Peer -reviewed research on the efficacy of TEACCH

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    PS I am interested only in research relevant to young school-age children and to the efficacy of TEACCH (or otherwise) in an education setting. How do the skills and language and IQ of children in a TEACCH setting develop when compared withm say, children educated in an ABA setting. Has there been ANY proper research?My son has just started an ABA programme after 5 years of TEACCH, where even the LEA's own Ed Psych admitted he'd shown no real progress. He can't concentrate in school.(He's been in 2 LEA schools, so you can't just blame the school.)One week into ABA his concentration is improving fast!!!By the way, Jayne, are you in the UK? I ask because your description of TEACCH's individualised components -assessment and close working with parents - doesn't happen in the UK.Margaret



    Do you work for TEACCH? and are you in Northampton - I was thinking or telephoning to try and track down whether there is any research on the efficacy of TEACCH in education children.Thanks,Margaret



    I am a parent of a 15-year-old girl with Aspergers Syndrome. She was briefly in an lea special school using Teacch. She is now home-educated. I think the emphasis on the “belief” of Teacch that there is no cure for autism is a bit of a red herring. Belief in this context (possibly in all) is only interesting when it is expressed in action. In this context Teacch is a school-based programme altering the world of the school to fit what it deems to be the desires of the child. The standard educational institution aims to alter the child to fit the world outside. Teacch aims to do the opposite, creating an enclosed world shaped around a standard “autistic” child. There is one argument about whether Teacch is correct in its assessment of the needs and desires of this standard child. There is a second argument about whether such a standard child exists in a context in which the phrase “all children with autism are different” is such a commonly heard platitude.



    I am the parent of a 15-year-old girl with Aspergers Syndrome. She was briefly at an lea secondary special school using Teacch and is now home educated. I think that the “belief” or non-belief of Teacch in a cure for autism is a red herring. What is important is the consequences of that belief in practical action. Teacch believes in adapting the environment of the school to fit the child. It believes that this autistic child needs a low-stimulation environment with visual timetables and rigid routine for reassurance. This can be problematic in various ways. Firstly we have the cookie-cutter problem. In a context in which it is platitudinously said that “all children with autism are different” it seems a bit odd to find a programme based on the idea that they are all broadly the same. Secondly this approach is at odds with what is generally conceived as education. Mainstream education aims to change the child to fit the demands of the world. We can argue about whether this is desirable but it is so. It is odd to find a programme which does not share this aim being presented as schooling. Parents differ in their attitudes and some do not wish their special needs child to take part in the world outside special education. They want separate development within a special needs world. For them teacch, which does not aim to modify the behaviour of the child, will be acceptable. The danger is that students handled using teacch will not develop the skills needed to manage in a non-teacch world. They must remain within the special needs world all their lives. Teacch is cheap for local authorities to implement because its emphasis on non-change means less intensive learning. A lack of joined-up thinking is stopping councils from recognising the long term costs in care and social services from the implementation of Teacch in special schools.



    well know you have me worried i have a daughter with severe autism severe learning difficulties she is non verbal they have just started the TEACCH programme with her at her school ,they have been unable to cope with her up until now ,Sunfield are training them ,it seems to be having a good effect on my daughter but now you have me worried [xx(]



    Janice’s long posts are very well worth reading, as is Sally’s. It’s as well to find out that there are problems with TEACCH sooner rather than later. What does TEACCH actually teach? Nothing, that I can see. It provides a structure, but if the teachers don’t know what to put in it (and they are nearly all without the right training to do this or the resources they need)it remains an empty shell.



