Would you wish for this button?
Many of us autism parents wish we could sometimes just push a button that would change our kids’ behaviors. We joke, “I wish my kid had an off-switch.” Many of our kids have challenging behaviors that disrupt normal and necessary family activities like grocery shopping, going out in the car, or simply taking a walk.
We would like our children to have the skills that would allow them to participate in family and community life. Well, it’s possible, and you can do it by pressing a button.
A special button
However, the button I’m going to discuss is not an ordinary button. This button is placed on top of a small clicker device called a “tagger.” With a tagger and some basic information about using positive reinforcement any parent can build better behaviors in a child with significant behavior challenges. I know because I did this with my child. Here’s an example, and an explanation.
Pressing a button to increase calm behaviors
My son is now a teenager; at age three he was diagnosed with severe autism, plus he was profoundly nonverbal. Like many children with autism, my son was often very agitated. It was sad to see him so agitated that he couldn’t enjoy life, so I started to think about how to help him feel calmer. First I spent some time observing him. I noticed that when he was agitated he displayed a lot of physical activity: darting about, bouncing on one foot or two feet, swiveling his arms, and of course, shrieking. Since I knew about TAGteach, I decided to “tag” and reinforce the following physical movements: Quiet Mouth, Hands Still, and Feet Still.
When you “tag” a behavior, you press the button on the tagger at the precise instant that the child performs the movement, and then immediately follow-up with a treat of the child’s liking (the reinforcer). When you reinforce a behavior, it will happen more often. Over the course of several weeks, I spent some time every day sitting near him, saying nothing, but watching his feet, arms and mouth to spot moments of Quiet Mouth, Hands Still, and Feet Still. As soon as I saw one of those moments, I tagged and reinforced.
The button worked!
Well, not only did this work, but it worked very well. My son became noticeably calmer. He looked at me very carefully. He displayed much more Quiet Mouth, Hands Still and Feet Still behavior. He liked feeling this way. I became calmer, and I definitely liked feeling that way! Things calmed down around the house and we were able to do more. I used TAGteach to teach helpful behaviors to my son, with the result that we are now able to do many more things as a family and get out and experience the world.
TAGteach opened up our world.
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.
For research on TAGteach, please see the TAGteach Reference List
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