Got autism? Want to communicate with your child? Use TAGteach so you and your child can “talk” without words.

How to communicate

As autism parents, many of us find ourselves raising children with communication and language challenges. How do you communicate with a child whose use of language is atypical, or a child like mine who is profoundly nonverbal?

There are alternative communication approaches: picture symbols, sign language, communication devices. These are all excellent.

A new way to “talk”

There is yet another option for communicating with our kids. It is based on behavioral science. It is the TAGteach combination of observation, the acoustical support, and positive reinforcement.

(To learn about the basics of the TAGteach method, Teaching with Acoustical Guidance, please visit the Resources pages on this site:

The TAGteach “communication” system helps you do these things:

  •  “Listen” with your eyes
  • Give immediate positive feedback with a sound
  • Increase productive behaviors
  • Give your child the freedom to explore and act in an emotionally secure environment

“Listen” with your eyes

When you “listen” with your eyes, you observe your child closely as he moves through his day. You can see that some behaviors (physical movements of the body) are productive and others are not. All of his behaviors happen because of the level of positive reinforcement in his environment, both the productive and unproductive behaviors.

Your child, via his behavior during the day, is telling you that he is receiving positive reinforcement for these physical actions. We may not understand what features in his environment are “reinforcing” these behaviors, but the laws of behavioral science tell us that behaviors keep happening because of positive consequences. Conversely, if he is not performing certain behaviors, he is telling us that he is not receiving positive reinforcement for those behaviors. This is how he communicates without words.

Here is the first channel of communication: your child can “tell” you which of his behaviors are receiving reinforcement: basically, everything that he is doing is being reinforced. Everything he is not doing is not being reinforced.

Give immediate positive feedback with a sound

Here is the second channel of communication: we can tell our child which behaviors we would like him to do —  via the acoustical support and positive reinforcement.

When we see behaviors that are productive, or that can be the foundation for new skills, we can provide reinforcement specifically for those behaviors. We can tell him, “Yes! Do more of that great thing! That will help you learn.”

We can communicate back to our child easily, quickly and accurate with a “tag”, the acoustical signal of TAGteach. As soon as your child performs a productive behavior, tag and reinforce! Tag and reinforce every time he does it.

The tag is how you communicate, “Yes, that’s it! Woohoo! More of that please!” You are telling him without words. Your super-sensitive child with autism will quickly pick up on the tag and reinforcement, and start performing more of that great behavior.

Increase productive behaviors

You now have a communication channel in place:

  • The child communicates to you via his behaviors; he “tells” you what actions are receiving reinforcement (or are not receiving reinforcement) in his environment
  • You communicate back with your tags, “Do more of Behavior A”
  • The child performs more of Behavior A

Now you look around and notice, “Ah ha, that other behavior, Behavior B, also has potential. I’ll start tagging and reinforcing Behavior B.” And you do. As your child receives the information and reinforcement — from the tag — that Behavior B is what mom or dad wants, he will do more of Behavior B.

You and your child are communicating and responding to each other — without words. He is learning and changing, you are increasing his skills, and both are interacting.

Give your child the freedom to explore and act in an emotionally secure environment

autism, TAGteach, ABA, positive reinforcementWhen you observe your child and use positive reinforcement to “shape” his physical movements into productive skills, you are not only teaching him, you are giving him freedom to explore and learn at his own pace.

With positive reinforcement and TAGteach, there is no punishment. You increase behaviors and develop new skills solely via positive reinforcement. When a child lives in a force-free, punishment-free environment, he feels secure to experiment with new behaviors.

He experiences that certain behaviors result in reinforcement, and other behaviors result in, well, nothing. If a behavior results in nothing, he’ll decide pretty quickly to abandon it. After all, there are lots of new behaviors that do result in tags and positive reinforcement: much better to pay attention to those tags and see how happy it makes mom and dad.

Take the leap

TAGteach offers a unique opportunity to communicate effectively with a child with language and communication challenges. With our eyes we see the behaviors that are receiving positive reinforcement. With the sound of the tag and positive reinforcement, we can tell him which behaviors we would like him to do more often. By increasing the desired behavior, the child tells us that the reinforcement is effective.

This is the communication loop:

  • Behavior (child)
  • Tag and reinforce (parent/instructor)
  • Behavior (child)
  • Tag and reinforce (parent/instructor)

This is interaction. This is an alternate form of communication.

Do we want words and language? Of course. You can use TAGteach to increase sounds and vocalizations in your child. One form of communication leads to another.

Start today. Pick up a tagger (or a ballpoint pen or flashlight with clicky top). Tag and reinforce behaviors you like. Watch your child learn — joyfully and confidently.

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).

autism, TAGteach, ABA, positive reinforcementTAGteach 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 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!

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Got autism? Want your child to exercise and have fun outside? Use TAGteach to increase gross motor skills.

Fluency

This article focuses on gross motor skills, and how to use the always helpful and easy TAGteach method (Teaching with Acoustical Guidance) to encourage your child to get out, move his body, and have fun outside.

Physical activity and exercise offer many benefits to children with autism, including improved muscle tone, improved social skills, and stronger attention skills. Exercise and outdoor activities are important for the health of adult individuals with autism. We can increase our children’s physical skills and their comfort in exploring new physical environments with the right tools and facts.

FACT 1: “Behavior” is “movement”

Here’s the rule about behavior:

Behavior is movement, physical movement of the body. (1)

Once you know that behavior is composed of physical movements of the body, you can study how your child “moves” the parts of his body. A great way to do this is by filling out the free Child Observation Chart. When your child is outside, make notes of how he moves his legs, arms, head, and torso. Note areas of physical strength and weakness. This information will give you a good idea of where to start.

