‘structured teaching’ to teach to these strengths. Unlike some other approaches (e.g. ABA, Option) TEACCH does not aim to ‘cure’ or ‘remove’ autism – it considers ASD to be a lifelong condition.

    Research supports the benefits of the use of structure and visual supports to people with ASD; and where the approach is used within the home as well as at school, positive results have been reported for both children and families. However, little research has been carried out into the effectiveness of the approach. Some of that which has is internal research from Division TEACCH. Apart from that, there have been only a few small-scale studies in the USA and Europe, listed below, there is little published evidence on its effectiveness and outcomes, and further research remains needed.

    Howley, M., Preece, D. & Arnold, T. (2001) Multidisciplinary use of ‘structured teaching’ to promote consistency of approach for children with autistic spectrum disorder, Educational and Child Psychology, 18, 41-52.

    Hume K and Odom S. (2006) Effects of an Individual Work System on the Independent Functioning of Students with Autism, Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 2006 Oct 27; [Epub ahead of print]

    Lanning, L. (2000) The Effectiveness of the TEACCH Programme. Norwich: University of East Anglia Social Work Monographs.

    Ozonoff S and Cathcart K. (1998) Effectiveness of a home program intervention for young children with autism, Journal of Autism and

    Panerai S, Ferrante L and Caputo V. (1997) The TEACCH strategy in mentally retarded children with autism: a multidimensional assessment.
    Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 27(3):345-7.

    Panerai S, Ferrante L and Zingale M. (2002) Benefits of the Treatment and Education of Autistic and Communication Handicapped Children (TEACCH) programme as compared with a non-specific approach, Journal of Intellectual Disability Research, 46(Pt 4):318-27.

    Siaperas P and Beadle-Brown J. (2006) A case study of the use of a structured teaching approach in adults with autism in a residential home in Greece, Autism, 10(4):330-43.

    And others, Hope this helps



    I too, have wondered a lot about why TEACCH is so popular in the U.K.

    Gary Mesibov and his company obviously are making a living by promoting the teacch concept but in terms of being referred to Gary Mesibov for “research” or understanding any “efficacy” of teacch, this is far from scientific as Mesibov has a financial vested interest.

    I read the recent article by Patricia Howlin who states there is not enough evidence that teacch is effective in teaching autistic children (by the way, i am the mom of an autistic child) and I too would love to know why the UK is using a system for teaching children that has not been proved.

    In terms of determining whether children make any gains with teacch, its very hard to establish in the UK because not much else exists in the schools except teacch. If we do not know what “sour” tastes like, how can we know when we taste something that is “sweet”, i.e. compare?

    My own personal opinion is that teacch is not appropriate for many autistic children, is outdated and provides a very damaging cookie cutter approach to our children, who are all so very unique from each other.

    My own child is not visual, he is very aural. He hates picture schedules and has very good receptive ability. Further i do not believe, like many other parents, that autistic children should be considered living in their own “culture”. Very few teachers will ever understand what it is like to “live” with autism and i think teacch provides a method for teachers to deal with a “condition” that they are often fearful of and simply dont have the time to explore on an individual basis.

    I believe teacch offers a panacea to parents, especially parents who are new to the diagnosis who do not know which way to turn and who will grab anything that is handed to them, out of sheer desperation.

    teacch fits this bill, in my opinion and in this year, 2007, i am amazed that it is still being used almost exclusively in the UK when other countries have moved on from it. We in the UK should be using the best educational interventions in the world, and teacch is not it. The fact that we are “winging” it with teacch, an unproven and unscientific mode of educational intervention frankly stuns me.

    the proof will be in the pudding in 10 or 15 years time when a study will inevitably be done tracking the children who had teacch used in their schools compared to other approaches. I only hope the schools prepare themselves for the onslaught of condemnation from the parents.



    A meta-ana lysis of the existing research on the TEACCH approach was carried out for the DfEE by Rita Jordan et al from the University of Birmingham in Sept 1988. Some of the later studies cited before aren’t in it, but the reference is below.

    Simpson has done similar work more recently in the USA. References for his ***yses are also attached below.

    In all of these ana lyses, TEACCH is identified as promising, though further research is needed. Simpson’s journal article also usefully highlights some of the difficulties inherent in attempting to obtain ‘gold standard’ scientific data in the field of ASD.

