Want your child with autism see the world? Help them cope with new sensory environments! Travels with Autism: Part 3 – Sensory Challenges

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In Wyoming this past summer we had the opportunity to climb Mt. Washburn (elevation 10,219 feet), a mountain renowned for the winds whipping around its slopes, often at speeds of 20-30 miles per hour; at the summit, the gusts blow even harder.

Sensory Challenges

affordable autism intervention autism travel
(See the scrunched up shoulders!)

It’s one thing to read about strong winds; it’s another thing to experience them on your way up a high mountain. The wind and powerful gusts posed new sensory challenges to my son as we climbed, not only the sensation of blowing air, but the noise and roaring.

To get my son Douglas up and down the mountain I saw right away that he would need extra supports, especially since his reaction to the buffeting wind was to stand stock still, scrunch up his face and shoulders, and not move! Clearly he was enjoying the wind, but we also had to move along.

The tag point to address this situation was obvious: Take Next Step.

Going too slowly

Although I knew how to address the problem, I hadn’t expected the lengthy “stand still” reactions to the wind. My concern was that it would take so long to do the hike that we would be late with his food schedule and that he would become hungry and upset. This concern only worsened when we were well up the trail and I realized that he had already eaten the snacks in the back pack while we were in the car!

We kept going. As we dawdled along, I tagged and reinforced him every time he took the next step, until finally our pace picked up and we made slow, steady progress along the trail. We enjoyed the spectacular views and had pleasant chats with the many families and groups who power-walked past us. Everyone marveled at the wind.

Reaching the peak and the kindness of strangers

affordable autism intervention autism travelAfter being almost knocked off our feet by the howling winds of the final ascent, we scrambled our way into the shelter at the top. There we were, windblown, hungry, and foodless. Luckily, a number of people who had passed us along the way spotted us and very kindly offered Douglas snacks and drinks from their backpacks. I was very grateful.

 

affordable autism intervention autism travel

 It all worked out

Thanks to positive behavioral supports and the kindness of fellow hikers, we had the wonderful, once-in-a-lifetime experience of climbing the highest peak in Yellowstone – a dream come true.

TAGteach is a great tool for dealing with unexpected sensory issues: look at the sensory challenge, set a tag point for a desired behavior that the child can do (or is already doing), and tag and reinforce intensively. Naturally, if a situation is too difficult, re-assess and make appropriate changes.

It would have been so easy to bail out of this hike from frustration because we spent a lot of time standing still and going nowhere; yet with patience, persistence, and positive reinforcement we made it to the top.

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, 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.

affordable autism intervention tagteach for autismTo learn more about this effective, low-cost method visit TAGteach International or Chaos to Calm

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!

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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

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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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Want your child with autism to see the world? We used TAGteach for a smooth flight! Travels With Autism: Part 1: The Airplane

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Travels With Autism: Part 1 — The Airplane

Over the summer I took my 20 year old nonverbal son with severe autism on a trip to Wyoming. This involved a 3 ½ hour flight from the East Coast to Denver and a 1 ½ hour flight from Denver to Wyoming; it was about six hours of plane travel, not counting time waiting in the airports.

Since my son has lots of experience with 7-hour car trips, I wasn’t overly worried, but an airplane is a different environment, and you can’t just pull over and take a break. I took pains to be prepared and had a plan of positive behavioral supports in place for the flights.

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

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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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“Behavior” is a lightning rod word in the autism community. Are we all on the same page when we talk about it?

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“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)

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Ten important things to build a strong relationship with your child’s support team

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Your special needs child will do best with a strong team of professionals and parents working together. You are the expert when it comes to your child. The professionals working with your child will have more success when you work to support a relationship with them. Here are 10 tips from Bethan Mair Williams to help you get the most for your child through a successful relationship with your support team. Bethan is a Speech Language Therapist/Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) with more than twenty years of experience in working with children with special needs, training and supervising classroom staff, and developing data collection and interpretation systems.

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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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