    As mentioned TEACCH is a framework in which teaching operates. It still requires skilled, intuitive teachers as does mainstream teaching, to bring children forward. There will be teachers more able to do this than others, again, as in mainstream, and certain children will ‘gell’ with certain teachers and approaches. What I like about TEACCH is how well it complements and fits in with other approaches and enhances them. It doesn’t offer a cure. I don’t expect one, and that is in no way being negative. It is impossible to tell how our children will ‘turn out’ and whether using one approach or another would have changed that outcome. I can only assess both my autistic boys on whether they are progressing and, more importantly, whether they are happy. Thankfully, they are both.
    With regard to the ‘fitting in’ aspect I’ve had similar discussions with regard to education for deaf children (I’m the only hearing member of my family) Whether we like it or not, or it fits our politically correct outlook, the deaf community is a seperate entity. My brothers, one is an accountant, the other a teacher of the deaf, both have social lives almost exclusively within the deaf community. This doesn’t mean that they are in any way socially inadequate, it is their preference. I know of families with deaf children who have sent their children to schools which actively discourage signing, their argument being that they have to live in the ‘real world’ where the majority of people don’t sign. As a result the children leave school unable to actively participate in the mainstream community and unable to communicate wth the deaf community.
    Perhaps with an almost exclusively special needs family/upbringing my aspirations for my own children differ from parents who are desperate for their children to be ‘normal’ but I certainly do not feel that I am in anyway ‘shortchanging’ my children or that I have chosen the ‘cheap’ option. The TEACCH structure is offering my children the change to participate in the ‘real world’ to the best of their ability and wishes and has drastically reduced the frustration, tantrums,confusion and upsets they endured prior. Dave.




    Parents are grateful for any help from any source that might help them cope with their child, especially if that help involves a friendly adult visiting them at home to help their child. But they are continually encouraged to accept that they have to give up hope first: this is the line that is peddled by the NHS and LEAs: autism, nothing can be done, go home and get on with it. (Gets the parents off their backs very effectively.)
    There is a growing body of research concerning which both Prof. Geraldine Dawson and Prof. Pat Howlin seem to be saying that, while the research picture is far from being a full picture, research evidence does support the view that the best approach is ABA (sometimes called EIBI)and that this should be both intensive and started when the child is as young as possible. If you google “Autumn National Day Conference 9 November 2006: Report” you will find a summary of Pat Howlin’s comments made at that conference.



    I hope this is OK to quote (it’s a short section from the report I referred to above):
    Patricia Howlin, Professor of Clinical Child Psychology at the Institute of Psychiatry, looked at the psychological interventions available for children and young people with developmental disorders (many linked with autism treatments) and the evidence base for their efficacy.

    Of the many interventions available, whatever their direction – traditional,complementary, alternative – there was little methodology, control studies or randomised control trials.
    Even amongst the better-known programmes, such as TEACCH (teaching and education for autistic and communication disordered children), PECS (picture exchange communication system) and Functional Analysis, there was only a moderate evidence-base, with the most impressive results being available with the EIBI (early intensive behavioural intervention).

    Professor Howlin outlined some of the questions raised in respect of these programmes, such as for what sorts of children do they work, how long should treatment last, how many hours per day/week, what age should treatment commence etc. Whilst there appeared to be no definitive answers, most effective therapies appeared to be those with direct parental involvement, intensive behavioural intervention and multi-component early intervention.

    The general recommendation by the National Autism Plan UK was that treatment should last a minimum of 12 months and be an average of 15-20 hours per week and that an early diagnosis and therapy did not appear to reduce opportunities for later intervention. In conclusion, Professor Howlin summed up that no single programme was likely to work with all children with all types of problem. However, techniques developed from psychological, educational, social and language research/theory could have a major impact on improving the quality of life for children and their families.



    Hi Margaret,

    I find it quite insulting that you seem to suggest that myself and my colleagues are just ‘a friendly adult visiting them at home’ helping parents to manage their child and that these parents are so ill informed that they will accept anything.

    All the members of the team I work for are trained in ASD and TEACCH and work with families to empower them to work, educate and care for their children.
    Indeed we will not work with parents unless they are fully committed to the hard work involved and the expectation, from day 1, is that it is their job learn how to use this intervention and that we are there only to faciliate this.
    During our input we are continually assessing and modifying our approach to make sure it is approprate to meet the needs of both children and parents at every stage. We do not sit down holding parent’s hands and drinking tea.

    On the other hand I know of a number of families who advertise for helper, who are not specially trained, to work on a rota with their children on other interventions (mainly ABA). Some of these helpers have had no previous experience and are reliant only on parents providing their training and guidance.

