TAGteach: Task Analysis and Tag Points

Task Analysis hand washingTAGteach is an excellent method for teaching children, especially those with autism, because of the precise positive reinforcement of desired behaviors.

In addition to timely and effective reinforcement, it is also important to think about the details of a task, and how to set tag points. This post will address both of these issues.

Task Analysis

A task analysis describes the many small steps that go into performing a single activity. For example, we often tell children to “wash your hands” when they come home from school. It seems simple to us. For a child with autism, it can be a complex task. The child has to:

  • take off a coat
  • hang it up
  • walk to the bathroom
  • open the door
  • go to the sink
  • stand still
  • turn on the faucet
  • grasp a bar of soap (or hold one hand under the nozzle of a soap dispenser while pushing down on the pump with the other hand)
  • place hands under the water flow
  • rub the slippery soap over his hands
  • continue holding his hands under the water flow until the soap is rinsed off
  • turn off the faucet (with wet hands)
  • reach for and grasp a towel
  • rub the towel over his hands
  • replace the towel on the towel rod
  • walk out of the bathroom

This everyday task has at least sixteen steps involving the legs, torso, arms and hands! There could be many more steps if you were to break it down even further.

An easy way to do a task analysis is to do it yourself. Go through all the motions of the task and write them down–in detail. You may be surprised at how many movements you have to make, and how many body parts are involved, to accomplish a simple chore.

When you have this information, you will be able to see at a glance which components of the task your child can already do, and which you will have to teach. If your child has difficulty with any of the steps, then you will need to teach these specifically and you may even have to break problem areas down into additional smaller tasks.

To teach each component, you will set tag points, so let’s review tag points.

Tag Points

The “tag point” is the absolute part of a behavior that — when performed  — will receive the audible mark (tag). A tag point has four criteria. They are:

What you want (the goal stated in positive terms)

One criterion (yes or no answer as to whether the child succeeded)autism, TAGteach, ABA, positive reinforcement

Observable (you must be able to see easily if the tag point as met)

Five words or less (say “The tag point is… [then max 5 more words]”)

For example, in the hand washing example above, your child may have to learn how to use the soap dispenser. Your first goal may be to have the child learn to push down on the pump. Your first tag point might be: Flat Hand Touches Pump. Let’s review this tag point in terms of the four criteria mentioned above.

What you want: Child’s hand touches the soap pump

One criterion?  Yes, the tag point is Flat Hand Touches Pump

Observable and definable? Yes, you can see when the child’s flat hand touches the pump.

Five words or less? Yes, Flat Hand Touches Pump is four words.

With this tag point, you can demonstrate for the child — show how you hold your hand flat and touch it to the pump. You may demonstrate a few times, while tagging yourself, then ask the child to copy your action. If your child is capable of using the clicker (tagger) have him tag you at first. This is fun for the child and also lets you know for sure that he understands what the correct action is.  As soon as the child’s flat hand touches the pump, tag and reinforce!

However, what if you have a problem? What if the child struggles with this seemingly simple action? If this is the case, remember the TAGteach Three Try Rule.

Three Try Rule

The Three Try Rule says that if a child cannot perform the tag point within three trials, the parent/instructor must stop and reassess. Let’s say the child can’t do the Flat Hand Touches Pump tag point. There are several ways to backtrack and try for a simpler action.

The child may have to practice holding his hand flat. In this case, a revised tag point could be: Hand Flat. Let the child practice holding his hand flat until that movement is comfortable for him. Tag and reinforce each successful attempt. If the child becomes fatigued or stressed, stop and take a break. (It’s always best to stop at the first sign of fatigue or distress. The child will appreciate it, and will develop trust that his learning situation will always be supportive.)

The child may have problems targeting his hand to the top of the soap pump. In that case, the tag point could be revised to: Touch Pump (with no requirements to hold his hand flat). Perhaps it would help to put a bright sticker on top of the soap pump to make it more visible. You could also put a dot with a marker on the part of the hand that is to touch the sticker to give the child visible cues. This is a time to experiment to see what helps the child. When the child can hold his hand flat and touch the pump, the next step to teach would be to push down on the pump, and so on. You may even have to work on “push” as a separate exercise. Backtrack as far as you need to so as to make it easy for the child to succeed.

Try, Observe, Modify if Necessary

Careful task analysis and precise tag points will move the learning process along quickly and smoothly.

To review, do a task yourself and write down each step and physical movement in the process. See what your child can already do. Set tag points for the steps your child needs to learn. Use the four tag point criteria to set a single muscle movement as the tag point. Demonstrate and model the action for the child. Tag and reinforce the child for correct responses. If the child cannot manage the tag point after three trials, stop, reassess, and develop a simpler tag point. Tag and reinforce the child for that action, move up to the next step when the child has mastered the previous step.

The Chaos to Calm blog has many articles suggesting tag points for various skills and behavior situations.

What is TAGteach?

TAGteach stands for Teaching with Acoustical Guidance. TAGteach is a teaching and communication method based on the scientific principles of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA).

TAGteach enables extremely precise positive reinforcement of behavior by using an acoustical signal to “mark” the behavior – at the precise moment the child performs the behavior! The acoustical signal is a short, sharp sound made by a handheld device (the “tagger”). When the child performs the correct action, the parent/instructor immediately presses the button on the tagger and hands over a treat (candy, treat, token, praise, social recognition, or money) as a reinforcer.

With TAGteach, it is easy to reinforce behaviors precisely and quickly. The immediate, accurate feedback and positive reinforcement result in the child performing the correct action more often, and for longer periods of time. With immediate feedback and learning tasks broken down into small steps, children (and adults) can learn many new skills with TAGteach — at their own pace.

autism, TAGteach, ABA, positive reinforcementFor more information visit the TAGteach website.

Join the free TAGteach Yahoo Group.

TAGteach taggers are available here.

See Martha’s book about TAGteach for Autism or feel free to ask me a question (with no obligation).

Sign up for my mailing list to receive updates, new articles and free tips right in your inbox!

If you liked this post, please share it. Thank you!

 

 

Read More

Okay, TAGteach. How do I get started?

Congratulations on your decision to use TAGteach to increase functional behaviors in your child with autism. Here are some suggestions for how to get started. Once you have tagged your child a few times, you will find it easy and natural to do.

We are frequently asked how much background and explanation is needed before getting started with tagging. The answer is: as little as possible. Just jump right in and start tagging! Your child will figure out very quickly that the tag is followed by a treat and that his actions are causing you to tag. This gives your child an unprecedented degree of control and he will be excited to play the game. If your child needs some explanation, just use as few words as possible to explain that the tag sounds means he did something right and he will get a treat after each tag.

1. Gather your materials: A tagger and reinforcers

autism, TAGteach, tagger, positive reinforcement, ABAA TAGteach tagger is a small plastic box clicker; available here. You can use any object that makes a quick, sharp click sound: a ballpoint pen, a flashlight, or if need be, a spoon to tap.

Reinforcers are any items that your child values. Get some treats that your child likes: very small pieces of candy, pretzel pieces, cereal pieces, tic-tacs, or anything similar. Put them into a small container that you can hold in your hand. A desired item can by anything: candies, treats, a chance to play with a toy, tokens for special treats or privileges, or money; social praise or recognition can sometimes serve as a reinforcer.

For more ideas about reinforcers, do a Google search on “reinforcers for autism”. The key point with a reinforcer is that it must be something the child likes and will work for. The easiest way to start is with food or drink – so unless this is impossible, we suggest that you use an edible treat for your first attempts at TAGteach.

2. Think about what you want

Each child with autism has a unique profile of skills, sensory issues and behaviors. Each family has a unique combination of people, responsibilities and resources. Take a few minutes to think about your priorities:

What issues are at the top of your mind right now?

What functional skills or behaviors would help your child with autism, and/or help your family situation?

Take a few moments to jot these down. Be sure to write these in positive terms so that they are statements of what you want your child to DO (as opposed to what you want to stop or prevent).

(more…)

Read More

Positive Reinforcement Opens the Doors to Learning

white girl opening old doorWhen we hear about positive reinforcement most of us like it because we believe in being nice, positive and supportive.

In the field of Behavior Analysis, “positive reinforcement” is a technical and scientific term; it has a precise meaning that goes beyond general notions of being polite and encouraging.

What is Positive Reinforcement?

Here is the technical definition of positive reinforcement: “The offering of desirable effects or consequences for a behavior with the intention of increasing the chance of that behavior being repeated in the future.” (Dictionary.com)

Basically it means that an action followed by a positive consequence (reward, money, praise, social recognition), will increase, or, be performed more often.  So, positive reinforcement is a way to increase desired behaviors.  Positive reinforcement is not only a definition, it is a scientific law.  Years of research in experimental and applied Behavior Analysis have proven that positive reinforcement increases behavior.  See “What is ABA and Why is it so Important to Autism?

