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)
Have you wondered how to apply TAGteach in a classroom setting? Will it be too noisy for the learner to hear the tags? Will the learner be too distracted by everything else going on the room? Will you need to give too many food reinforcers? Can you use TAGteach to manage aggressive and dangerous behaviors? Is it OK to let the child use the tagger and be the teacher? Listen to this month’s interview with a TAGteacher and watch the accompanying videos to get answers to these and more questions.
This month’s interview is with Anne Wormald. Anne is one of the first TAGteachers and has extensive experience from both ends of the tagger, being the daughter of Joan Orr, one of the TAGteach cofounders. Anne is working on her BCBA and is a Level 2 TAGteacher. She has many years of experience working with special needs kids and at the moment is working in home and school settings with children with autism.
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.
I’d like to talk about two numbers: 21 and 2,000. We need to be very aware of them.
My son is a teen now, so I attend a lot of Transitioning Youth meetings. The last meeting I went to was incredibly depressing because there were parents there with adult children in their early 20s, who had no access to benefits. They all had 21 or 2,000 problems, or both.
The 21 problem
Age 21 is the age of diagnosis, and these families missed that deadline. For a variety of reasons, these adult children did not have thorough diagnosis paperwork from before the age of 21. It is incredibly difficult to get services for an adult child if a diagnosis was not made before age 21. It is crucial, vital, and absolutely necessary to get full documentation of all disabilities affecting a child before age 21. Make sure every diagnosis is included. Build a solid paperwork trail. Keep track of all the important documents throughout the years: diagnosis, evaluations, reports, IEPs, etc.
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: