These are the sounds autism parents hear all too frequently in their homes.
They never seem to stop.
They drive us to distraction.
They can destroy the peace and quiet of the family. But, something can be done.
When my son was little, he did a lot of screaming and verbal stimming. I discovered that with the positive behavioral method known as TAGteach (Teaching with Acoustical Guidance) I was able to reduce these sounds, increase appropriate vocalizations and get some of that precious peace and quiet.
TAGteach uses positive reinforcement
TAGteach is based on the science of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) and uses positive reinforcement to build desired behaviors. In addition to the positive reinforcement, TAGteach adds an “event marker” i.e., an acoustical signal to indicate to the child when he/she has performed a desired behavior. The acoustical signal is generally a click sound, called a “tag” made by any type of clicker device, or better yet, a TAGteach tagger. After the “tag,” you give a reinforcer to the child. Here’s how I used this. (more…)
Okay, TAGteach. I’m a parent. What’s in it for me?
Answer: A better life
TAGteach is a way to improve your family’s home life and give you more opportunities to include your child with autism in everyday outings.
TAGteach is a way to teach and communicate with your child.
TAGteach is an easy, effective, low-cost and scientifically-based way for parents to increase their child’s functional skills.
TAGteach is great for parents. Here’s why.
You already know 95% of what you need to know to use TAGteach!
You observe your child every day, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
You know your child.
You know your child’s needs and wants.
You are familiar with his setting.
You know his routines, triggers, limits and sensory profile.
You have a trained eye!
You are the expert on your family.
You know your family’s priorities.
You can apply your family’s values.
You can tailor everything precisely to your unique situation.
You have 95% of the knowledge you need to teach your child the behaviors he needs – the behaviors that will increase your family’s opportunities for a happier home life and participation in the community.
We’ve discussed the first two conditions described by Dr. B.F. Skinner, Immediate Feedback and Student Learns At Own Pace. This post will address the third condition.
Learning 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.
We’ve already discussed the first condition, Immediate Feedback. This post will address the second condition: Student Learns at Own Pace.
Student Learns at Own Pace
Dr. Skinner emphasizes the need for students to learn at their own pace. Learning at her own pace is crucial for a child with autism. Our kids 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.
Today’s guest post comes to us courtesy of Elna Cain. Elna is a freelance writer who lives in Northern Canada with her husband and twin children. She is a former Special Education Assistant (SEA) and Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapist for children with autism.
Elna’s Background in Autism
As a Special Education Assistant (SEA) and ABA Instructor for over 10 years, I’ve witnessed many breakthroughs in a child’s success to learning.
I’ve helped children learn how to play with their peers, to wait patiently in line, to ride a bike and even how to enjoy eating pizza. Many, if not all, of those successes were attributed to effective reinforcement.
What is Reinforcement?
Reinforcement is the addition or removal of a stimulus in order to increase or decrease the likelihood of a behavior.
In other words, do you know the ding ding ding noise you hear when you open your car door? That annoying sound is a stimulus that will increase your likelihood of putting on your seatbelt.
Car companies utilize negative reinforcement (putting on your seatbelt to stop the noise) as a way to increase seat belt wearing.
Similarly, when a teacher rewards a student for being quiet when they are working on a worksheet, he or she is using positive reinforcement, which will increase the likelihood of that student continuing being quiet.
Around the world people are using TAGteach to help children and adults learn new skills.
This article comes from Luca Canever, an educator and Level 3 TAGteacher from Verona, Italy. He shares his knowledge, dedication and love of positive reinforcement techniques at his website, TAGteach Italia.
Luca tells how he came up with great reinforcement ideas for his entire class (group reinforcement!), and how he used TAGteach to help students with specific problem areas. Here is his story.
TAGteach at school: Reinforcing the group
Managing the reinforcement for a group of people is one of the major difficulties that we may encounter. Especially if the people in question are 20 kids, 11 years old, with interests and personalities different from each other.
For the last two months I’ve been working in a school as a teacher. For the first time, I have the chance to use the marker with a large group — a group with no particular desire to be at school! How can we reinforce them? Some of the kids enjoy candies, some others like beads or extra time for recess. There are (they exist!) students who find study itself reinforcing, but, they are very, very, very rare.
These conditions are as important for children with autism and other disabilities as they are for typically developing children. Luckily, we now have TAGteach (Teaching with Acoustical Guidance), so let’s see how TAGteach meets these three essential criteria. First we’ll discuss how TAGteach addresses the need for immediate feedback, then we’ll talk about the other ones.
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 it 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.
Dr. Skinner describing optimum conditions for human learning
This fascinating six minute video from 1954 shows Dr. B.F. Skinner discussing the advantages of learning machines.
He describes how immediate feedback “…leads most rapidly to formation of the correct behavior,” and has a “motivating effect.”
Since the student moves through the program at his or her own pace, the student “…moves at the rate which is most effective for him.”
Finally, with a carefully constructed program, the student goes from the initial stage of being “unfamiliar” with a subject to the final stage in which he is “competent.” He achieves this through a series of very small, successful steps.
Thus the three essential conditions for effective learning are:
moving at the child’s pace
learning in many small steps
For more information about Dr. Skinner and his extensive contributions to science, please see the B.F. Skinner Foundation.
TAGteach (Teaching with Acoustical Guidance) is an application of ABA that delivers these three essential conditions for learning. See information below.
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 can learn many new skills with TAGteach — at their own pace.
If you are an autism parent, you probably want to help your kid learn new skills.
If you want to help your kid learn new skills, you may not be aware of the “acoustical” support.
You may not be aware that the acoustical support is a great way to help kids with autism learn, even the severe kids, the nonverbal kids and the super-sensory kids.
And guess what else? It’s easy, effective and low-cost — a rare combination in the autism world.
So what exactly is an acoustical support?
An acoustical support is a neutral sound: a tap, click or ping. The sound is communication. The sound tells a child that she has done something right–at the precise moment she does it! The sound tells her, “YES, you did it, and now you are getting a reward.” The sound gives her success and makes her feel good. The sound makes her want to do that great thing again.
Here’s an example: increasing play skills
Let’s say your child has just touched a toy. Since many kids with autism don’t play with toys, we want them to learn how. Now your child has just touched a toy. That’s great! That’s the first step. With your handy TAGteach tagger, immediately press it to “tag” her action of touching the toy. Right after that, hand over a reinforcer (something she really likes).
Guess what? She’ll figure out very quickly that she got attention, success and a very nice treat from Mom when she touched the toy. And then guess what? She’ll try touching again. Maybe she’ll touch another toy, or touch the toy for a longer period of time. You’re on your way to expanding her play skills.