(more…)

Read More

5 Helpful Tips to Make Life Easier for Autism Families

autism, tagteach, ABA, positive reinforcement

This article features helpful comments for parents of young children from Ms. Ricky Teichman, Director at The Puzzle Place, a daycare and preschool in Freehold, NJ for children with autism and other special needs.

 

Being a parent or guardian of kids with autism means having a different set of guidelines from that of non-autism homes. Careful decisions have to be made, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t be a confident caregiver to your special-needs child. Thankfully, there are practical and proven ways to make living with autism more manageable both for you and your child.

1.  Keep in mind that consistency is key

If there is one thing that a child with autism needs, it is an established routine. For instance, if you use positive reinforcement for good behavior, make sure to use it consistently while explaining why you’re rewarding your child. A regular system will help reinforce the learning techniques from school or daycare, including communication tools. Keeping to a structured schedule for mealtimes, playtime, and bedtime can also help keep unruly behavior at bay.

2.  Talk to other autism families

You will need a support group, and where better to get it than from other people who are going through similar circumstances? You can bond with other parents or guardians at therapy, or go on social networking sites and forums online to discuss tips on how they deal with autism. While others have different methods and advice to give, you can still learn from their experience what will and won’t work for your own child. The bottom line is, there is no need to feel alone when you aren’t.

3.  Become an expert on your child’s own special needs

You will have to prepare yourself for the fact that you can (and most probably will) make mistakes in your mission as part of an autism family – and that’s okay! Kids with autism aren’t created the same, after all. The important thing is to become an expert when it comes to your own child. Learning the words, tools, medication, situations, and other factors that he or she responds well to (or which triggers disorderly behavior) will put you on the road to a more manageable, healthier home environment.

4.  Make your home accident-proof

All children thrive in safe, happy homes. Your child will need help with boundaries, so it’s your responsibility to provide verbal and visual cues to where they cannot go, or what they can’t play with. Create a zone that is accident-proof with tools like childproof locks, electrical outlet covers, safety latches, electric tape to cover exposed cords and outlets, locked drawers, light, padded furniture, and secured doors and windows. A room or area where you can keep constant supervision is a must.

5.  Shop for a daycare facility that really cares

Your child needs needs a high quality, developmentally-appropriate programming for infants, toddlers, and preschoolers with autism and related disorders. There are many daycare centers that promise a safe, supportive learning environment, yet fall short on many aspects including safety standards, child-to-caregiver ratio, and proper learning equipment. Do your research. Talk to parents of other kids with autism about the daycare facility they go to, and seek an honest assessment. Make a checklist of your must-haves, and don’t hesitate to ask the right questions to staff of potential facilities. It is your right as a parent or guardian to know who you will be entrusting your child to.

Along with patience and a lot of love, you can help build a thriving, supportive, and healthy environment for your child. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes and learn some more. You have a whole lifetime of discovering together what can help them (and you!) become happier, healthier, and more responsive people.

Ricky Teichman is the Director at The Puzzle Place, a daycare and preschool in Freehold, NJ for children with Autism and related disorders. You can reach her at 732-994-PUZZ (7899) or at info@ThePuzzlePlace.org. Learn more at http://thepuzzleplace.org/.

 

 

Read More

TAGteach for autism — it’s not Harry Potter, it’s behavioral science!

Zauberer mit magischen Kräften

When Hermione wants to pass through the locked door to the Chamber of Secrets, she waves her wand and cries out, “Alohamora!” In a flash the door opens. This is magic.

As autism parents, we don’t have magic wands. We do have taggers, small plastic boxes with a “magic button” that makes a click sound when pressed. TAGteach taggers, plus two facts, can help parents transform the behavior of their children with autism. With TAGteach it is easy to teach your child helpful skills like Safe Walking, Safe Car Trip Behavior, Going to the Grocery Store, and Sleeping. It’s also great for tantrum de-escalation.

TAGteach stands for Teaching with Acoustical Guidance. TAGteach is a teaching and communication method based on the scientific principles of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA).

The two facts are:

  • “Behavior” is “movement”
  • Positive Reinforcement Increases Behaviors (physical movements of the body)

TAGteach enables extremely precise positive reinforcement of behavior by using an acoustical signal to “mark” the behavior – at the precise moment the child performs the behavior. The acoustical signal is a short, sharp sound made by a handheld device (the “tagger”). When the child performs the correct action, the parent/instructor immediately presses the button on the tagger and hands over a treat (candy, treat, token, praise, social recognition, or money) as a reinforcer.

