TEACCH and Autism Ranking: Strong positive evidence

Current Research

We have identified more than 20* studies of TEACCH published in English-language, peer-reviewed journals. These studies included more than 700 children and adults on the autism spectrum, although more than 300 of these children came from just two studies (Boyd et al, 2014 and Mandell et al, 2013).

The study by Boyd et al (2014) compared TEACH with LEAP (Learning Experiences - An Alternative Program for Preschoolers and Parents) and with standard teaching. It included 198 pre-school children and was delivered by teachers in 74 different classrooms in four different states within the USA over the academic year. It reported that each of the three interventions produced significant benefits such as improvements in autism characteristics and severity, communication skills and reciprocal social interactions. 

The study by Mandell et al (2013) compared TEACCH with STAR (Strategies for Teaching based on Autism Research, a comprehensive, multi-component programme based on applied behaviour analysis).  It included 119 primary school students and was delivered by teachers in 33 different classrooms in the School District of Philadelphia in the USA over the academic year. It reported that both TEACCH and STAR produced significant benefits including a clinically meaningful increase in IQ. 

The other studies were all much smaller and were delivered in a range of countries (Hong Kong, Italy, the UK and the USA), in a range of settings (family homes, schools, specialist centres or residential services) and by a range of practitioners (teachers, parents, health care professionals). The duration of the intervention varied from 4 weeks to two years.

Some of these studies examined programmes described as the TEACCH model or program; some of the studies examined specific, named versions of the TEACCH program for pre-school children (such as the Family Implemented TEACCH for Toddlers programme); some of the studies examined specific, named programmes for pre-school children which were described as “based” on the TEACCH model (such as the Barnardo's Forward Steps Early Intervention Programme).

Most of the studies examined programmes designed to achieve a wide range of outcomes. However some of studies were designed to teach a more limited range of activities (such as Orellana et al, 2017 which examined compliance with a clinical dental assessment).

Most of these studies reported a number of benefits including improvements in social communication (language skills); adaptive functioning (imitation of others, compliance with instructions; play); cognition (non-verbal IQ), motor skills (hand eye coordination), independence and overall quality of life. Some of the studies (such as Siaperas et al, 2007) reported reductions in challenging behaviours.  Several of the studies (such as Bristol et al, 1993) reported improvements in the mental health of the parents of the children studied.

Some of these studies reported limited or mixed results. For example, Van Bourgondien et al (2003) reported that TEACCH led to an improvement in the quality of life of the participants in a residential programme for adults.  However, they also reported that TEACCH “did not show either statistically or clinically significant changes in the developmental levels of participants over time”.

*Please note:

  • We have not included studies which looked only at individual elements of the TEACCH model (such as physical structure; visual schedules; work systems and task organisation).
  • We have not looked at studies of the TEACCH-based, supported employment programme run by Division TEACCH.
12 Dec 2017
Last Review
01 Nov 2017
Next Review
01 Nov 2020