Strategies to support the curriculum
The curriculum is supported by the following strategies to help enhance learning and communication (where needed).
The Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) was developed over 20 years ago. It allows children and adults with Autism and other communication difficulties to initiate communication. PECS starts by teaching students to exchange a picture of their desired item with a teacher, who immediately honours the request. For example, if they want a drink, they will give a picture of a drink to an adult who directly hands them a drink. Verbal prompts are not used, thus encouraging spontaneity and avoiding prompt dependency. The system goes on to teach the discrimination of symbols and how to construct simple sentences. Ideas for teaching, commenting and other language structures such as asking and answering questions are also incorporated.
Founded in the early 1970s, TEACCH developed the 'Culture of Autism' - considering the characteristic patterns of thinking and behaviour seen in individuals with Autism.
The Culture of Autism involves:
- Relative strength in and preference for processing visual information (compared to difficulties with auditory processing, particularly of language)
- Frequent attention to details but difficulty understanding the meaning of how those details fit together
- Difficulty combining ideas
- Difficulty with organising ideas, materials, and activities
- Difficulties with attention (some individuals are very distractible, others have difficulty shifting attention when it's time to make transitions)
- Communication problems, which vary by developmental level but always include impairments in the social use of language (called "pragmatics")
- Difficulty with concepts of time, including moving too quickly or too slowly and having problems recognising the beginning, middle or end of an activity
- Tendency to become attached to routines, with the result that activities may be difficult to generalise from the original learning situation and disruptions in routines can be upsetting, confusing, or uncomfortable
- Very strong interests and impulses to engage in favoured activities, with difficulty disengaging once engaged
- Marked sensory preferences and dislikes.
The long-term goals of the TEACCH approach are both skill development and fulfilment of fundamental human needs such as dignity, engagement in productive and personally meaningful activities, and feelings of security, self-efficacy, and self-confidence. To accomplish these goals TEACCH developed an intervention approach called 'Structured Teaching'.
The principles of Structured Teaching include:
- Understanding the culture of Autism
- Developing an individualised person and family-centred plan for each client or student, rather than using a standard curriculum
- Structuring the physical environment
- Using visual supports to make the sequence of daily activities predictable and understandable
- Using visual supports to make individual tasks understandable.