With TAGteach, it is easy to reinforce behaviors precisely and quickly. The immediate, accurate feedback and positive reinforcement result in the child performing the correct action more often, and for longer periods of time.

Let’s look at the difference between Harry Potter and TAGteach. With magic, here’s what Harry and his pals do:

  1. They wave their wands (action)
  2. Then something happens (event)

With TAGteach, here’s what autism parents can do:

  1. Wait for something good to happen (event)
  2. Then press the tagger (action)

The order is reversed. The wand makes something happen once. The tagger makes something good happen again. TAGteach is an excellent tool to help your child perform more great behaviors more often.

In order to help autism parents understand and apply these concepts, I have created a free online course that explains the basics of behavior science, how to observe your child and how to use reinforcement effectively.

Click Here for Free Course

Read More

How I taught my nonverbal child with autism to read

autism, reading, TAGteach, Direct Instruction, ABA

Reading — From dream to reality

I am the mother of a nonverbal boy with severe autism.

It was very important to me that my son be able to read:

  • I can accept that he has severe autism
  • I can accept that he is nonverbal
  • I could not accept that he would go through life not knowing how to read

It took me a long time and many hours of work. I made many mistakes. Eventually I succeeded. Here are the three steps I used to teach my son to read: 1) Make sure foundation skills are in place, 2) Use Direct Instruction reading programs, and 3) Provide lots of supports, lots of opportunities to practice, and high levels of positive reinforcement.

Step One: make sure foundation skills are in place

The skills a child with autism will need to begin reading instruction include the ability to sit at a table for at least 15-20 minutes and the ability to respond to questions or complete tasks (this is generally achieved through an ABA (Applied Behavior Analysis) or VB (Verbal Behavior) program).

During the pre-reading instruction, I focused on increasing the range of sounds my son could produce, and mastering as many labels of objects and actions as possible: such as cat, dog, house, running, sitting, sleeping and so forth.

(more…)

Read More

TAGteach for Autism: How the Science of B.F. Skinner Helped Our Family Gain Happiness

doug martha beachArticle originally published in Operants, the newsletter of the B.F. Skinner Foundation

I am the mother of a nonverbal teenage boy with severe autism. I’d like to tell you a little bit about my family’s journey with autism, and a lot about the wonderful method known as Teaching with Acoustical Guidance (TAGteach).

I will describe how TAGteach meets the three essential conditions for effective teaching, as delineated by Dr. B.F. Skinner, why this simple method is so effective for learners with autism, and how it can be a boon for autism families and autism professionals. At the end, I hope you will be inspired to try TAGteach for yourself!

Our autism journey

I love ABA now, but came to it by chance, not choice. The day my son was diagnosed with autism was the day that the world turned upside-down for us. It also ended up being the day that eventually brought us to ABA. After that fateful day, we had to deal with a devastating diagnosis, try to get services, find out that the best services (ABA) were out of reach, and then, figure out a way to move forward.

We moved forward first with ABA and Verbal Behavior, and eventually learned about Direct Instruction and Precision Teaching. Each of these made a huge contribution to my son’s progress. I was amazed by these effective scientific methods for teaching, and was astounded then (and still am) that they remain unfamiliar, under-utilized and often inaccessible for most families.

A huge stroke of luck came when I stumbled onto Teaching with Acoustical Guidance (TAGteach). My son had many difficult behaviors; as soon as I read about combining an event marker with positive reinforcement, I realized I had found a way to teach him helpful skills. This turned out to be the case.

autism, TAGteach, ABA, positive reinforcementWhat is TAGteach?

TAGteach stands for Teaching with Acoustical Guidance. TAGteach is a teaching and communication method based on the scientific principles of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA).

TAGteach enables extremely precise positive reinforcement of behavior by using an acoustical signal to “mark” a behavior – at the precise moment the child performs the behavior! The acoustical signal is a short, sharp click sound made by a handheld device (the “tagger”). When the child performs the correct action, the parent/instructor immediately presses the button on the tagger and hands over a treat (candy, treat, token, praise, social recognition, or money) as a reinforcer.

The TAG is a Conditioned Reinforcer

After a few experiences of hearing the tag and receiving a reinforcer, the child quickly learns that the tag means good things are coming. He starts to look out for the sound, and more importantly, starts figuring out what caused this nice event to happen. The child then relies on the tag to tell him to do that good action again. At this point, it is possible to shape new behaviors in the child quickly and efficiently. TAGteach is so reliable because it meets the three essential conditions for effective teaching, as described below.