Look at the list of physical movements on your chart. Pick out one or two physical movements that the child is already doing fairly well, and start “tagging” and reinforcing those movements. The goal of this is two-fold: to start at a point of success for the child, and to solidify his current level of abilities so that he has a strong foundation for building new physical skills.

For example, you may see that a child can grasp the handrail on a piece of playground equipment and step on the first step, but hesitates to walk up the steps to the next level. You want to encourage him, not force him, to take that next step. How to encourage your child? By providing positive reinforcement for a physical movement he makes that will lead toward going up the steps. An obvious goal is: moving to the next step. I would set two tag points to work on this. The first one would be Lift Foot, and the second would be Foot On Next Step. My goal would be to increase these two behaviors. How to increase behaviors? The answer is: Fact 2.

FACT 2: Positive Reinforcement Increases Behaviors (physical movements of the body)

Here’s the rule about positive reinforcement:

“Behavior that is already occurring, no matter how sporadically, can always be intensified with positive reinforcement.” (2)

Positive reinforcement causes a behavior to occur more often. TAGteach is an excellent way to encourage and reinforce a child for taking that next step. When your child climbs on the playground equipment, simply stand back, observe and wait. As soon as you see the child lift one foot up, tag and reinforce. The child may put his foot on the next step or he may not. The first goal is to help him feel comfortable and secure in lifting a foot upwards. Your child will, at some point, lift up a foot again, so tag and reinforce this action. Continue tagging Lift Foot, and as soon as he plants that foot on the next step, tag and reinforce Foot On Step.

Repeat this process for a reasonable length of time, and stop as soon as the child displays even the slightest flicker of fatigue or restlessness. The lesson is over. The next time your child heads for this piece of play equipment, he may need to start out at the beginning, or he may feel comfortable going up a few steps. Repeat the process. Tag and reinforce him for Lift Foot and Foot On Next Step. With time and patience, your child will learn to go up the steps when he is ready.

Use TAGteach to increase the range and strength of physical movements

autism, tagteach, ABA, positive reinforcementGross motor skills are easy to teach with TAGteach: observe the learner, analyze the task, start teaching the learner the pre-requisite skills starting out with something he or she can already do, tag and reinforce each component physical movement, teach to mastery, then repeat.

By observing, tagging and reinforcing specific physical movements, you can increase the number and variety of movements that your child makes. As he grows comfortable increasing his range of physical movements, he will try more, achieve more, and be able to participate in more activities.

People in all walks of life use TAGteach to teach walking, running, skipping, climbing, ball skills, scooter and bike riding, ice skating, swimming, horseback riding, boating, gymnastics, archery and golf, to learners of all ages and ability levels.

Use Peer-Tagging to increase social interaction

Another great way to encourage physical activity and social interaction is with “peer-tagging.” With peer tagging, students take turns “tagging” each other for correct physical actions. In the picture above you can see one girl tagging another athlete for correct arm position in gymnastics. Kids love peer-tagging because they help each other succeed.

Physical exercise and outdoor activities are important for health and happiness. Our kids can participate safely and happily too, with a little support, thoughtful preparation, and precisely targeted positive reinforcement.

What is TAGteach?

autism, TAGteach, ABA, positive reinforcementTAGteach 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 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!

 

(1) From Dr. Martin Kozloff, Educating Children with Learning and Behavior Problems 
(2) From Karen Pryor, Don't Shoot the Dog! The New Art of Teaching and Training

 

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TAGteach: What is a “tag point”?

TAG Point Criteria

Have you ever asked, “What’s the point?”

In TAGteach, we ask, “What’s the tag point?”

In TAGteach, the “tag point” is the absolute part of a behavior that, when performed, will receive the audible mark (tag). It is a specific physical movement that we want a learner to do.

For example, if a child is learning to climb up the stairs, we might set a tag point, “Foot On Step.” When teaching a child to write the letter V, the first tag point might be “Pencil on Top Line.” The tag point is the specific physical movement that will be tagged by an audible marker and that will result in reinforcement for the learner.

The child will hear the tag sound, know that he did the behavior correctly and will try to do it again correctly the next time.

autism, tagteach, ABA, positive reinforcementThe tag point is what we look for and reinforce

The tag point is the crucial component of 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).

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Martha Gabler BAM Radio Podcast


BAM radio logo

 

Martha was a recent guest on BAM Radio, talking to host Sharon Plante about TAGteach and helping kids with autism learn at their own pace.

 

Click to Listen

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Got autism? Want to increase a child’s self-care skills? Use TAGteach to increase fine motor skills.

Fluency2

This article focuses on fine motor skills, and how to use the effective, scientific TAGteach method (Teaching with Acoustical Guidance) to help your child build these skills.

If you are not familiar with the basics of the TAGteach method, please visit the Resources pages on this site:

Why work on fine motor skills?

Recent research has shown that an important factor for success for individuals with autism in adulthood is the level of self-care skills: individuals with higher levels of self-care have higher levels of employment and needed fewer supports. This fact alone is an important reason for focusing on these crucial skills. Self-care skills also make for a less stressful, more smoothly running and ultimately happier household. We can increase these vital skills with the right tools and through understanding certain facts.

FACT 1: “Behavior” is “movement”

Here’s the rule about behavior:

Behavior is movement, physical movement of the body. (1)

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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.

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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).

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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?

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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/.

 

 

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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

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