    Jordan, R., Jones, G. & Murray, D. (1998) Educational Interventions for Children with Autism: A Literature Review of Recent and Current Research. Department for Education and Employment Research Report RR77.Sudbuty: DfEE Publications. Pages 79-90.

    Simps Simpson, R.L. (2005) Autism Spectrum Disorders: Interventions and treatments for Children and Youth. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.

    Simp Simpson, R.L (2005) Evidence-based practices and students with autism spectrum disorders, Focus on Autism and Other Developmental Disabilities, 20 (3), 140-149.



    Hi Janice,

    I acknowledge what you seem to be saying about TEACCH but would have to disagree and would be interested, as you are so against it, what other intervention you feel is more appropatiate to meet the needs of people with ASD?

    Are these comparible with TEACCH in that it accepts ASD is a life long disablity and works with the autism rather than aiming to cure it.

    I think the comment about Gary Mezibov having a ‘vested interested’ may be true but surely you could say the same about the majority of other interventions Eg Son-Rise program. Just because someone has a vested interest doesn’t mean the intervention is wrong.

    Similarly when you say TEACCH hasn’t been ‘proved’ can you show that other interventions have.

    I acknowledge your comment about ‘sweet and sour but’ if schools and parents genuinely feel that TEACCH has had a positive impact on their child and that they are learning then surely it is acceptable for them to continue with an intervention they know works – no one wants their child to be a guinea pig for something that may not work.

    You seem to be suggesting that TEACCH is used for all children with ASD in exactly the same way. Of course you are right all children with ASD are unique and, if the right observations, assessments and reflection of the work implimented is done then TEACCH interventions would and definatley should be designed and introduced to each individual child to meet their needs at any given time. This will take into account their levels of anxiety, communication and functioning, all of which can change very quickly.

    If a school are introducing a blanket approach to TEACCH – that is one size fits all, then it will fail but that is a shortcoming of the school and not the intervention.

    I appreciate that, as you say, your child is an aural learner and therefore TEACCH may not be appropriate for him. However it is generally acknowledged that people with ASD are predominately visual learners and I have certainly found this to be the case in my work. Again the visual supports implimented need to be designed specifcially for that child in that given situation.

    I have generally found, when talking and working with parents, that they understand the problems they and their children are experiencing when they look at it in the context of a ‘culture of autism’ and, although some parents don’t understand it i have not yet found a parent against this way of looking it their child.

    If, as you say, few teachers will ever understand what it is like to live with autism and don’t have time to explore this on an individaul basis then using TEACCH as an intervention would be no less producive than any other. Indeed, this may be the case for some mainstream schools but in our autism specific provision we have some brilliant teachers and LSAs who, as much as any of us can, do look at the world with an ‘autism head’ on.

    My experince working with families is not that they grab at anything, namely TEACCH. Often this is a long way down the line after they have explored other interventions, ones that seem to be promoting a cure. Many of our families are not ready to look at TEACCH until they have come to terms with the diagnosis and the fact that it is a lifelong condition.

    I am far from as certain as you seem to be that a future study into TEACCH will result in an onslaught from parents to schools and again I would ask what alternative you feel is more appropriate.



    Hi Jayne. Yes, my child had a very unsuccessful experience with teacch. This became painfully evident to me when we pulled him from his teacch class and started an ABA program at home and implemented an ABA trained therapist in his school environment. His progress was staggering. I still keep in contact with a few of the parents whose children attend my child’s old school and my child has progressed immeasurably compared to their children. I think its actually painful for these parents to talk to me about my boy.

    I think you are probably quite able to answer most of the questions you ask of me, yourself and I have outlined some of the major problems i have with the teacch program already.

    I do not believe in “cures” for autism as autism is not a disease. It has been referred to many things through the ages, including “mentally retarded, autistically “handicapped” (as this web site used to refer to it), a disorder, a condition, etc etc.

    However, what i do know is that my own child is extremely bright and given the appropriate environment and provided with trained individuals who specialise in child development and behavioural intervention, children on the autistic spectrum can be prevented from developing those behaviours and “outward” appearances that isolate them from the world, making them so “different” that they cannot cope.

    More importantly, however, autistic children can and regularly do develop the cognitive ability to progress in their education without the need for outside assistance. There is no communicaton or behavioural program written into teacch and this alone should put parents off. The two most important things our kids need are not available through teacch.