The Three Essential Conditions for an Effective Teaching Program

Over fifty years ago, Dr. B.F. Skinner described the three essential conditions of an effective teaching program. They are:

  • Immediate feedback
  • Moving at the child’s pace
  • Learning in many small steps

Let’s see how TAGteach meets each of these requirements.

autism, TAGteach, ABA, positive reinforcementImmediate Feedback

When learning a skill, immediate feedback on whether your response is correct or incorrect is essential to effective learning. Why? Because, when you know instantly that you did something right, you feel success! You will do that good thing again, and you will be willing to try the next step because you have a history of success.

In contrast, delays in feedback lead to delays in learning. If you’re not sure, or if you feel uncertain, you won’t know which action was correct.  You won’t feel confident when another task is presented.  The delay results in confusion and dismay, which negatively affect learning.

How does TAGteach deliver immediate feedback?

With the “tag,” the acoustical signal marks the correct action at the exact moment the child performs it!

In a TAGteach setting, the child (perhaps a child with autism or another disability) performs an action. If the child performs a desired action (for example, putting a puzzle piece in place, saying his name at an appropriate vocal level, or rolling a ball), the parent/instructor immediately “tags” the action with a tagger (the key acoustical signal in TAGteach) and follows up with a reinforcer (a treat or reward to the child’s liking).

Since the child receives the acoustical feedback (the “tag”) at the split second she performs the action, she knows exactly what she did that is right!  This is exhilarating for any child, but especially a child with autism. The “tag” signals success!  “Yes, you did it!”  She feels happy, confident, ready to repeat that great action, and emotionally ready for the next step.

Thus the tag provides immediate feedback to the learner, and TAGteach delivers on the first of these three essential conditions.

autism, TAGteach, ABA, positive reinforcementMoving at the Child’s Pace

Dr. Skinner emphasized the need for students to learn at their own pace.  Learning at her own pace is crucial for a child with autism. These children have so many sensory and emotional issues that the teaching process must respect their need for time to respond to, and understand new stimuli.

Since children with autism often have problems with pre-cursor learning skills such as eye contact and imitation skills, it is important to teach these. Yet, eye contact, for example, can be a difficult task for a child with autism for a variety of reasons.

How does TAGteach allow the child to learn at her own pace?

By observing the child and waiting for her to act.

In a TAGteach environment, the focus is on observing the child and waiting for her to perform the desired action. In the teaching goal discussed above, the solution is not to force eye contact, but to reinforce it whenever the child performs it. Eye contact, by its very nature, is a fleeting behavior. It is often just a flash and then it disappears.

TAGteach, with the quick “tag,” captures each flicker of eye contact whenever the child chooses to perform it. If the child performs it only once a day or once a week, it will be reinforced at that rate. As the child gains comfort and performs the skill more often, it will be reinforced more often. TAGteach respects the child’s ability to perform this behavior, and allows the child to build it at her own pace.

The TAGteach practice of observing and waiting for the child ensures that the child learns at her own pace, the second of Dr. Skinner’s essential conditions.

autism, TAGteach, ABA, positive reinforcementLearning Organized in Small Steps

The third essential condition for effective learning is a carefully constructed program where the skill is taught in many small steps. The reason for this is to ensure that the child experiences success in the learning progression. Many successful small steps result in a confident, motivated learner.

How does TAGteach deliver learning in small steps?

With the “tag point” process.

The tag point describes the exact physical movement which will earn the “tag” and reinforcement. The tag point must meet four criteria:

  • What I want
  • One Criterion
  • Observable
  • Five Words or Less

Also, the first tag point must be set at the “point of success.” This means that you start reinforcing a child for performing a behavior she can already do.

Let’s go back to the example of teaching eye contact. We tend to think of eye contact as two people locking their eyes in a mutual gaze. Yet, this girl may not be able to do that; in fact, she may keep her head turned away from people. The first tag point would not be “Looks at me,” but may be, “Head turns ¼ to front.” So, every time she moves her head slightly towards her mother or an instructor, she earns the “tag” and reinforcement.

With time, practice and patience she will regularly turn ¼ to the front, then slightly more, until she is comfortable facing people directly. Once she is comfortable facing people, the tag points can be set for a progression such as “Eyes on my neck/chin,” “Eyes on my cheek/nose,” “Eyes on my eyes.” After she is comfortable with the “Eyes on my eyes” tag point, you can work on duration, until she is comfortable with maintaining eye contact. These many small steps take a child from avoiding eye contact to being comfortable with appropriate eye contact, thus mastering an important learning readiness skill.

