Learning to swim with TAGteach

Here is an example of TAGteach at work. This child is diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome. His verbal skills are good so we can tell him what the tag point is (that is what exactly he needs to do to get a tag (click sound) and a candy. A non-verbal child would learn just as fast once he understood the game.

This child is easily distracted and does not like to be asked or told do something. But he loves games!

Note that there is no talking other than to tell him the tag point. He chooses to do it or not to do it. There is no begging, cajoling, coaxing or other coercive action on the part of the coach.

This was the one and only time that we needed to tag him to go into the pool. By the end of the session he was going in and paddling around on his own. This short session of TAGteach had created a positive association with swimming and built confidence so that the activity became self-reinforcing. It took about 10 minutes and 1 small package of Skittles.

 

TAGteach is great for teaching kids with autism, but it started with elite level gymnastics coaching, and sport coaches for people of all ages and abilities can benefit.

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Martha’s Rules for Effective TAGteaching

Here are the rules that I made for myself to make sure that my teaching was most effective. If a child is frustrated, bored or upset he cannot possibly learn optimally. If a child gets frustrated and angry to the point of a meltdown, then he can’t learn, period. Doing everything I can to make sure that my child will have many successes and be a co-operative and happy learner is my top priority during a teaching session.

Douglas goes to camp: TAGteach magic in action

Smiling teenage boy on swingsteenage boy smiling, wearing blue life jacketBy Joan Orr, MSc

Doug is the subject of the book Chaos to Calm: Discovering Solutions to the Everyday Problems of Living with Autism, by Martha Gabler. Martha explains step-by-step in the book how she methodically taught Doug many simple and then more and more complex behaviors necessary for life in a busy family. She used TAGteach, an approach based on the science of behavior, to teach new behaviors to replace screaming, running around, self injury and other chaotic behaviors with which many autism parents struggle on a continual basis. All Martha’s teaching used positive reinforcement to strengthen desired behaviors. Now Doug is 17 and his self-stimulatory behaviors are almost non-existent. He chooses to exhibit behaviors that he has learned and that have become more reinforcing for him than the chaotic and sometimes violent behaviors in which he engaged during what Martha refers to as “the dreadful early years”. Doug at 17 is happy, affectionate and cooperative. He loves his math and reading lessons and he loves outdoor activities.

This summer Doug went to Shadow Lake Camp for a week and his counselor was my daughter Anne Wormald who is a level 2 TAGteacher. Martha came prepared with a tagger and some treats that Doug likes and left him in Anne’s capable hands. Anne had read Chaos to Calm, so she knew many of Doug’s tag points. The other staff at camp looked after Doug while Anne was on break and they too learned to use TAGteach with Doug. He had the whole camp trained by the end of the week!

Here is what one of the other counselors said about Doug:

“He’s so cute and well-behaved! When you first gave me the tagger I was kind of unsure, but once you told me about how he was before and I used it, it became obvious that it really works. I really want to read the book!”

Doug’s experience at camp is a testament to the power and effectiveness of TAGteach and the skill of Martha as a teacher. Martha was able to hand over her son, a tagger, some treats and some basic tag points and he was able to enjoy himself immensely at sleep away camp for a week with strangers.

Anne kept in touch with me by text during the week with Doug. Here is a transcript of those messages:

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