Workshops, workstations, boxes and folders tasks

How to adapt TEACCH approach in the mainstream school and help your children to become independent and happy adults?

by Beata Bednarska

Have you ever thought about adapting TEACCH approach in your school? Maybe you’re using workstations in your school, but you didn’t realise that you were using TEACCH. Or maybe you are exploring new options for your special needs’ children?

If you answered yes for at leas one of the above questions then this article is for you.

In 2013 I was exploring different options for our mainstream special needs children as the SEND provision wasn’t helpful for those with Autism or learning difficulties.

Children couldn’t focus on learning; the physical environment was overwhelming, so some of them used withdrawal as a strategy to survive whiles the others expressed challenging behaviour as they were not coping with the demands.

I discovered at least several different interventions but none of them were used in my local authority mainstream schools.

I started exploring them, and I must say all case studies, that I found, where from special schools. Very quickly I realised that I can’t use the whole approach in my school. So, I decided that I would use the eclectic approach and will pick the best from approaches that I liked and adapt them to my school.

It took me a couple of weeks to analyse and plan what approach to use and how to introduce TEACCH in our school. I started with this structured approach as it organising the physical environment, gives children quiet, organised and individual space where they can work independently with no distractions.

So actually, what is TEACCH?

TEACCH approach (Treatment and Education of Autistic and related Communication handicapped Children) is an evidence-based program founded by Dr Eric Schopler in 1972 at the University of North Carolina in the USA.

The reasons I’ve chosen TEACCH were the priorities that lay in the hart of this approach such as:

  • focusing on the child, his existing skills, interests and needs
  • development of “culture of autism”
  • use of visual structure and the organisation of the physical environment and resources (box and folder tasks)
  • support of learning processes but also leisure and social times
  • flexibility of teaching
  • adaptation and individualisation of the tasks
  • focusing on being independent
  • evidencing child progress on the daily basis and differentiating further if necessary

“Imagine you were in a foreign country, not understanding the language, not comprehending situations from the context of it, wanting to express a need but being unable to do it. This is how you can relate to what the child with autism feels on an ordinary day”

What I absolutely love about TEACCH is that it works well for all children but for those with classic Autism, non-verbal or with learning difficulties it’s absolutely ingenious to show their progress.

My first TEACCH workshops took place in the library. Then I was given the intervention room which I adapted as our TEACCH classroom. I know, you don’t have the space or spare room! And you don’t have to! It could be a single workstation somewhere on the corridor and definitely in each classroom.

The time for TEACCH workshop was considered carefully so children will not miss out on teachers input. All the workstation tasks were linked to the children IEPs (provision maps) or the classroom work. I developed a simple tracking sheet which provided necessary evidence and information on child progress and needs. It also allowed us to analyse and made necessary adjustments and differentiation.

Below you can see several examples of TEACCH resources (boxes tasks, folder tasks in the files, choosing choices, etc.).

TEACCH approach is extremely effective as the structure that you introduce to the child is a form of behaviour management. It will help your pupils to understand your expectations. The physical environment will clearly state when and where they work and what they have to do. Predictability helps them to stay calm as well as helps with transition time. 

So, if you never consider TEACCH because you thought it was for special schools then think again. 

Mainstream schools can easily adapt this approach and help their special needs children to learn in a structured way. Moreover, children learn how to be independent and learn organisational skills instead of being dependent and anxious about the changes. 

This approach gives you real data on what your child is able to do it, without any help. It will also give you info on how log each child needs to maser a new skill. Then, you will be ale to plan and prioritise more effectively, knowing the rate of a child learning. This will help you in targeting and challenging your pupils, so the child will not feel board or overwhelmed.

“I’m a visual thinker, not a language-based thinker. My brain is like Google Images”

Temple Grandin

That’s it for today 🙂 

If you will have some questions or comments about TEACCH you can express yourself below the article.

Until next time