With the tag point process, any parent or instructor can start teaching a child a new skill. Start out with something the child can already do. When that is mastered, add one very tiny step to the process and reinforce that until the child is comfortable. Keep building from there.

TAGteach, with the acoustical signal from the “tag,” delivers on all three of the essential conditions outlined by Dr. Skinner. This is the reason for the success of TAGteach.

In summary, with TAGteach it is easy to reinforce behaviors precisely and quickly. The immediate, accurate feedback and positive reinforcement result in the child performing the correct action more often, and for longer periods of time. With immediate feedback and learning tasks broken down into small steps, children can learn many new skills with TAGteach — at their own pace.

Why is TAGteach Ideal for Children with Autism?

The acoustical signal gets around the common problems of sensory processing and speech processing in children with autism, and offers precise, instantaneous reinforcement in place of slower, traditional verbal reinforcement.

TAGteach gets around Sensory and Speech Processing Problems

TAGteach is ideal for children with autism because it gets around the sensory problems commonly associated with autism. Recent research tells us that children with autism perceive physical actions as happening faster than they do in reality, and process speech sounds much more slowly. This places high sensory demands on the child because he has to try to coordinate fast movement with slow words—quite an obstacle to learning.

TAGteach cuts through the confusion. TAGteach uses one consistent sound (the “tag”) to deliver one consistent message, “Yes! You are correct. Now you are getting a reward.” This clear and simple information makes a huge impact. The child quickly learns that the sound means reinforcement is on the way! He learns to look out for it and pay attention to what causes the reinforcement. When he is engaged with his environment and looking for reinforcement, you can start shaping behaviors.

TAGteach lets you deliver reinforcement on time

Slow, late reinforcement causes delays in learning. With TAGteach you can mark a behavior instantaneously and reinforce it promptly. This speeds up the learning process.

Karen Pryor, author of Don’t Shoot the Dog, has a beautiful description of why an audible sound is much better at “marking” a behavior than our spoken words:

“… [P]lease note that the human voice is a very poor marker signal… too long, too slow, too variable, carrying too many confounding messages (your sex, your age, your mood, your health, etc.) and it also almost always late. Furthermore, you can’t distinguish when you are a mini-second late with your voice, but you CAN tell at once, without experience, when your click is late. (Karen Pryor, Penn State Listserve System, Standard Celeration Society, 18 May 2005.)

For these reasons, TAGteach is effective in increasing skills in children with autism.

TAGteach has great potential to help autism families

To teach a child with autism, it is imperative to know about the use of positive reinforcement to build skills, and the use of reinforcement schedules to maintain skills.

The beauty of the TAGteach method is that it takes this body of scientific knowledge and simplifies the teaching protocols to the point where non-experts can implement them, including grieving, overwhelmed, exhausted autism parents. TAGteach gives parents a way to put their keen observational skills to good use and help their children learn functional skills. Everyone wins.

TAGteach has great potential to help autism professionals

There is so much potential to teach so many things with this beautiful method. TAGteach can be a wonderful complement to ABA and VB programs: every time the child makes the desired response, tag and reinforce. The accuracy and clarity of reinforcement can speed up the learning process.

TAGteach is outstanding for working in the natural environment. As the child walks around, it is easy to mark and reinforce even the tiniest muscle flinch of touch, play, eye contact or vocalization behaviors.

autism, TAGteach, ABA, positive reinforcementFor teaching social skills, there is tremendous potential, especially with the “peer tagging” approach. In peer tagging, each participant in a small group is given taggers to mark and reinforce the target behaviors of that particular session.  As they observe and reinforce each other for the desired behaviors, they learn them faster, and have a good time doing it.

I could go on, but will stop here. I hope you share my vision of how TAGteach can help children, parents, instructors, aides and professionals in the autism community.

There are so many creative applications possible, I’ve listed only a few here. We are limited only by our imaginations, so let’s unleash them and get going!

More Information About TAGteach

TAGteach stands for Teaching with Acoustical Guidance. TAGteach is a teaching and communication method based on the scientific principles of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA).

TAGteach enables extremely precise positive reinforcement of behavior by using an acoustical signal to “mark” the behavior – at the precise moment the child performs the behavior! The acoustical signal is a short, sharp sound made by a handheld device (the “tagger”). When the child performs the correct action, the parent/instructor immediately presses the button on the tagger and hands over a treat (candy, treat, token, praise, social recognition, or money) as a reinforcer.

