The Watson Institute strives to provide high-quality special education, not only for the students who receive services, but also for our staff. Each year, Watson hosts a week-long seminar in collaboration with staff from Division TEACCH (Teaching, Expanding, Appreciating, Collaborating, Cooperating, Holistic), University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill which provides resources and instructs educators on the practices of teaching children with autism spectrum disorder.
Certified TEACCH trainers, a combination of UNC Chapel Hill and Watson staff members, work with trainees one-on-one and in small groups throughout the weeklong program, educating them and introducing them to new ways in which to teach children with autism spectrum disorder.
TEACCH focuses on structured teaching for children with autism spectrum disorder by using visuals, work stations, structuring the classroom and utilizing schedules. Each of these techniques is geared to help students achieve a certain level of independence within the classroom and which can be carried over into the home.
Teaching a Child with Autism
During the last three days of the training, five Watson Institute students were incorporated into the trainees’ learning program. Each group of trainees received a description of the student with whom they would be working with along with a copy of their special education IEP (Individualized Education Plan). Using that information, TEACCH trainees set up a classroom and created a schedule for the students to follow. Using a variety of materials such as magnets, books, containers, Velcro, etc. the trainees created various activities that would help each student work on goals outlined in their IEP.
“TEACCH provides trainees with a very hands-on approach to learning and enables them to practice the techniques they’re learning in a real life situation by working with students with autism.” said Katie Patterson, Program Coordinator at the Watson Institute Education Center Sewickley and one of the TEACCH 2016 trainers.
Not only did TEACCH enable trainees to interact and work with students with autism spectrum disorder, but they also had the chance to meet the families of each student. During a panel session, parents and families of children with autism spectrum disorder shared their experiences. This interactive discussion allowed trainees a chance to glean valuable insight into what it is like raising and teaching a child with autism.
Several special education teachers, instructional aides, and behavior therapists from the Watson Institute attended the TEACCH session and will be putting their new knowledge into practice as the welcome students back to school later this month.