Autism, the coughing stim, and TAGteach

Children who cough. White isolated studio shots.


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 lightning rod word in the autism community. Are we all on the same page when we talk about it?

Behavior (1)

“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:

  1. the manner of conducting oneself
  2. anything that an organism does involving action and response to stimulation
  3. 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)


Alone in the woods with autism, SIB and … thankfully TAGteach


Alone in the woods

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.

Autism parent help, ABA, TAGteachTrouble 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.


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.


TAGteach. Do you wonder how it actually works? What kids think of it? How instructors react to it? Here are 6 minutes of video that answer your questions.

TAGteach! What the heck is it

You’ve heard about the acoustical support, TAGteach (Teaching with Acoustical Guidance). You may be wondering how it works in a real life teaching situation with real kids and real instructors. Here are three short videos, totaling 6 minutes, that show the “how” of TAGteach magic in action.

Video #1:   The Lesson: TAGteach Parkour: Lazy Vault — Coaching Past Fear (2.47 minutes)

In this video, a young woman is learning to do a vault. She is dispirited and fearful. Her coaches observe and end up developing the following series of tag points:


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:


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


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)


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).


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


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)