The TEACCH Autism Program at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, under the leadership of Dr. Eric Schopler, developed the intervention approach of Structured Teaching to support and teach individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders. This approach is based on understanding the 'culture of autism,' and the use of individualized visual supports to accommodate the difficulties with auditory processing, organization, combining ideas, attention, communication, time concepts, and attachment to routines.
Structured Teaching creates highly structured environments to support individuals in a variety of education, community, and home/living settings (Mesibov, Shea, & Schopler, 2005). The five major components of structured teaching include physical organization and visual boundaries, schedules, routines, works systems, and task organization.
Physical organization involves the creation of environments that have clear boundaries and use visual supports to specify the activities that take place in each area. Visual schedules are used to denote planned activities and events throughout the day; representation is based on individual needs, but can be words, icons, pictures, photographs, and/or objects. Routines are taught in the same visual format, allowing individuals to become more comfortable, flexible, and independent, in their environments. Work systems visually structure sequences that provide opportunities to practice previously taught skills, concepts, or activities. (Mavroupoulou et al., 2011: Schopler, 1995). Work systems visually communicate to the individual four important pieces of information:
1. What work or activity to complete
2. How many activities to complete
3. When is the work finished
4. What happens when the work is finished
The last component of Structured Teaching, structured tasks, shows individuals what to do, simply by looking at the set up of the materials.
In summary, Structured Teaching supports instruction and independence for individuals with autism across ages and environments by using strategies that support their strengths and preferences.
Carnahan, C. (2009). Structured teaching: Online training module (Columbus, OH: OCALI).
In Ohio Center for Autism and Low Incidence (OCALI), Autism Internet Modules,