    You sound as though you have had a bad experience of TEACCH in an educational setting, could this be due to inexperience or lack of professionalism of the staff involved? If you haven’t seen it used correctly it is difficult to judge. Did you try to introduce it at home and if so did you have support/training to do so?

    I agree with you that TEACCH, if used correctly, certainly should NOT be about keeping children contained and quiet for visitors. This sounds dreadful but it is not how TEACCH is intended.

    I am not dismissing ABA or similar approraches as I am not trained in them or know them in enough detail to compare them against the benefits of TEACCH I am merely making the point that if you haven’t seen TEACCH used correctly – as your postings might suggest you haven’t – then it is difficult to make a fair comparison.




    Of course I can’t say anything about how you and your colleagues work,as I haven’t seen this. I was thinking of the NAS “franchised” Early Bird course. We parents all gave good feedback at the time – you don’t want to do anything else with someone who’s visited you at home a few times. But several years down the line I think the course was useless, except in that we got to meet other parents. I met one of them recently and her current verdict on Early Bird was that it was “a complete waste of time”.Its value was really that the LEA and the NHS could claim they were providing early intervention. I think it would be lying to describe the Early Bird in this way.

    However I do note that this web site appears to advocate that TEACCH and only TEACCH to be used in Northampton. This has to be wrong. (See my posts above re Pat Howlin’s comments.)One approach does not fit all.

    LEAs claim to be using TEACCH. Usually it is as I have described in my son’s school. It is exceptional for anything further to be offered. TEACCH is not offered in the home and I personally wouldn’t want it, any way. My son needs to be TAUGHT not just managed. He has disabilities. Autism is not a culture, it is a collection of behaviours caused by a variety of neuro-developmental problems. To say it is a culture is total tripe: yet that is what Division TEACCH asserts. I remember when the school first told me they used TEACCH I thought great, what are they going to teach him! Eventually I realised it was nothing. By the way the legal duty to educate lies with the LEA and not with the parents. The LEA should be providing the education and not expecting parents to do this work for them.

    Any ABA programme should be designed and frequently monitored and supervised by a qualified BCABA. Tutors are not just recruited and left to get on with it. The programme is very specific, the targets are very specific, the way of working is very specific and the tutors are taught to implement all these. It may be that the family you know simply can’t afford to do the job properly. The LEA ought to pay, but getting them to do so is a long and difficult and expensive process.

    Schools recruit learning support assistants who do almost all the teaching of children with autism. Yet commonly these assistants have little or even no training (apart from Health and Safety and Positive Handling).



    Well, its nice to see a bit of debate about teacch in the UK. It is glaringly obvious that the LACK of debate about the use of teacch in special schools indicates lack of awareness of parents about it.

    I would like to reiterate what Margaret has said about the reasons for using teacch. The general belief is that children like mine who are “autistic”, not aspergers, but “autistic” is that they are debilitated, that they will probably never work, never go to university and never amount to much of anything.

    That is why they are offered crap provision. There are so many studies and so much research being done on provision being offered to kids with Aspergers in the UK, but not to kids with “autism”.

    Why? Cause kids with aspergers have a “chance” as far as the health and education authorities are concerned, they go to university, sure isnt Bill Gates allegedly “aspergers”. Our kids on the other hand are expected to be thankful for what they get.

    Teacch is incredibly harmful to our kids, i wouldnt send my dog to a teacch school and i make it my business to let parents i know in my own “autism” circles what i think about teacch. You know what? A lot of them still dont get it. You know why? Because they have never been offered anything else and they feel inured to it, afraid to “let it go” in case nothing else gets offered.

    Its maddening listening to parents say how “well” their child has come on. Compared to what I say? I can teach my dog Rover to put blue balls with blue balls and to pick up a newspaper from a waste basket. But do i want to limit my child to these tasks?

    You dont get anything from the government, for free, that is worth anything. Teacch is cheap, easy to run, and is a testament to just what society thinks of our kids, which isnt much.

