What is Structured Teaching?
Structured Teaching is creating a highly visually based structured environment that promotes an understanding of schedules, activities and expectations. This allows students with ASD to:
- understand and act appropiatley within their environment
- learn new skills
- internalize skills learned, and being able to carry those skills over into other settings
- create independence
In this module on Structured Teaching we will talk about five components to providing a quality program for students with Autism. The basis for these five components are taken from the TEACCH Autism Program taught by Roger Cox from the UNC School of Medicine.
- The Physical Environment
- Work Stations
- Routines and Strategies
- Visual Structures
The five components that we will touch on are
A. The Physical Environment
Physical Structure is defining or laying out specific areas that the student will interact with and in. Areas to consider within your classroom are:
- work 1:1
- independent work
- group work
In setting up your classroom you need to have an understanding of your students needs and challenges. Students with Autism really like clear guidelines and boundaries, therefore establishing those in the classroom is essential. Each distinct area needs to be identified.
a.a Creative Play Area
Consider this: Does your student require physical barriers to help define the area, or can he/she understand a line or stop sign as a barrier? How will the student know that time is up and it is time to transition?
a.b Work Area 1:1
Consider this: Where is the 1:1 located with regards to the rest of the class? Do you need a type of barrier to block distractions from student but allow you to see the class? What do your students do if they need assistance while you are with 1:1 student?
a.d Group work Area
Consider this: Does the student need a specific sitting spot? quiet area, sensory tent, stairwell
a.e Quiet/Sensory Area
Consider this: What distractions are there, and who could interrupt this time? sensory area, under stairs.
Visual schedules are key to allow students to know what to expect throughout the day, and when changes will occur. The schedule allows the program to be predictable for the student. Predictability eases stress and allows our students to understand their environment a little better. Schedules are also one of the main tools that allow students to develop independence, they are not always relying on adults to tell them what they are doing and what is next.
Consider this: Does your student require objects, a picture, picture and words, or simply a word schedule. Start with more concrete than you think and work toward the abstract
Workstations are an extension of the schedule. The work station provides the student with all the information they need to complete a task or series of tasks. The student is taught that they are to be done in order until complete. To begin with students may only have one task at a time to complete before going back to the schedule to see what is next. Later the student may have a series of activities to complete before checking the schedule again.
D. Routines and Strategies
Routines are very important to our students. Routines allow our students to be able to predict what is going to happen next and complete tasks with as little support as possible. Routines and strategies can be taught and reinforced with the use of pictures or words. The key is that they are done in the same order each time allowing for internalization of the skills to be successful.
Eg. Consider this: The location of the visual reminder. Make sure it is in a place that helps remind the student of the expectations. Washing hands, backpack routines
E. Visual Structures in Tasks
- Teaches the student to look for instructions first
- Excersises the students’ independence
- Creates flexibility within the student
- Complexity of tasks evolve with students’ ability
- Tasks are achievable
- Student interests are incorporated into activities
- Task is organized
- A sequence is followed which results in a completed task
- The student recognizes when the task is finished
Types of Visual Structure
Steps of the task are clearly laid out to indicate to the student the starting point, middle steps and ending points.
The physical placement of materials within the space you have available
- Activities are organized from left to right
- Space and supplies for the activity are clearly defined
Methods of drawing the relevant information of the task to the student
- Adding colour
- Instructions are exaggerated and isolated
Once the structural framework is learned by the student a wide variety of tasks can be implemented. The end result is to create independence and adaptability within the student.