Hi Jayne. Yes, my child had a very unsuccessful experience with teacch. This became painfully evident to me when we pulled him from his teacch class and started an ABA program at home and implemented an ABA trained therapist in his school environment. His progress was staggering. I still keep in contact with a few of the parents whose children attend my child’s old school and my child has progressed immeasurably compared to their children. I think its actually painful for these parents to talk to me about my boy.
I think you are probably quite able to answer most of the questions you ask of me, yourself and I have outlined some of the major problems i have with the teacch program already.
I do not believe in “cures” for autism as autism is not a disease. It has been referred to many things through the ages, including “mentally retarded, autistically “handicapped” (as this web site used to refer to it), a disorder, a condition, etc etc.
However, what i do know is that my own child is extremely bright and given the appropriate environment and provided with trained individuals who specialise in child development and behavioural intervention, children on the autistic spectrum can be prevented from developing those behaviours and “outward” appearances that isolate them from the world, making them so “different” that they cannot cope.
More importantly, however, autistic children can and regularly do develop the cognitive ability to progress in their education without the need for outside assistance. There is no communicaton or behavioural program written into teacch and this alone should put parents off. The two most important things our kids need are not available through teacch.
The philosophy and ethos of teacch and mesibov et al is what i find particularly galling and extremely damaging. I do not believe that autism is a “culture”. Though i respect the fact my child is on the autistic spectrum, i do not know what that actually means for him as he is so young, and he is so very different from every autistic child on the planet, much less any child, autistic or not. It would be a very rare teacher who would claim to know what autism is, particularly for my child, better than what i know it is, yet that is what i get from teacch teachers. They have so much to learn, but the ethos of teacch wraps autism up very nicely in a package that is so “manageable” for the uninitiated.
There is no one “AUTISM”, and though you may have gleaned insight from your work to observe that children with ASD are often “visual”, this in and of itself does not have a lot of meaning for the entire autistic population, particularly in terms of addressing their educational needs. Most boys are rambunctious and like rough and tumble, that does not mean that every preschool child should get a piggy back ride and a judo lesson in class or that it would have any efficacy.
It is my view and the view of thousands of other parents that autism is a condition caused by an environmental assault. Some parents attribute this to the MMR/heavy metal/vaccine toxicity explanation, others attribute autism as a result of compromised immune systems unable to “detoxify”. Others believe it is genetic and “unstoppable”.
I only see what i see with my own child, the child who was perfectly “normal” 3 days prior to his vaccinations, and who 3 days after was taken into hospital with legs the size of balloons and who developed deafness in one ear. (despite his deafness he overcame this and hears better than i do!)
This was not a “culture” my boy entered into, it was a prison, not of his choosing. Teacch has no right to impose its philosophy about autism on unsuspecting parents, particularly parents who are forced to accept the teacch option because nothing else exists. Teacch may serve those parents who are at a loss to explain autism, it may lessen the pain of parents, to convince them that autism is a “culture” but i can assure you no parent i know thinks that way, not one!
I know without the shadow of a doubt what happened to my boy and i find it particularly irking that those involved in the education of our children have the audacity to try and encourage parents to believe that autism is a “world” or that the autistic child should not be encouraged to live in our world. Autistic children did not choose to be autistic and my own boy spends most of his time trying to enter “my” world and the world of his NT peers.
that is my opinion. Other parents are entitled to their own opinion. But in the face of very little option for parents to choose what educational approach they want for their children, i think it is wholly unfair that teacch has been hoisted upon parents. I dont remember being consulted in 1996 when teacch was adopted in my area. I do not recall parents being asked to join public consultations to discuss what THEY wanted for their children. The decision to implement teacch was generally made by social services, the LEAs etc. How convenient that they ignored all the expert parents out there who probably had much to say about the matter.
Teacch offers a cheap and cheerful solution to teachers who simply dont have the time to truly understand our children. It is damaging because the ethos of teacch is flawed, not represented in any real truth about autism, but based on presuppositions which may or may not be held by parents of autistic children, many of whom have been convinced of teacch efficacy due to lack of option/choices.
Children in teacch programs are kept so busy “feeding” their autism that they may appear to be happy. But in terms of any real “progress” or gains made by children in the teacch programs, there is no evidence, and there won’t be any time soon, to gauge whether children in the teacch programs are succeeding with their lives. Where is the evidence, where are the control studies?? None exist and mesibov doesnt want them to exist. How long has teacch been around for now, and no real evidence of its efficacy???????? This compares very unfavourably to the mountains of research on behavioural analysis and autistic children. We are humans and we all have basically the same reasons for our behaviours. Same as autistic children. Autism doesnt bring with it these “magical and weird” behaviours. Lack of communication skills and socialisation skills bring behaviours, behaviours that condemn many autistic children to living a solitary and non independent life. Its so very sad. There is nothing organic about autistic “type” behaviours. they are all explainable, but the time, effort and money to “explain” and redirect those behaviours do not interest the school boards.
This can’t be done within the confines of teacch because the original philosophy sets the parameters geared to “feeding” autism. Children in teacch programs are considered “disabled for life”, are considered a separate “culture” so they dont ever have to meet “markers” based on the NT population. It sets our kids up to fail in terms of leading lives that do not require support.
We on the other hand have set our boy high expectations, most of which to date, he has met. He will not be needing an aide next year, he plays appropriately with non autistic children, he never went to school with other autistic children (except for 6 months in a teacch program) and he learns more and more every day how to be a social “being”, not a being who is dependent on cues, cards and visual schedules.
Teacch offers teachers a way to cope with our children. That’s why its so popular with the education system. It doesnt take a brain surgeon to develop a teacch environment and generally from my own experience, the teachers i have met have only a modicum of undertanding of teacch and only a week or two of training in it.
Compare this to our own consultant who has 12 years training in education and 7 years training and experience in child and human behaviour analysis.
Its all down to money. Teacch is easy, ABA is not. Teacch is cheap, ABA is not.
Teacch feeds autism, is autism specific. ABA is not.
As i said, the proof will be in the pudding, in 10 to 15 years time. I will be very interested to see where my son’s classmates will be, those children who continued with their teacch programs. I will be interested to see if they are living independent and happy lives.
Teacch has it all sewn up though. Its ethos is basically to give autitic children the opportunity to develop to “their” best ability as opposed to expecting “THE” best they can be. It imposes an outdated and very damaging and PATRONISING value system on the children and i would not touch it with a barge pole.
Like i said, parents may think their children are doing “great” with teacch but they will hardly know what “great” is, unless they are made aware of how other children NOT in teacch programs are faring, children like my own child, who is treated like his siblings and of whom we expect great and wonderful things just like his siblings.
Make no mistake many many parents are aware of the vagaries of teacch. But they dont get a look in, cause the system is “all sewn up” to provide teacch. Slowly but surely parents are demanding educational interventions appropriate to THEIR child. They are fighting at the high court, they are forming support groups. They are at parliament demanding the right education for their child.
They are not begging for teacch. I think parents are way past begging. They are demanding, and time will point to the damage that has been done to our precious children in the name of money and lack of understanding.