With TAGteach, it is easy to reinforce behaviors precisely and quickly. The immediate, accurate feedback and positive reinforcement result in the child performing the correct action more often, and for longer periods of time. With immediate feedback and learning tasks broken down into small steps, children (and adults) can learn many new skills with TAGteach — at their own pace.

autism, TAGteach, ABA, positive reinforcementTAGteach International website.

TAGteach taggers available here.

Book by Martha Gabler about TAGteach for Autism.

More information, ask here.

Martha Gabler’s Mailing list sign-up here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Read More

Got Autism? Need food? Here’s how you can teach your child to go to the grocery store. 

autism, TAGteach, ABA, positive reinforcement

Check out this list of stressors for a kid with autism:

  • Bright lights pulsating overhead.
  • Tinny music.
  • People, kids and carts milling around.
  • Water sprayers misting the vegetables.
  • And my pet peeve: the coupon dispensers with their blinking red lights waving coupons at eye level.

Think this is stressing for a kid with autism?  Think this is a challenging environment for an autism parent to manage while also trying to shop for food?

Well, you’re right. The prospect of taking a kid with autism through the grocery store can bring people to tears or to their knees. It doesn’t have to be that way.

Food is Health, Family History and Culture

Every family needs to go to the grocery story, and it should be happy experience. The grocery store is an important learning environment!  Families talk about healthy foods, or explain what Grandma needs to make her famous holiday recipe. Family lore and culture is passed on via food. All kids deserve this experience, including kids with autism.

(more…)

Read More

Tick, tock, tag: autism, teaching and time

autism, tagteach, ABA, positive reinforcementTime is precious.

Time passes.

Time lost can never be recovered.

As autism parents, we are excruciatingly aware of time.

How helpful it would be if we could teach our children more efficiently, so that they could learn more skills in a shorter time. I’d like to tell you about Teaching with Acoustical Guidance, or TAGteach, an ABA-based method for increasing productive skills, and how it can help you teach a child more quickly and effectively.

Delayed Integration of Sights and Sounds in Autism

Children with autism often process sounds and sights, not simultaneously, but with a slight delay. When watching and listening to an instructor, the child with autism will see the lips and arms moving faster and will process the words more slowly. The child sees more action in less time and needs more time to decipher spoken words. It’s easy to see how this sensory and time disconnect would be a stressor for the child. It could result in speech problems, learning problems, frustration, and behavior problems.

So, how do you teach a child who is not experiencing his environment in the same time frame as we do? How do you make allowances? How do you provide effective supports to overcome this disconnect? I believe that TAGteach is a solution. The clear acoustical signal gets around the problems of sensory processing disconnect by providing precise, instantaneous reinforcement — in place of slower, traditional verbal reinforcement. The tag encourages the child to stay focused on what she is doing. No interruptions, no confusion, better learning!

autism, tagteach, ABA, positive reinforcement, Applied Behavior Analysis

How TAGteach helps children with autism learn

TAGteach enables extremely precise positive reinforcement of behavior by using an acoustical signal to “mark” the behavior – at the exact time the child performs the behavior! The acoustical signal is a short, sharp sound made by a handheld device (the “tagger”). When the child performs the correct action, the parent/instructor immediately presses the button on the tagger and hands over a treat (candy, treat, token, praise, social recognition, or money) as a reinforcer.

With TAGteach, it is easy to reinforce behaviors precisely, quickly and exactly on time. The immediate, accurate feedback and positive reinforcement result in the child performing the correct action more often, and for longer periods of time. With immediate feedback and learning tasks broken down into small steps, children (and adults) can learn many new skills with TAGteach — at their own pace.

A sound is better than verbal praise? Why?

Many people are still learning about the benefits of using a consistent sound, the “tag,” to mark a behavior. This is new to the mainstream, and often people wonder why a verbal comment like, “Good job” or “Yes, you’re right” isn’t as effective. Karen Pryor, internationally renowned author, and a pioneer in the development of force-free training methods, has a beautiful description of why an audible sound is much better at “marking” a behavior than our spoken words:

“…please note that the human voice is a very poor marker signal… too long, too slow, too variable, carrying too many confounding messages (your sex, your age, your mood, your health, etc.) and it also almost always late. Furthermore, you can’t distinguish when you are a mini-second late with your voice, but you CAN tell at once, without experience, when your click is late. (Karen Pryor, Penn State Listserve System, Standard Celeration Society, 18 May 2005.)

The tag delivers one message — success — without burdening the child with our slow words and personal emotional issues. Best of all — the the tag delivering this message on time!

