Got autism? Want your child to be safe outside? Here’s how to teach Safe Walking.

autism, TAGteach, ABA, positive reinforcement

Do you

  • worry that your child will bolt or run off?
  • have to chase after your child constantly to keep him safe?
  • have a hard time walking through grocery stores or your neighborhood?

Many autism families have these problems. As a result we often find ourselves isolated at home and fearful of going beyond the fenced-in yard.

How nice it would be if our children could walk safely next to us, stop at corners and walk across the street on signal. I taught these skills to my nonverbal son with severe autism. TAGteach (Teaching with Acoustical Guidance) made this possible. You can teach these skills to your child too. Here’s how to do it, literally, one step at a time.

Look before you leap

It’s helpful to assess your child before teaching a new skill.  To assess your child’s walking and running behaviors, download the free Child Observation Form or simply make notes on a sheet of paper. Take your child to a safe area, like the fenced-in yard, and spend five minutes observing his walking and running behavior.

Observe the legs and feet. How many steps does your child take in the same direction? Does he alternate walking, running or hopping? Does he alternate running quickly with running slowly? How frequently does he change direction? What are the walking problems you commonly encounter outside on the street or in a store? Describe the physical movements your child makes with legs and feet.

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Got Autism? Need to Sleep? You can teach your child to stay in bed and sleep, sleep, sleep ….

autism, tagteach, ABA, positive reinforcement

This post is one in a series designed to help you get out of the house and enjoy life with your child. Previously we described how to deal with anxiety and disruptive behaviors, so as to overcome these before moving on to outside excursions. Here we talk about sleep. Sleep is essential to a happy life with your child. If the family is not sleeping it is very difficult to manage anything else.

As autism parents we may find ourselves

  • Lying down with a child for hours to get him to sleep,
  • bringing him into our own bed,
  • taking the child to another bed or room in the house,
  • dealing with the problem all over again during the inevitable night-time wake-ups.

We know what it is like to struggle with sleep problems for four to eight hours. It’s exhausting, agonizing and depressing.

My family dealt with those problems for years. When I learned about TAGteach, I was able to teach my son to lie still, be quiet, and go to sleep.

I’ll be honest. This took some time. It was hard work, and I often felt depressed and resentful. But eventually, my son learned to sleep. This is a step by step process that will take some time, but if you don’t start it now, you will still not be sleeping weeks and months from now. It is worth the effort to take baby steps toward sleep and reap the rewards for years to come.

Thanks to this systematic approach, now we sleep and we are much happier.

Let’s see how to tackle the sleep problem with the always useful, effective and flexible TAGteach approach.

First things first – Consistent Routine

The following steps are always recommended for sleep problems:

  1. Set a consistent wake-up time early in the morning
  2. Set a consistent bedtime in the evening
  3. Limit screen time before bedtime
  4. Avoid large meals or snacks late in the evening.

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Got autism? Have a child with anxiety and disruptive behaviors? Here’s what you can do.

autism help, tagteach, ABA, applied behavior analysis

This post is one in a series designed to help you get out of the house and enjoy life with your child. If your child is anxious and exhibiting disruptive behaviors, these need to be overcome before moving on to outside excursions.

A Mother’s Concern

Recently a mom told me that she was worried about her 12-year old child, who is low-functioning and nonverbal.

Her daughter becomes agitated and upset in public places; she screams and puts her head down when in those settings.

The daughter also displays anxiety. The mother asked for some suggestions to relieve the child’s anxiety.

Behavioral Science Explains Why This is Happening

Let’s back up a little. From the laws of behavioral science, we know that behavior that is reinforced is behavior that will occur again. As hard as this may be to believe, the daughter is experiencing more reinforcement for screaming and putting her head down, than for an alternative behavior. What is she experiencing that is reinforcing her for screaming? We don’t know the answer to that question, and it would take a Functional Behavior Assessment (FBA) to find out, but ….

In the meantime the mother, or any parent, can take action with the following steps: (1) Collect data (2) Observe her daughter to see what kinds of functional behaviors she already has, and (3) Set up a reinforcement plan to reinforce appropriate alternative behaviors.

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TAGteach for autism parents: An easy, effective and kind method for teaching your child

Okay, TAGteach. I’m a parent. What’s in it for me?


Answer: A better life

TAGteach is a way to improve your family’s home life and give you more opportunities to include your child with autism in everyday outings.

TAGteach is a way to teach and communicate with your child.

TAGteach is an easy, effective, low-cost and scientifically-based way for parents to increase their child’s functional skills.

TAGteach is great for parents. Here’s why.

autism, TAGteach, ABA, positive reinforcementYou already know 95% of what you need to know to use TAGteach!

You observe your child every day, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

You know your child.

You know your child’s needs and wants.

You are familiar with his setting.

You know his routines, triggers, limits and sensory profile.

You have a trained eye!

You are the expert on your family.

You know your family’s priorities.

You can apply your family’s values.

You can tailor everything precisely to your unique situation.

You have 95% of the knowledge you need to teach your child the behaviors he needs – the behaviors that will increase your family’s opportunities for a happier home life and participation in the community.

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Know the three essential conditions for effective teaching? Guess the third one!

autism, TAGteach, ABA, positive reinforcement

Here’s the answer:

  • Learning organized in small steps

To review, the three essential conditions for effective learning are:

  1. Immediate Feedback
  2. Student Learns at Own Pace
  3. Learning Organized in Small Steps

We’ve discussed the first two conditions described by Dr. B.F. Skinner, Immediate Feedback and Student Learns At Own Pace. This post will address the third condition.

