Nonverbal Autism and TAGteach: How do kids know what they did to earn a tag if you can’t tell them?

This is one of the most frequently asked questions about TAGteach.

Many children with autism have low verbal skills. Not only may they be unable to speak, they may also be unable to endure the sounds of spoken language (like my son); even if they can manage to listen to language, they may be unable to understand and/or follow verbal directions.

These are challenging learners. TAGteach can reach them because the tag and reinforcer communicate where words cannot.

So… let’s say you’re using TAGteach for the first time with a nonverbal child who is flailing about and shrieking. In the midst of this maelstrom of activity, you spot a split second of a desired behavior (let’s say Quiet Mouth) that the child performed and you tag and reinforce that behavior.

How on earth does the child know, in the midst of the chaos, which behavior earned the tag?

The answer has four parts:

First: The sound means good news!

The child notices that the sound of the tag is followed by a nice treat, so the child becomes interested in the sound. Since the sound indicates that something nice (a desired reinforcer) is about to happen, the sound quickly acquires meaning and significance. This learning phase happens quickly. My son figured this out in 25 seconds. “Hmm, that sound is great!”

Second: The child realizes that he causes the tag to happen!

The child notices that his own actions are causing the tag and reward. The tag is not some random, inexplicable event in his environment. The tag is aligned precisely with something he has done, and it’s always followed by a nice treat. This is the big light bulb moment! “Hey, it’s because of something I did!”

Third: The child figures out which behavior resulted in a tag!

How does this child do this part? Since children with autism are hyper-sensitive to their environment, they perceive very quickly when timely information (the tag) and nice reinforcers (the treat) are entering their environment. They use the process of elimination to figure out exactly what they are doing that caused this.

Process of Elimination

“Hmm, I was jumping around and screaming, then I heard the tag and got a nice treat. Was it for jumping up and down? Let me try jumping again; I see: no tag, no treat, so no. Was it for swinging my arms around? Let me try that again: no tag, no treat, so no. Wait, I’m running out of air and want to scream, let me pause and take a breath. Hey, I heard the tag and got a treat. Was it for the pause? Let me try that again: Quiet Mouth, tag! Treat! Yes! It’s Quiet Mouth! Okay, I’ll do more Quiet Mouth! Wow, I’m smart!”

Our kids with autism are brilliant at this. They figure it out quickly, and it’s a thrill for them when they get that big lightbulb moment!

Fourth: The child wants more success and reinforcement, so he continues paying attention to the tag

Like us, kids with autism want success and reinforcement. Once they know how to get it, they will repeat the process, and get to the point where they are looking out for tags and reinforcement and responding quickly.

In a period of often less than fifteen minutes, a nonverbal child can learn that:

  • The tag means success
  • He performed a productive behavior
  • He knows what that behavior is
  • It’s worthwhile to perform that behavior again

At this point, the stage is set for teaching all kinds of functional behaviors. It’s also set for communicating and interacting with a child on a personal level. The child performs behaviors, the adults respond with tags and reinforcers, and the child experiences success. The child builds trust in his environment and starts trying out new behaviors; the adults respond patiently with more information (tags) and reinforcement.

The child is not the only one experiencing reinforcement; the adults wielding the tagger are also experiencing massive reinforcement and empowerment! The adults realize that they can do it! They can change the child’s behavior and can help that child learn useful skills. This is the powerful upward spiral of learning and reinforcement that TAGteach delivers.

The cycle of success builds and expands.

autism teaching ABAWhat 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” a 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, quickly, and intensively. 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.

To learn more about this effective, low-cost method visit TAGteach International or Chaos to Calm

For research on TAGteach, please see the TAGteach Reference List

Join the free TAGteach for Learning, Behavior, and Autism Facebook group

TAGteach taggers available here and i-Clicks 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!

 

TAGteach for Autism: The Calming Tag Points

Word calm written with wooden letters on rustic surface and colorful flowers

The calming tag points are five tag points that I come back to time and again because they are so useful. The calming tag points are:

  • Quiet Mouth – The child is silent
  • Appropriate Vocalization or Communication (words, signs, gestures, picture symbols, device) – The child communicates in his/her own way
  • Hands Down – Hands placed at side or in front of body (not flailing about)
  • Feet On Floor – Both feet touch the floor or ground
  • Exhales – Child breathes out; you can see shoulders/chest go down upon exhalation.

All of these are simple behaviors that a child performs often, so there are lots of opportunities to tag and reinforce.These tag points increase calm and communicative behaviors in children with autism. Plus, the more reinforcement and success our children experience, the happier they are.

Use Reactively — For Tantrums and Agitation

In the early years I used these tag points to calm my son down during tantrums. They were highly effective in calming him down and helping him regain his composure. Best of all, after using TAGteach a few times in this way, his tantrums diminished dramatically.

Use Pro-actively — For Calm and Individual Development

After my child learned to be calm, I found myself coming back to these tag points again and again. Why? I discovered that they were a great way to maintain his calm behavior and promote happiness and competence.

Once or twice a day, I sit down with my son for 5-10 minutes and tag and reinforce the calming tag points. He enjoys these quiet sessions very much, and the result is a trusting relationship: he feels calm, happy, and supported (and so do I).

If we are traveling or doing something unexpected, I tag and reinforce the calming tag points too. The reinforcement and familiarity keep him calm and collected; as a result, he handles challenging and unexpected situations very well and often displays new and amazingly competent behaviors. I think of this as “pro-active” tagging.

The Calming Tag Points – Always Available and Always Useful

For these reasons, I recommend that parents and professionals dealing with children with autism consider using the calming tag points as part of their behavior building repertoire. They work, they are easy to observe, and the child enjoys the success and reinforcement.

For more information, please see these links:

 

Autism, ABA, autism parent help

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” a 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, quickly, and intensively. 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.

To learn more about this effective, low-cost method visit TAGteach International or Chaos to Calm

For research on TAGteach, please see the TAGteach Reference List

Join the free TAGteach for Learning, Behavior, and Autism Facebook group

TAGteach taggers available here and i-Clicks 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!

 

 

 

 

Want your child with autism to see the world? A world champion told us, “Be strong and stay encouraged.” Travels with Autism: Part 2: A Life Lesson

travels-with-autism-part-2-1

A dream abandoned

When my children were little, I dreamed of taking them out West to see the Rocky Mountains and national parks. My younger son’s autism diagnosis and challenging behaviors put that dream out of mind for years.

This summer an opportunity popped up to go to Wyoming, and off we went, just the two of us. So …

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Autism, finger licking and face rubbing, again! TAGteach victory, again!

how-to-breaka-behavior-chain

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.

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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.

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Horses, helmets and autism, oh my! How TAGteach taught a little boy to keep his helmet on during therapeutic riding

autism parent help, TAGteachThe problem

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?

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Alone in the woods with autism again, this time with finger-licking, face-rubbing, and, thankfully, TAGteach

Copy of Alone in the woods...

 

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.

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Injury! TAGteach to the rescue — for crutches and a walking cast

The Injury

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.

Autism parent help TAGteachFirst 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.)

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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.

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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:

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