To sum up, TAGteach lets you deliver reinforcement on time, so you can build skills more effectively. Time is a precious commodity in the life of a child with autism. We need to use our time wisely to teach a child as many skills as possible in the shortest amount of time.

 

autism, tagteach, ABA, positive reinforcement

TAGteach is easy to learn and easy to do. It is effective and low cost. It is a boon to families who need to teach their children the skills needed for everyday life. TAGteach gives parents an accessible, scientific way to teach new behaviors, rather than constantly managing or struggling with difficult and sometimes even dangerous behaviors. I recommend it to all parents for their consideration.

First published at the Behavior Station Guest Blog: The Behavior Station’s mission is to stay on track with ethical and professional standards of behavior analysis while transporting resources and mapping out science-based information as a means of guiding one to the best-supported platform on their life journey, regardless of the final destination.

autism, tagteach, ABA, positive reinforcement

For more information visit the TAGteach website.

Join the free TAGteach Yahoo Group.

TAGteach taggers are available here.

See Martha’s book about TAGteach for Autism or feel free to ask me a question (with no obligation).

Sign up for my mailing list to receive updates, new articles and free tips right in your inbox!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

TAGteach stands for Teaching with Acoustical Guidance. TAGteach is a teaching and communication method based on the scientific principles of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA).

 

TAGteach enables extremely precise positive reinforcement of behavior by using an acoustical signal to “mark” the behavior – at the precise moment the child performs the behavior! The acoustical signal is a short, sharp sound made by a handheld device (the “tagger”). When the child performs the correct action, the parent/instructor immediately presses the button on the tagger and hands over a treat (candy, treat, token, praise, social recognition, or money) as a reinforcer.

 

With TAGteach, it is easy to reinforce behaviors precisely and quickly. The immediate, accurate feedback and positive reinforcement result in the child performing the correct action more often, and for longer periods of time. With immediate feedback and learning tasks broken down into small steps, children (and adults) can learn many new skills with TAGteach — at their own pace.

 

For example, an instructor is teaching a child to follow directions and says, “Pick up the crayon.” If the child picks up the crayon, she is correct. If she picks up a pencil or eraser, or walks away, she made an incorrect response.  With TAGteach, the instant her hand hovered over the crayon, the instructor would

 

 

 

“We have no time to stand and stare.”  W.H. Davies, Welsh poet.

 

“… my time has been properly spent.”  Ann and Jane Taylor, English writers. 1806.

 

“Time is fleeting.”  Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. American poet. 1838.

 

There is one thing stronger than all the armies in the world, and that is an idea whose time has come.  Anonymous.

 

 

Tick, tock, tag!  Autism, teaching and time.

 

 

Articles:  Simple Movement:  http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/05/130508131829.htm

 

Sights and Sounds out-of-sync: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/01/15/children-with-autism-sights-and-sounds-out-of-sync_n_4604231.html

 

Time Perception Different in Autism:  http://autism.lovetoknow.com/Time_Perception_in_Autism_Spectrum_Disorder

Read More

Got autism? Want a happy car trip? Here’s how you can teach your child.

autism, tagteach, ABA, positive reinforcement

 

Do you have a hard time taking your child places in the car?

Does your child make noises or flail about?

Do you feel nervous when you set out?

Would you like to concentrate on traffic instead of an agitated child?

Good car behavior is critical for the well-being of the family. Life is better when your child feels calm and happy in the car, and the family can go out and have a good time.

TAGteach is an excellent and easy way to build good car travel skills in small increments. With TAGteach, you “tag” a desired behavior of the child with an event marker signal (the “tagger”) and then “reinforce” (give a treat of the child’s liking). TAGteach allows the child to experience success for very small behaviors that eventually add up to a strong, complex behavior. Use the tag points below (and modify as necessary!) to teach your child to cooperate with getting into the car, and sitting calmly and quietly for the duration of the drive.

First small step: show that the car is a great place to be

Instead of taking an anxious child out in the car, start by showing the child that the car is just an object on the driveway. Park the car on the driveway and tag and reinforce the child every time she looks at or walks near the car. Here are some potential movements to tag:

  1. Child walks next to car, Tag and Reinforce.
  2. Child stands next to car, Tag and Reinforce.
  3. Child touches or opens car door, Tag and Reinforce.
  4. Child walks to another door, Tag and Reinforce.
  5. Child touches or opens another door, Tag and Reinforce.
  6. Child glances inside car, Tag and Reinforce.

Give the child as much time as she needs to become comfortable around the exterior of the car. Spend a few minutes several times a day working around the exterior of the car. Keep it up until your child is comfortable.

(more…)

Read More