Behavior Basics 29 and 30: End of the Week Wrap-up

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autism tagteach applied behavior analysis29.  You must give the reinforcer at the exact moment the child does the behavior.

In Behavior Basic 28 we discussed the importance of timing when reinforcing behavior in a child with autism.  You must reinforce the child at the precise moment he does the desired physical movement.  If you reinforce too early or too late, the child will be confused; he won’t know what he did to earn the reinforcer, so he probably won’t repeat that exact desired movement.  It is not easy to reinforce a child at the split second he does a desired movement, but TAGteach (Teaching with Acoustical Guidance) makes it easy.  When I set out to teach my son to kick a ball, my first tag point (physical movement to reinforce) was “Walks near ball.”  The ball was out in the yard and every time he dashed within five feet of it I tagged and gave him a reward.  Even though he was busy running and yowling, he realized very quickly that being in the vicinity of that ball resulted in very nice consequences.  Soon he was running and walking around the ball, just the result I wanted.

autism tagteach applied behavior analysis30. The timing of the reinforcer is information for the child.

In Behavior Basic 29 I described how I tagged my son every time he dashed within five feet of a ball.  This was Step One of my program to teach him to kick the ball.  Because my son heard the tag and received reinforcement when he ran or walked within five feet of the ball, he deduced that the area around the ball was a great place to be.  I did not verbally ask him to approach the ball.  I did not show him how to walk near the ball.  I did not take him by the hand and drag him to the ball.  All I did was tag him precisely when he was in the vicinity of it.  The quick click of the tagger and the reinforcement gave him this information.  We accomplished Step One quickly, easily and with no stress and no exasperation.

REMINDER:  This concludes the wrap-up of Behavior Basics for the week.  Please remember the schedule: On the release date of each module, the Behavior Basics for that module will be compiled into a PDF ebook available from our blog and Facebook page. Click on this link to download the entire series of 42 Behavior Basics for free: http://statictab.com/m7bizwt.


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Martha Gabler

Autism parent. Director, Kids' Learning Workshop LLC. Author of Chaos to Calm: Discovering Solutions to the Everyday Problems of Living with Autism.

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