    Puhlease refrain from trying to convince parents like me who have had their children damaged by teacch that it has any efficacy. You are talking through your hat. The philosophy of teacch stinks, its has a built in self destruct button.

    For anyone reading these threads please pass this website on to people you know who can come here and tell us their “real” experiences of having their children in a teacch program.

    Chances are we will NOT hear a lot of gushing about division teacch.

    Parents really need to wake up to what is being done to their autistic children.

    Ultimately, it is ME, my child’s parent, who is responsible for his education, not a poorly trained teacch “technician”, who views my child as a train wreck.

    I have my problems with ABA as well but i would take ABA any day, even with all the problems that go with it, over teacch.

    In a few years time, when parents wise up, you will see teacch losing any credibility in the public eye. Parents of autistic children are growing in numbers, just like the children themselves. Teacch cant fool all of us all the time and more and more informed parents are demanding their children be accorded the rights of their non autistic peers in acquiring an education, not dog training.



    Hi Margaret & Janice,

    I am not sure where you live and obviously cannot speak for other authorities.

    But just to clarify a couple of points:

    You are wrong to say that TEACCH is not offered in the home – in my county it certainly is as that is what our Team does and indeed it works best when used across different environments, through out the child’s day and not just in school.

    Also, if used correctly, TEACCH DOES teach and not just manage.

    It concerns me that you seem to have such low regard for the opinion of other parents. When you make your feelings about TEACCH known to other parents in your “autistic” circles you say of them:
    ‘You know what? A lot of them still dont get it. You know why? Because they have never been offered anything else and they feel inured to it, afraid to “let it go” in case nothing else gets offered.’

    Are you saying that parents less able to judge how ‘well their child is coming on’ than you are? Surely they are the best judge of their own child.

    Could it not simply be that their opinion is valid, that they ARE happy with TEACCH and that it is just that different approaches suit different children and TEACCH was not approprate for your child whereas another intervention is working better.

    Many of the families we have worked with have, indeed researched other interventions, and for their own reasons, have decided that they would like to impliment TEACCH at home. On the other hand some families do not feel it is appropriate for them or their family set up.



    Jayne, I actually do think there is a big problem of ignorance. It took me years to work out what was really going on between the NHS and the LEA.
    Parents are expected to choose what’s right for their child without having enough information. I was desperate to put my child in a special school at 2 because there was nothing else for him in our LEA area and I believed (and was advised by the local diagnosing clinical psychologist) that X school was good. The Head teacher assured me my son would be in the right place with them. How very wrong I was to believe this.
    The LEA Ed Psych who did the assessment for my child’s Statement refused to give an opinion – in fact said they were forbidden to do so by the LEA – when I asked for advice concerning what sort of education my child should get and where he should go. The report the Ed Psych wrote contained recommendations I actually did not understand. In fact it recommended ABA! But what he got was a bog-standard special school which claimed to be implementing TEACCH, and which had no idea what ABA even was.(Neither did I at the time.)
    Parents also don’t understand how LEAs operate: “best interests of the child” commonly mean nothing of the sort, but they really man the bests interests of saving money.I was caught out by the Statementing procedure – I didn’t understand what the Statement meant. I didn’t know what to do when the Statement wasn’t being implemented. I didn’t understand the full procedure of the Annual Review – the Head’s game here was to sent in their signed account of the Annual Review without showing a draft to anyone who had been present, leaving out disagreements and misrepresenting others’ views.
    The LEA toyed with me for years.
    I think now it would have been better for him to have had nothing for a further year and to have gone into mainstream nursery. This would still have been totally inadequate for him, but he would have had 1:1 work and have been with people who did not come from a special ed background. My experience certainly confirms the widely-held view that the special ed system has rock bottom expectations of its pupils. It took me years to find a way get him out of the school.

    There is a massive amount of jargon in the education world, and it is used daily to bamboozle parents. Have you seen SOS!SEN’s teatowel which gives some choice examples of LEA-speak? Along the lines of “these rules don’t apply in this Authority”?

    I have been to meetings of parents of children with autism to discover I was the only one to have heard of and to have read the National Autism Care Plan, or the Good Practice Guidance for autism.

