A few weeks ago, a behavior popped up after a long absence: finger licking and face rubbing. Having already dealt with this once before, I was ready to tackle it again.
This time, my son (nonverbal, severe autism) added a new twist – a much more complex presentation of this behavior: he licked his fingers and rubbed vigorously around his mouth with one hand, then the other hand, and finished up by frantically rubbing his fingers together. The skin around his mouth was red and rubbed raw, with tiny white blisters popping up on his cheeks.
It took three long walks over three days to address this issue (often I use long walks as a time to work on behaviors). My plan was to tag and reinforce Hands Down behavior, also described in the previous post.
From a child’s point of view (whether that child has special needs or not), he or she needs to feel successful and happy when learning. A trusting, supportive relationship allows a child to thrive. Behavioral science gives us the tools to make this possible.
Dr. Susan Friedman, Professor of Psychology at Utah State University, explains how ABA (Applied Behavior Analysis) offers a scientifically sound teaching technology and ethical standard that can improve the lives of all learners.
Enjoy the 1 ½ minute video or read the transcript below!
Recently my son with autism had a bad flu that lasted for ten days. As his illness unfolded, he developed a deep cough.
Initially, a sick child coughs because of the irritation. However, as many autism families have experienced, a deep cough can turn into an unpleasant self-stimulatory behavior.
Problems of the coughing stim
If this problem develops, you have a situation where the child may walk up to people and cough loudly into their faces or ears, or may cough over someone’s dinner or the produce aisle at the grocery store. It’s unsanitary and stressful for all concerned.
When my son’s cough developed I decided to take action to prevent the possibility of it turning into a stim. With TAGteach I had success in one day.
“Behavior” is a huge concern in the autism community. Yet, when we talk about “behavior,” we’re actually using a technical term that has a specific meaning. Since so many issues in the autism community relate to “behavior,” it’s important that we all talk about the same thing!
The Mirriam-Webster on-line dictionary states that behavior is:
the manner of conducting oneself
anything that an organism does involving action and response to stimulation
the response of an individual, group, or species to its environment (1)
The Iris Center for the study of disabilities says:
“Behavior is something that a person does that can be observed, measured, and repeated.” (2)
Your special needs child will do best with a strong team of professionals and parents working together. You are the expert when it comes to your child. The professionals working with your child will have more success when you work to support a relationship with them. Here are 10 tips from Bethan Mair Williams to help you get the most for your child through a successful relationship with your support team. Bethan is a Speech Language Therapist/Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) with more than twenty years of experience in working with children with special needs, training and supervising classroom staff, and developing data collection and interpretation systems.
What do you do when a child with autism will not wear something that is required for safety?
This was the problem facing a therapeutic riding center with one client, an eight-year old boy with autism. The boy would not wear the safety helmet.
The rules are clear: no helmet, no horse.
Jon Luke, a determined volunteer at the center, tells how he asked for and found a solution. A boy, a horse, a happy ending. Watch this drama unfold!
The volunteer asked the TAGteach community for help
“I volunteer at an equine therapeutic riding center and am looking for some help with getting a young Hispanic boy with autism to wear a helmet. We need to have him wearing a helmet but he keeps pulling it off. Has anyone had a similar challenge and, if so, what did you do to successfully get the rider to wear the helmet?
TAGteach is really a wonderful way to deal with difficult behaviors that can pop up when you least expect it.
A damaging behavior appears
Last fall I took my son out for a hike in a beautiful park with a trail around a small lake. We were having a nice time when I noticed with dismay that he was licking his fingers and rubbing his chin and neck, although there was no apparent medical problem.
TAGteach is a great tool for dealing with those “pop-up” challenges that erupt when we least expect them.
A few days ago my teenage son (non-verbal, severe autism) stumbled in the evening when going up the stairs. The next morning he was unable to put weight on his left foot, so he hopped bravely around the house on his right foot.
We made an appointment for him right away and pulled out some old crutches for him to use.
First Problem — Crutches
Although my son has seen people use crutches, he has never used them himself. So, I had the task of immediately, on the spot, teaching him to use crutches.
Luckily, he understood right away to place them under his arms, grip the handles, and lean on them. The part that was confusing for him was swinging them forward.
Immediately, I had my tag point: Swing crutches forward. (What you want, One thing, Observable, Five words or less). I showed him how, and after a few tags he was able to swing them forward quite well.
We hobbled off to the doctor and, after an exam and x-rays, walked out, not with crutches but with a removable padded walking cast. (Luckily, nothing was broken, only sore.)
From a parent with a 4-year old little girl with a complex genetic condition that not much is known about: TAGteach has been the only thing that has made a real positive difference to my daughter’s progress.
Before we first started using TAGteach we struggled even to get our daughter to engage with us. We were not seeing much progress in our daughter’s development. We felt at a loss, and our beautiful little girl seemed lost to us. We struggled to reach her. No matter how hard we tried, our daughter couldn’t even cope with a cuddle or give eye contact. So we struggled to be able to teach her anything.
Then we discovered TAGteach and slowly and surely things started to change. We learned how to prepare our daughter for blood tests and medical tests. We learned to teach her to feed herself. We taught her to give eye contact.
We learned how to help her take control whilst having meltdowns. We watched in total awe as our screaming, frustrated little girl’s tears turned into laughs and giggles. We learned to help her cope with sensory processing issues. We learned to teach her to enjoy a swing. We learned to teach her to pull-to-stand (pull up to a standing position), and we taught her to get up and down the stairs with assistance.
There are a great many things that our daughter and we have learned via the aid of TAGteach and this wonderful science of helping. We are very much still novices and there is much we still have to learn, but the one thing we have learned, more than anything else, is that we can learn. And no matter what is thrown at us, we can learn to sail our own ship and weather the storms.
You don’t have to take my word for it. In fact, I would suggest you try it and see for yourself. I suspect you will not be disappointed. Our family certainly isn’t, especially our once non-verbal little girl, whose favorite phrase at the moment is, “Look what I can do.”
A message from Martha Gabler
TAGteach Free Video Series
Newly released video series available, free, on TAGteach: Three Steps Any Autism Parent Can Take to go From Tears and Frustration to Family Happiness
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.
TAGteach is a wonderful way to handle behavior challenges that pop up unexpectedly. Recently I took my 19-year-old nonverbal son with severe autism for a hike on a rugged circuit trail in a local forest preserve. My son is an experienced hiker and loves to walk long distances.
Trouble started almost immediately
For whatever reason, he started displaying SIB (Self Injurious Behavior): head hitting, knee thumping, and hand biting. It was perplexing. He was not having a tantrum. He was not having a meltdown. He was neither angry nor upset.