Learning Organized in Small Steps

The third essential condition for effective learning is a carefully constructed program where the skill is taught in many small steps. The reason for this is to ensure that the child experiences success in the learning progression. Many successful small steps result in a confident, motivated learner.

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Know the three essential conditions for effective teaching? Guess the second one!

autism, TAGteach, ABA, positive reinforcementHere’s the answer:

  • Student learns at own pace

To review, the three essential conditions are:

  1. Immediate Feedback
  2. Student Learns at Own Pace
  3. Learning Organized in Small Steps

We’ve already discussed the first condition, Immediate Feedback. This post will address the second condition: Student Learns at Own Pace.

Student Learns at Own Pace

Dr. Skinner emphasizes the need for students to learn at their own pace.  Learning at her own pace is crucial for a child with autism. Our kids have so many sensory and emotional issues that the teaching process must respect their need for time to respond to, and understand new stimuli.

Since children with autism often have problems with pre-cursor learning skills such as eye contact and imitation skills, it is important to teach these. Yet, eye contact, for example, can be a difficult task for a child with autism for a variety of reasons.

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Know the three essential conditions for effective teaching? Guess the first one!

autism, TAGteach, ABA, positive reinforcementHere’s the answer:

  • Immediate feedback

What are the other essential conditions, and who discovered them?

America’s most influential behavioral scientist and the founder of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA), Dr. B.F. Skinner, described the three essential conditions of an effective teaching program. They are:

  1. Immediate feedback
  2. Moving at the child’s pace
  3. Learning in many small steps

These conditions are as important for children with autism and other disabilities as they are for typically developing children. Luckily, we now have TAGteach (Teaching with Acoustical Guidance), so let’s see how TAGteach meets these three essential criteria. First we’ll discuss how TAGteach addresses the need for immediate feedback, then we’ll talk about the other ones.

Immediate Feedback

When learning a skill, immediate feedback on whether your response is correct or incorrect is essential to effective learning. Why? Because, when you know instantly that you did something right, you feel success! You will do that good thing again, and you will be willing to try the next step because you have a history of success.

In contrast, delays in feedback lead to delays in learning. If you’re not sure, or it you feel uncertain, you won’t know which action was correct.  You won’t feel confident when another task is presented.  The delay results in confusion and dismay, which negatively affect learning.

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Dr. B.F. Skinner in 1954 Video Discussing Effective Conditions for Learning


Dr. Skinner describing optimum conditions for human learning

This fascinating six minute video from 1954 shows Dr. B.F. Skinner discussing the advantages of learning machines.

He describes how immediate feedback “…leads most rapidly to formation of the correct behavior,” and has a “motivating effect.”

Since the student moves through the program at his or her own pace, the student “…moves at the rate which is most effective for him.”

Finally, with a carefully constructed program, the student goes from the initial stage of being “unfamiliar” with a subject to the final stage in which he is “competent.” He achieves this through a series of very small, successful steps.

Thus the three essential conditions for effective learning are:

  1. immediate feedback
  2. moving at the child’s pace
  3. learning in many small steps

For more information about Dr. Skinner and his extensive contributions to science, please see the B.F. Skinner Foundation.

TAGteach (Teaching with Acoustical Guidance) is an application of ABA that delivers these three essential conditions for learning. See information below.

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 and quickly. 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 can learn many new skills with TAGteach — at their own pace.

autism, TAGteach, ABA, positive reinforcementJoin the free TAGteach listserve.

TAGteach taggers are available here.

See Martha Gabler’s book about TAGteach for Autism or ask a question (with no obligation).

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You’ve done so many things to help your child with autism. Are you ready to do TAGteach?

autism, tagteach, ABA, positive reinforcement

You can teach your child

If you are an autism parent, you probably want to help your kid learn new skills.

If you want to help your kid learn new skills, you may not be aware of the “acoustical” support.

You may not be aware that the acoustical support is a great way to help kids with autism learn, even the severe kids, the nonverbal kids and the super-sensory kids.

And guess what else? It’s easy, effective and low-cost — a rare combination in the autism world.

So what exactly is an acoustical support?

An acoustical support is a neutral sound: a tap, click or ping. The sound is communication. The sound tells a child that she has done something right–at the precise moment she does it! The sound tells her, “YES, you did it, and now you are getting a reward.” The sound gives her success and makes her feel good. The sound makes her want to do that great thing again.

Here’s an example: increasing play skills

Let’s say your child has just touched a toy. Since many kids with autism don’t play with toys,  we want them to learn how. Now your child has just touched a toy. That’s great! That’s the first step. With your handy TAGteach tagger, immediately press it to “tag” her action of touching the toy. Right after that, hand over a reinforcer (something she really likes).

Guess what? She’ll figure out very quickly that she got attention, success and a very nice treat from Mom when she touched the toy. And then guess what? She’ll try touching again. Maybe she’ll touch another toy, or touch the toy for a longer period of time. You’re on your way to expanding her play skills.

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Got autism? Got tantrums? Here’s what you can do to help your child.

autism, tagteach, ABA, positive reinforcement

It’s happening again

Another tantrum.

Your beautiful child with autism erupted into a tantrum.

You don’t know why. It’s the second or third tantrum of the day.

You want to help. You wish you could do something to calm him down.

What can you do? Here’s a way to calm down your child in less than half an hour that won’t drain your energy. I’ll explain what to do, then tell you why this works.

Here’s what to do in the first 5 minutes

Gather your materials

  1. Find something in your house that makes a quick, sharp click sound: a ballpoint pen, a flashlight, or if need be, a spoon that you can tap on the wall or a table.
  2. Get some treats that your child likes: very small pieces of candy, pretzel pieces, cereal pieces, tic-tacs, or anything similar. Put them into a small container that you can hold in your hand

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