    At a recent parents’ meeting there was general astonishment that it was possible to get speech therapy quantified in a Statement, and widespread misunderstanding of Annual Reviews.



    I am in a support group for parents of autistic children. Its only been running for a short while. The committee brought in some speakers from a larger ASD support group to give us some pointers. One of the first questions they asked was, “do you all know what a statement is?”

    do you know how many people put up their hands? 3 out of about 20. The parents in this group all had children under 5, most of whom were just about to enter nursery or primary 1.

    So yes, parents are ignorant. Please refresh yourself what “ignorance” means, i.e. not knowing the facts. This does not equate with lack of IQ or being “stupid”. Parents are kept deliberately ignorant by the school system so they dont have the ability to ask questions in the first place.

    Do you really think that every parent who has an autistic child has a copy of the Code of Practice by their bedside? or that they read copious amounts of books on different intervention methods? Do they do this in Essex, Glasgow, Mosside, and Islington, the same??

    Let me tell you something, I am a parent. Jayne you are not a parent of an autistic child??? I speak for me and my own experiences of meeting, speaking and working with other parents and NO they are not aware of their rights, aware of what teacch really means (they dont even know what the acronym means, much less its philosophy or approach.)

    I was a naive parent before my child was diagnosed with autism. I knew the school system sucks generally, but having a child with special needs, parents have to learn real quick. For those who choose not to, or for those who avoid having to learn or dont feel the “need” to learn about how their child is being educated, so be it. But please, these parents cannot be making informed choices just because they “accept” that teacch is useful for their child. Just because “johnny can read the word “cat”” does not prove progress.

    Mostly, with teacch, its a case of “johnny can’t read, because he is autistic. My local teacch facility has 8 children in the class age nursery and primary 1. None, and i mean NONE of those children can speak, much less use pragmatic language. they run around like little robots, unable to make decisions for themselves learning useles tasks. In my opinion, the gushing of the teachers about how well teacch does for “our” children springs from teachers who dont know any better either.

    How do i know? Cause i visited the class in November just to see for myself. My boy was in a teacch facility for nursery for six months and i thought maybe things would change going into primary one so i gave teacch the benefit of the doubt.

    Nope, nothing changed. Those primary one children are still doing tasks that a 3 year old would do and are not encouraged to push to their “limit”.

    Teacch stinks and any parent who says that it is great, is a parent who has not investigated alternative methods of teaching, or has been put off of alternative methods of teaching, due to lack of funding or opportunity to obtain same or simply does not have the energy or will to fight anymore. There are all kinds of reasons that a parent would “say” they think teacch is effective, but that is just opinion, it cant possibly be based on fact.

    Like i said, i would send my dog to a teacch school. Even dogs need to make choices in life.

    I hear repeatedly from people like you who purport teacch has merit, that “well, that is because teacch is not being used “correctly”. What a load of B.S. Where exactly is teacch being used “correctly” then? and what would “correction” prove? I think a “correct” application of teacch would be even more damning to the child, so maybe its a godsend that schools in the UK use a “watered down” version of teacch.

    I note that there are so many courses for teacch, some lasting only 3 days. What can a teacher fresh out of university, who hasnt a clue about special needs learn in 3 days or even a month??????

    teacch proponents should be learning from us, the parents. But i dont see a two way street in that regard in the UK. the government bought teacch hook line and stinker, cause its cheap, plain and simple. Cause our kids dont matter.

    get real already and stop peddling teacch. Show the evidence in the research journals, tell gary to open his doors for some real research to take place.

    My child is being taught via science backed by decades of real research and evidence. He is not being taught by teachers who feel sorry for my child, or who have preconceptions about his “ability” or disability.

    All teacch does is make teachers feel good, and even there i think we have a problem. I know 2 teacher now, who are very sick of teacch. One of them actually came to our meeting to listen to us parents complain about the school systems. She and I had a quiet word and I know she is unhappy with the application of teacch. She has no where to go if she does not “tow the line”, as all the schools use this method, so all she can do is be the best teacher she can be. She is caught, just like the parents, in the headlights of vulnerability and ignorance.

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