Autism - an overview

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Autism - An overview

Autism is a persistent developmental disability. Autism can coexist with cognitive delay, other disabilities or with syndromes.

The three principal areas of difficulty that all people with autism share are occasionally known as the 'triad of impairments'. They are:

* Difficulty with social communication.

* Difficulty with social interaction.

* Difficulty with social imagination.

The cognitive characteristics of people with autism are particularly important for understanding how they learn and can be learning. The perception, the attention, the memory, the thought and the motives contribute decisive in the process of learning. The range of Autism is great heterogeneity in cognitive functions that involve inhomogeneous ness in the behaviours and in the educational needs.

(Jordan & Powell, 1995).

Successful practice for pupils with autism is the consequence of sound knowledge, hard work and appropriate resources. Since many children with autism are complicated, stimulating and unsuited to standard considerations, teachers need to participate in a comprehensive program which represents the child's learning profile and informs the planning of appropriate future objectives. The approach most popularly associated with autism is known as TEACCH (Treatment and Education of Autistic and related Communication handicapped CHildren)

Structured Teaching within TEACCH

The TEACCH (Treatment and Education of Autistic and related Communication handicapped Children) established in the decade of '70 by the professor Eriv Schopler. TEACCH is a program in which implements the Structured Teaching. The seminal work of Division TEACCH, founded in North Carolina in the late 1960s, is based on these principles of establishing a routine and effectively communicates to the child. The diagnostic centers, counselling and support centers about TEACCH model, to support people with autism are nine and all of them located in the North Caroline in the USA. TEACCH provides clinicalservices like diagnostic assessments, parent teaching and parent support groups, social play and recreation groups, characteristic guidance for higher-functioning customers, and supported occupation.In addition, TEACCH behaves trainingnationally and internationally and supplies consultation for educators, residential care suppliers, and other experts from a variety of disciplines.Researchactivities contain psychological, educational, and biomedical studies.

TEACCH has two characteristics: the individualized education and the structured environment. It is used to help children with autism in their communication, social association, to control their behaviour and to develop their skills. Thus, the TEACCH isbased on the "culture" of autism and on the structured teaching. Consequently, TEACCH approach is focused on how children with autism think, learn and understand, to adapt better their needs (Schopler, & Hearsey, 1995; Faherty & Hersey, 1996).

The program is designed specifically for each child depending on his individual needs. In spite of the common features of autism, children with autism find it very difficult to learn in a group situation because they do not see themselves as part of a group.

TEACCH is determined by four principles:

* TEACCH is focused on the skills, needs and the interests ofeach individual. It is focused on the individualized evaluation in order to occur and personalize an educational program.

* TEACCH essentially uses evaluative methods: Childhood Autism Rating Scale (CARS) (Schopler, Reichler, & Renner, 1988), Psychoeducational Profile και Adolescent and Adult Psychoeducational Profile (Mesibov, Schopler, & Schaffer, 1988), (Schopler et. al, 1990).

* The TEACCH program includes cognitive and behavioural therapy.

* TEACCH uses visual stimuli like images for better education.

Moreover, it is appropriate to exist cooperation between the instructor and the parents to exchange information. In this way, knowledge and faculties of instructor adopted according to the characteristics of everyone and information provided by parents???? (Watson, 1985; Aarons & Gittens, 1999). The TEACCH is used structured teaching and supports the individual in order to be an active member in society (Schopler, Mesibov, & Hearsey, 1995).

Main elements of the TEACCH program are:

ü The work station;

ü The work system;

ü The daily schedule;

The four major components of structured teaching in the TEACCH program are:

Physical organisation


Work system

Task organisation

(Schopler and Mesibov, 1995)

In broad terms these components can be seen to represent the where, when, what and how of the child's learning; supporting understanding through structure, consistency and focus on the child's characteristic strengths.

Essential Components of the TEACCH Approach

An important component of structured teaching in the TEACCH program is the layout of environment. The structured environment corresponds better in particular way that children with autism thinking and thus feels calmer. The organized environment is foreseeable and facilitates the adaptation of children with autism. It is basically an organized system of the educational material that facilitates the learning.

Structured teaching can offer to children with autism:

1) Reduce difficulties of organizing time in order that autistic children can managetheir time.

2) Stability situations. Children with autism can occupy and focused in basic situations.

3) Increase of autonomy. The layout of environment helps children to occupy the environment and become autonomous in many areas of their life.

Thus, in my opinion, with structured teaching children with autism can become familiar with the environment and can express better their needs. Also, I think that, with this way, autistic children can activate their self and follow routines and thus with autonomy and without the guide of someone else can take part in activities.

Objectives Of Structured Teaching

* Consistency and predictability.

* Stability and simplification of situations.

* Increase autonomy.

Another essential component of the TEACCH approach is the use of schedules: a visual diary timetable of the events and activities of the child's day. The precise presentation of the schedule will vary in detail depending on the child's perceptive ability and experience of using them. The main objective of the daily program is the autistic children understand how to systematize their school time and to participate actively in school. Generally, children might use a strip of symbols or photographs to sequence events. More capable individuals will carry diaries providing written information of the expectations of the day, week or month. Thus, schedules organise time for children with autism without depending upon language skills, which may be lacking or incompatible. As each task or acting is executed, it is removed from the schedule, and indicating the next task in the order. I think that the use of schedule can be self impelling in that it is foreseeable and reliable and seems to give many children a sense of pleasure and security.

The third key component of the TEACCH approach is the use of work systems. It is a system of organising an activity at school or at home. The work systems give clear information to children about what is expected of them during a task, during lesson time. According to the cognitive level, of students with autism, there are different systems works. The simplest systems work consisting from objectives that teacher places strategically on the child's desk. Thus, the child is informed about the work, there is to be completed and the order in which it should be done. In my opinion, with this way, children work systematically and with a purpose. The children by completed a school work can be self-motivating, providing children with a rewarding sense of satisfaction.

The fourth and the final component of the TEACCH system is task organisation. This determines what work students with autism do independently, what needs to be done within a task, how many items must be executed and final outcomes. (Schopler et al., 1995). Children, with task organisation are intended to encourage the child with autism to look for recommendations to guide their efforts.


According to Jordan and Jones (1990), there are few studies, which examined if TEACCH helps people with autism or not. Nevertheless, researcher's show that TEACCH program helps teacher's to improve their educational knowledge about autism. Schopler, Mesibov, Devellis & Short,(1981) realized by questionnaires that have filed out by parents of children with autism and severe mental sterhsh that parents had positive opinion about the program. However, two studies that conducted in Italy, showed that TEACCH helped children with autism to reduce bahaviour problems (Panerai,Ferrante, & Caputo,1997; Panerai, Ferrante, Caputo, & Impellizeri 1998). A recent study in Italy compared children with mental retardation (sterhsh) and children with autism, who had been trained by TEACCH program. The study showed that children who attend the TEACCH program presented better performance in school and in functionality.

An important part of TEACCH concerns teaching skills for independent work via the optical organization of environment. The student through TEACCH learns to be responsible to compliance their life program. There is always a need to teach a student with autism to understand ways of comprehension the operation in situations that is not explicit structure.

Schopler, E., Mesibov, G. B., Hearsey, K. (1995). Structured teaching in the TEACCH system. In E. Schopler & G. B. Mesibov (Eds.), Learning and cognition in autism (pp. 243-267). New York: Kluwer Academic/Plenum.