Treatment and Education of Autistic and Communication Handicapped Children (TEACCH)


During the 1960s, Eric Schopler argued that Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) were probably the result of an organic neurological dysfunction, although the precise causes were not yet identified. He adopts a new approach in which parents are trained as co-therapists of their child (Tréhin & Durham, 1996). The preliminary results of this approach led the state of North Carolina to commit to helping people with ASD by setting up a program called "Treatment and Education of Autistic and Communication handicapped Children" (TEACCH) created by Eric Schopler. This type of program then spread to other US states and gained popularity around the world (Peerenboom, 2003).


The TEACCH program is based on structured teaching and applied behavior analysis, with the core principle of organizing the learning environment to promote the acquisition of new skills. According to Mesibov and Shea (2010), the four essential mechanisms of the TEACCH are:

Structuring the environment - in both space and time - is achieved through:

Once a skill has been established, patients or caregivers are then taught to use that behavior in a less structured and less "accommodating" environment. Generalization of skills and abilities is then achieved by repeating, in new contexts, the exercises performed with professionals. Note that this program is often implanted in classrooms but it has also been used at home or in the community.

The long-term goal of the TEACCH program is to promote optimal functioning to facilitate integration into society. Unlike other more specific programs, the TEACCH program offers a continuum of services to patients, their families, and practitioners across the lifespan.

In the database

Despite the potential lifelong application of the TEACCH program and the appropriateness of this program to different developmental levels, the meta-analyses included in the database assessed the efficacy of this program mostly among very young children with important cognitive difficulties. The intensity is often moderate (between 5 to 19h a week) and the setting could be at home or at school.

Additional resources

Back to other interventions