    The philosophy and ethos of teacch and mesibov et al is what i find particularly galling and extremely damaging. I do not believe that autism is a “culture”. Though i respect the fact my child is on the autistic spectrum, i do not know what that actually means for him as he is so young, and he is so very different from every autistic child on the planet, much less any child, autistic or not. It would be a very rare teacher who would claim to know what autism is, particularly for my child, better than what i know it is, yet that is what i get from teacch teachers. They have so much to learn, but the ethos of teacch wraps autism up very nicely in a package that is so “manageable” for the uninitiated.

    There is no one “AUTISM”, and though you may have gleaned insight from your work to observe that children with ASD are often “visual”, this in and of itself does not have a lot of meaning for the entire autistic population, particularly in terms of addressing their educational needs. Most boys are rambunctious and like rough and tumble, that does not mean that every preschool child should get a piggy back ride and a judo lesson in class or that it would have any efficacy.

    It is my view and the view of thousands of other parents that autism is a condition caused by an environmental assault. Some parents attribute this to the MMR/heavy metal/vaccine toxicity explanation, others attribute autism as a result of compromised immune systems unable to “detoxify”. Others believe it is genetic and “unstoppable”.

    I only see what i see with my own child, the child who was perfectly “normal” 3 days prior to his vaccinations, and who 3 days after was taken into hospital with legs the size of balloons and who developed deafness in one ear. (despite his deafness he overcame this and hears better than i do!)

    This was not a “culture” my boy entered into, it was a prison, not of his choosing. Teacch has no right to impose its philosophy about autism on unsuspecting parents, particularly parents who are forced to accept the teacch option because nothing else exists. Teacch may serve those parents who are at a loss to explain autism, it may lessen the pain of parents, to convince them that autism is a “culture” but i can assure you no parent i know thinks that way, not one!

    I know without the shadow of a doubt what happened to my boy and i find it particularly irking that those involved in the education of our children have the audacity to try and encourage parents to believe that autism is a “world” or that the autistic child should not be encouraged to live in our world. Autistic children did not choose to be autistic and my own boy spends most of his time trying to enter “my” world and the world of his NT peers.

    that is my opinion. Other parents are entitled to their own opinion. But in the face of very little option for parents to choose what educational approach they want for their children, i think it is wholly unfair that teacch has been hoisted upon parents. I dont remember being consulted in 1996 when teacch was adopted in my area. I do not recall parents being asked to join public consultations to discuss what THEY wanted for their children. The decision to implement teacch was generally made by social services, the LEAs etc. How convenient that they ignored all the expert parents out there who probably had much to say about the matter.

    Teacch offers a cheap and cheerful solution to teachers who simply dont have the time to truly understand our children. It is damaging because the ethos of teacch is flawed, not represented in any real truth about autism, but based on presuppositions which may or may not be held by parents of autistic children, many of whom have been convinced of teacch efficacy due to lack of option/choices.

    Children in teacch programs are kept so busy “feeding” their autism that they may appear to be happy. But in terms of any real “progress” or gains made by children in the teacch programs, there is no evidence, and there won’t be any time soon, to gauge whether children in the teacch programs are succeeding with their lives. Where is the evidence, where are the control studies?? None exist and mesibov doesnt want them to exist. How long has teacch been around for now, and no real evidence of its efficacy???????? This compares very unfavourably to the mountains of research on behavioural analysis and autistic children. We are humans and we all have basically the same reasons for our behaviours. Same as autistic children. Autism doesnt bring with it these “magical and weird” behaviours. Lack of communication skills and socialisation skills bring behaviours, behaviours that condemn many autistic children to living a solitary and non independent life. Its so very sad. There is nothing organic about autistic “type” behaviours. they are all explainable, but the time, effort and money to “explain” and redirect those behaviours do not interest the school boards.

    This can’t be done within the confines of teacch because the original philosophy sets the parameters geared to “feeding” autism. Children in teacch programs are considered “disabled for life”, are considered a separate “culture” so they dont ever have to meet “markers” based on the NT population. It sets our kids up to fail in terms of leading lives that do not require support.

    We on the other hand have set our boy high expectations, most of which to date, he has met. He will not be needing an aide next year, he plays appropriately with non autistic children, he never went to school with other autistic children (except for 6 months in a teacch program) and he learns more and more every day how to be a social “being”, not a being who is dependent on cues, cards and visual schedules.

