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Staff members learn about TEACCH program

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On March 15 and 16, about 38 F-M staff members took part in a two-day professional development workshop led by experts in the TEACCH Model, which focuses on educating and working with individuals with an autism spectrum disorder.

TEACCH stands for the Treatment and Education of Autistic and Related Communication Handicapped Children.

The TEACCH model builds upon an individual’s strengths and talents and uses those characteristics to overcome challenges and set the individual up for success.

The approach easily translates into a classroom setting.

“What’s the thinking style of your students, and how do they think and learn?” said Mary Beth Van Bourgondien, clinical director of the TEACCH Center at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Dr. Van Bourgondien was joined by Becky McGee-Hudson, a psychoeducational therapist from University of North Carolina’s Wilmington TEACCH Center.

The long-term goals of the TEACCH approach are both skill development and fulfillment 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 the intervention approach called “Structured TEACCHing.”

Two of the principles of Structured TEACCHing are structuring the environment and using supports to make the sequence of daily activities predictable and understandable.

The TEACCH program also stresses a culturally sensitive approach in working with people with autism. “Deficits” are perceived as differences, Dr. Van Bourgondien said.

The ways in which some people with autism express themselves may be different than most other people, such as flapping their hands to express an emotion. If the activity is not disruptive to those around the person, there is not a reason to change how that person expresses their emotions, Dr. Van Bourgondien said.

During the summer, the district sent five teachers to the TEACCH Center at the University of North Carolina for five days of training, said F-M Assistant Superintendent for Special Services Lisa Dinneen. In the fall, they worked with some of the district’s most behaviorally challenged students, employing the TEACCH philosophy.

What is TEACCH?

TEACCH is an evidence-based service, training, and research program for individuals of all ages and skill levels with autism spectrum disorders, according to the UNC website. It was established in the early 1970s. TEACCH provides clinical services such as diagnostic evaluations, parent training and parent support groups, social play and recreation groups, individual counseling for higher-functioning clients, and supported employment.

In addition, TEACCH conducts training nationally and internationally and provides consultation for teachers, residential care providers, and other professionals from a variety of disciplines.

Research activities include psychological, educational, and biomedical studies.

The administrative headquarters of the TEACCH program are in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, and there are seven regional TEACCH Centers around the state of North Carolina.

Source: UNC School of Medicine website

Photo Caption 1: Eagle Hill Middle School psychologist Barbara Cannizzo and Fayetteville Elementary School Christina Whalley practice workshop strategies.

Photo Caption 2: Dr. Mary Beth Van Bourgondien, clinical director of the University of North Carolina’s Raleigh TEACCH Center, and Becky McGee-Hudson (standing), a psychoeducational therapist from UNC’s Wilmington TEACCH Center, talked about strategies Fayetteville-Manlius staff members could use to enhance the educational experience of students with autism.

Photo Caption 3: Eagle Hill Middle School resource teacher John Kolb and Wellwood Middle School special education teacher Adrianna Ramirez-Owens work together on a project.

Photo Caption 4: Wellwood Middle School special education teacher Megan Collins, Mott Road Elementary School psychologist Meg Losty, and Mott Road occupational therapist Cathy Rousell work together on a project incorporating workshop strategies.

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