Inclusive classroom: Work tasks, autism and TEACCH

Joe White

Joe White works with children with autism and communication difficulties at Stone Bay School in Kent, supporting them to manage the frustration that leads to sometimes very challenging behaviour. In this role, both he and the children are supported by a team of experienced and very capable learning support assistants. As anyone who has worked with children who have have autism knows, there is no one-size-fits-all answer to their educational needs. Joe has a small class of seven children who each demand a completely individualised approach to enable them to succeed in a classroom environment.

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In my NQT year I attended a three day TEACCH autism course. This covered the TEACCH approach research and values with both the theoretical and practical examples of their structured teach. The part I was most interested in was how to implement a highly-structured visual approach for individuals and groups. Now as all teachers know, you cannot take an approach that works in one school and shoehorn it into another setting, but the good thing was that we didn't have to do this; everything could and should be personalised within the framework.

Since that course I have implemented this approach in all my classrooms to a greater or lesser degree. Some learners benefit from the whole approach, rigid structure and detailed visual timetables. For some this becomes too restrictive and can lead to anxiety if a favoured or disliked activity is introduced at the wrong time, or a staff change is required at short notice.

The most effective strategy I have embedded from the TEACCH approach is that of work tasks. These are self-contained and, as much as possible, self-explanatory activities for the child to complete. Usually this is for a reward - however this could be another whole blog post in itself. These can be put in a "start" tray or drawer and be placed in a "finished" tray or box as completed. The key principle is that the child should know exactly what is expected of them. Do not ever place a new task in the tray as they are working; it’s not fair and breaks trust. I usually give two or three tasks with an expected time of 10-15 minutes following a bit of teacher led or group work to form the core of the lesson. These tasks can be done in pairs or at a group table but they are usually completed at an individual workstation.

I have made, tweaked and borrowed ideas for hundreds over the years. There are many resources available online, and Pinterest is particularly useful.

Here are a couple I would like to share with you:



A simple shape-sorting tub made from scavenged ice cream tubs and shapes from the resources cupboard. This is very basic, and because mistakes can be made without causing frustration, you can assess the end result (“Are all the shapes right?” etc). You could adapt to be more structured by having holes that only accept the correct shape. It is very plain with no instructions, and if needed a prompt sheet or teacher instruction can be used.



These are some of my favourites. They’re self-contained and easy to store in old DVD cases - VHS are even better as you have more room. This is a simple activity for matching healthy and unhealthy foods using the same symbols and the children's PECS books. All resources are stored inside the case. The child just has to open it and take out the laminated velcroed sheets. You can differentiate by removing words or symbols etc.



Similar idea but with coin identification. The coins are attached with Velcro to the inside of the DVD case and matched to the sheet on the other side. The child can then overwrite the names. Real coins are best to use here, and you can of course adapt the task as the child develops their skills by just replacing the sheet with a more challenging one.



Finally just a picture of a workstation in my classroom. The blue board can be used to mount visual schedules, but is mainly to reduce distractions. The silver trays are start on the left and finished on the right. The iPad is the motivator; it may not be appropriate to have on the desk but I find it gives the child control and shows trust.

I hope you have found these ideas useful.

Do you use similar tactics in your classroom? Let us know in the comments.

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