    Teacch offers teachers a way to cope with our children. That’s why its so popular with the education system. It doesnt take a brain surgeon to develop a teacch environment and generally from my own experience, the teachers i have met have only a modicum of undertanding of teacch and only a week or two of training in it.

    Compare this to our own consultant who has 12 years training in education and 7 years training and experience in child and human behaviour analysis.

    Its all down to money. Teacch is easy, ABA is not. Teacch is cheap, ABA is not.

    Teacch feeds autism, is autism specific. ABA is not.

    As i said, the proof will be in the pudding, in 10 to 15 years time. I will be very interested to see where my son’s classmates will be, those children who continued with their teacch programs. I will be interested to see if they are living independent and happy lives.

    Teacch has it all sewn up though. Its ethos is basically to give autitic children the opportunity to develop to “their” best ability as opposed to expecting “THE” best they can be. It imposes an outdated and very damaging and PATRONISING value system on the children and i would not touch it with a barge pole.

    Like i said, parents may think their children are doing “great” with teacch but they will hardly know what “great” is, unless they are made aware of how other children NOT in teacch programs are faring, children like my own child, who is treated like his siblings and of whom we expect great and wonderful things just like his siblings.

    Make no mistake many many parents are aware of the vagaries of teacch. But they dont get a look in, cause the system is “all sewn up” to provide teacch. Slowly but surely parents are demanding educational interventions appropriate to THEIR child. They are fighting at the high court, they are forming support groups. They are at parliament demanding the right education for their child.

    They are not begging for teacch. I think parents are way past begging. They are demanding, and time will point to the damage that has been done to our precious children in the name of money and lack of understanding.



    you really have had a bad experience with TEACCH haven’t you. This must have been very distressing for you and your child.

    Obviously you have and are entitled to your opinion on it.

    However the parents that I have worked with, and continue to work with, do know their children and if they are say that their child is improving then I feel it would be incredibly ignorant of me to assume I know better.

    Indeed you seem to be suggesting that we blindly use TEACCH interventions at the same level for each child regardless, which is definately not the case.

    Before it is introduced there is a period of assessment, getting to know the child and importantly, the parents, to determine whether this intervention would be appropriate and practical to use in the home enviroment.

    Sometimes it is the case that due to family dynamics etc parents are unable to commit fully to this type of intervention.

    I also find it interesting that you argue the fact that there is little research evidence to ‘prove’ that it works whereas, in another posting regarding low salycilates diet, you actually say that ‘parents know what does and doesn’t work’ and that you trust parent experinces more than peer reviewed research’.

    Surely if parents can decide on what diet suits their child they are no less able to decide what other interventions work best for them?



    Your attempt to use “parents” like myself against my argument of teacch is interesting as well. Fortunately, there are many many informed parents out there. Those parents who take the time to investigate their children’s diets, and learn about salycilates and biomedical interventions are usually parents who have done a lot of their own research do not make decisions lightly and are well informed in general about their children’s conditions.

    for those parents who are not informed about edcuational interventions for autism, (there are as many uninformed as informed) teacch provides, in my opinion, an alternative to them that in the face of nothing else, is accepted and considered “helfpul”.

    I say again, that unless parents are presented with educational alternatives, which in the main in the UK they are NOT, that many parents, particularly parents who are at their wits end about how to educate their children, will accept that teacch is appropriate for their children.

    In light of the fact that very few alternative schools and methodoligies are being used for children with asd, it stands to reason that parents are accepting teacch. do they have a choice even if they didnt? Have they got the money to pursue an ABA program, or RDI or sonrise or whatever else that they want to pursue?

    Have parents in general the time and energy it takes to fight an educational system which insists that “they” know best how to teach our children? Not all parents are up to this fight and why should they have to? Yet this is the reality.

    Anecdotal evidence about the use of teacch being “great”, having efficacy etc, can hardly be compared to anecdotal evidence of parents using biomedical interventions. Where a parent who has a child who wont eat, cant think, is in pain and isnt thriving, suddenly sees a healthy child, can this be compared to a parent who considers their child “progressing” because they can suddenly match the color blue from a selection of 15 cards? There is no verifiable proof that the matching skill was developed via teacch, it could have been through maturation. further due to the almost complete lack of peer reviewed study of teacch, its proponents would have a hard time proving this matching ability was “progress” because it wasnt being compared to anything else.

    In terms of parents who are seeing before their eyes, and via the indisputable medical tests of their children, that their children are becoming healthy, well this is a totally different kettle of fish.

    I will be happy to bring some parents who use biomed to this forum to further explain how when they cleared up their children’s immune issues that they were able to learn much more easily. Its really a “cart before the horse” scenario here.

    There are parents who do want teacch, no doubt about that. But i ask myself if they could afford ABA or other interventions, if they could have ABA programs put in place in their child’s schools run in an efficient and comprehensive way, without the stress a home program creates, i am quite confident that they would be very pleased with the results. Every ABA school in the UK is filled to capacity with huge waiting lists. I can send my son to the local teacch facility tomorrow if i wanted. There is ALWAYS a place for him.

    Hmmmmm wonder why. Instead i chose to do the best i can for my son, and for us, we had the money and the opportunity to pursue the best educational intervention in the world for our boy. That is applied behaviour analysis, which is includes every program my child needs, not a watered down version of behavioural control which is what the teacch program is, designed for teachers, not for the child and predicated upon outdated and harmful suppositions about what “autism” is. Funny, how the best minds in the world cant really define autism for even one child because it is so very different, yet the proponents of teacch seem to think they have a handle on how our children think, in totality.
    When the government offers something as cheap and “cheerful” as teacch, one should immediately be immediately suspicious. It takes money to teach our children, it takes time, energy and intensive training. None of these things are particularly required to run the teacch program.

    go figure



    And i forgot to add, when i see peer reviewed research noting positive outcomes of teacch in terms of “progress” as compared to children in different programs, i might change my mind, as might other parents.

    The word “progress” has many connotations and is used willy nilly regarding our children in iep’s by teachers in general. Progress as compared to what? We need proof and evidence to determine what progress is.

    A child who could not talk at the age of 4 who can say one word at 15 can be said to be making “progress”, but what happened in the 11 years between is how we measure progress, what were the expectations, how were they measured, compared to the intended goals and objectives for each year?

    How did the child fare compared to his peers?

    This is where autism and how it affects each child differently simply does not fit into the teacch model. Teacch is a model set up specifically to teach autistic children. It begs the question, what is an autistic child??

    It also begs the question, why teacch has not evolved over the years. Its outdated, its ethos concering our children is insulting.

    I know a LOT of parents with children on the autistic spectrum. They would not be insulted if i said to them that they are simply unaware of what teacch is really about. Yes there are the parents who involve themselves in the philosophy of teacch and understand it, but equally there are thousands of parents who do not. Its a safe bet that if you ask the average parent whose child goes to school in a teacch facility that they will not be able to tell you what teacch really means, neither the acronym or its ethos.

    Particulary in areas of social deprivation throughout the UK, you have parents who do not have the resources to even think about anything else for their children because the information simply is not available. ABA schools do not exist in Govan, or Mosside. Parents couldnt afford it. Alternative educatio for our chidren is in the main, restricted to those who can afford it and who are willing to fight for it. Not being able to afford appropriate education for children with ASD is not an excuse for not being able to access it.

    Teacch sets our kids up to fail. It does not provide a socialisation program nor does it provide a language program. It condemns children to a life of routine, sequencing and isolation. Many children in the teacch programs simply should not be there and will never be given the change to pursue their academic and social lives to the fullest.

    Gary Mesibov and co have a lot to answer for. Thankfully though parents are becoming more and more vocal in what they want for their children, and they want the best. Teacch does not fit that bill, never did.

    I am a parent, i have first hand experience of teacch, and i know of what i speak. I can remember other parents who collected their children from the teacch facility asking me why i was pulling my child from the school, particularly because it was “free”.

    I told them, nothing in this world is for free, and my child deserves the best i can offer. i didnt say this to make them feel bad about their economic situation. I said it so that maybe they would think about joining me. One of them did. We both run programs now at home together with the local mainstream school and this mum is very thankful we had those initial conversations. her child is going into mainstream school next year after a 2 yrs of home ABA tutoring. Now THAT is progress.



    As my mum used to say, ‘There are two sides to every argument, my side and the wrong side…’



    Thank you for the list of publications.Are any of these pubkications by independent researchers (ie in no way connected to or making money from TEACCH)and  in independent peer-reviewed journals, please? The social work monograph obviously was not peer-reviewed, and I have never found anything that was really independent and properly peer-reviewed. TEACCH has produced a lot of information which purports to be research BUT it is entirely self-generated, and not independent or scrutinised externally.Margaret

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