Got autism? Got screaming and verbal stimming? You can teach your child peace and quiet.

Originally posted Dec 15, 2014. Updated Jan 9, 2017, Updated Sep 21, 2018

Screaming, loud noises, verbal stimming

These are the sounds we autism parents hear all too frequently in our homes.

They never seem to stop.

They drive us to distraction.

They can destroy the peace and quiet of the family. Sometimes they can destroy the family itself.

When my son was little, he did a lot of screaming and verbal stimming. I discovered that with the positive behavioral method known as TAGteach (Teaching with Acoustical Guidance) I was able to reduce these sounds, increase appropriate vocalizations and get some of that precious peace and quiet.

TAGteach uses positive reinforcement

TAGteach is based on the science of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) and uses positive reinforcement to build desired behaviors. In addition to the positive reinforcement, TAGteach adds an “event marker” i.e., an acoustical signal to indicate to the child when he/she has performed a desired behavior. The acoustical signal is generally a click sound, called a “tag” made by any type of clicker device, or better yet, a TAGteach tagger.  After the “tag,” you give a reinforcer to the child. Here’s how I used this. Read More

TAGteach for Autism: The Calming Tag Points

Word calm written with wooden letters on rustic surface and colorful flowers

Would you like to help your child with autism calm down when he or she becomes upset? Here is a great way to help your child get to a calm state of mind and body.

The calming tag points are five tag points that I come back to time and again because they are so useful. The calming tag points are:

  • Quiet Mouth – The child is silent
  • Appropriate Vocalization or Communication (words, signs, gestures, picture symbols, device) – The child communicates in his/her own way
  • Hands Down – Hands placed at side or in front of body (not flailing about)
  • Feet On Floor – Both feet touch the floor or ground
  • Exhales – Child breathes out; you can see shoulders/chest go down upon exhalation.

All of these are simple behaviors that a child performs often, so there are lots of opportunities to tag and reinforce.These tag points increase calm and communicative behaviors in children with autism. Plus, the more reinforcement and success our children experience, the happier they are.

Use Reactively — For Tantrums and Agitation

In the early years I used these tag points to calm my son down during tantrums. They were highly effective in calming him down and helping him regain his composure. Best of all, after using TAGteach a few times in this way, his tantrums diminished dramatically.

Use Pro-actively — For Calm and Individual Development

After my child learned to be calm, I found myself coming back to these tag points again and again. Why? I discovered that they were a great way to maintain his calm behavior and promote happiness and competence.

Once or twice a day, I sit down with my son for 5-10 minutes and tag and reinforce the calming tag points. He enjoys these quiet sessions very much, and the result is a trusting relationship: he feels calm, happy, and supported (and so do I).

If we are traveling or doing something unexpected, I tag and reinforce the calming tag points too. The reinforcement and familiarity keep him calm and collected; as a result, he handles challenging and unexpected situations very well and often displays new and amazingly competent behaviors. I think of this as “pro-active” tagging.

The Calming Tag Points – Always Available and Always Useful

For these reasons, I recommend that parents and professionals dealing with children with autism consider using the calming tag points as part of their behavior building repertoire. They work, they are easy to observe, and the child enjoys the success and reinforcement.

For more information, please see these links:


Autism, ABA, autism parent help

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.

To learn more about this effective, low-cost method visit TAGteach International or Chaos to Calm

For research on TAGteach, please see the TAGteach Reference List

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!

If you liked this post, please share it. Thank you!





Get Those Heels Down! Innovative Ways to Deal with Toe Walking


This article was first published as a cover article in Autism Parenting Magazine Issue #51, Aug 2016

We’ve all seen children with autism who engage in toe-walking: the child walks on his or her toes or the ball of foot without putting much weight on the heel or any other part of the foot. Toe walking is so common that it has become one of the early indicators for a potential autism diagnosis.

When we first see it, we may feel amused. However, when we see it go on and on, we may feel concerned. Should we be concerned?

Prolonged toe walking through childhood can lead to physical problems:

  • Tightening of the heel chords
  • Incorrect foot position
  • Abnormal stress on the bones and ligaments in the knees, hips, and lower back (Yoell, 2001).

 Toe walking can lead to social problems:

  • Toe walking can make walking long distances very tiring
  • Children may have trouble keeping up with family and friends
  • It can create problems with shoes; they get worn down quickly in odd places or may be difficult to fit (Unity Therapy, 2016)

Read More

Got Autism? Need food? Here’s how you can teach your child to go to the grocery store. 

autism, TAGteach, ABA, positive reinforcement

Check out this list of stressors for a kid with autism:

  • Bright lights pulsating overhead.
  • Tinny music.
  • People, kids, and carts milling around.
  • Water sprayers misting the vegetables.
  • And my pet peeve: the coupon dispensers with their blinking red lights waving coupons at eye level.

Think this is stressing for a kid with autism?  Think this is a challenging environment for an autism parent to manage while also trying to shop for food?

Well, you’re right. The prospect of taking a kid with autism through the grocery store can bring people to tears or to their knees. It doesn’t have to be that way.

Food is Health, Family History and Culture

Every family needs to go to the grocery store, and it should be happy experience. The grocery store is an important learning environment!  Families talk about healthy foods, or explain what Grandma needs to make her famous holiday recipe. Family lore and culture is passed on via food. All the kids in the family deserve this experience, including kids with autism.

Read More

TAGteach Tale: Tink rocked her blood tests!

autism, tagteach, ABA, applied behavior analysis

Preparing the child

Medical procedures can be tough on kids with special needs, especially anything involving a needle. Advance preparation can help. Here’s how one dad in the UK used TAGteach to prepare his daughter Tink for some necessary but unwelcome blood tests.


How TAGteach helped the Dad

Dad Seany Pogson says, “TAGteach gave me confidence so I didn’t panic. I had been worried about it for about two weeks. TAGteach gave me a coping strategy by being able to build up my daughter’s experience to be ready for it. The nurses helped a lot too when I explained the situation to them. The nurses are there because they care. They don’t mean to cause any upset to anyone. If they had just taken her arm without her offering it, they wouldn’t have been able to do it.”

How Dad used TAGteach to prepare his daughter

“First of all, I built up touch on the arm as a cue so she was offering her arm for touch. Then I slowly increased it so she did it with other people. Next, I built it up from a touch on the arm to holding her wrist, and then offering her wrist to other people — again until she was comfortable with letting other people do the same.

Read More

Autism, behavior and our children

lorrie 4 (2)

We are pleased to present this Guest Post from Lorrie Servati, autism mom and creator of the blog Nathan’s Voice.

Autism is a disorder that affects 1 in 88 children, 1 in 54 boys and a child is diagnosed every 20 minutes. Autism impairs the development of a child’s social behavior and communication, which means he or she will need the support of the people who love them. It is a journey that definitely is nothing like you would have ever imagined.

My child has had a very difficult time when it comes to interacting with others. It is hard for him to accept that anyone else might have anything important to talk about. He has had plenty of problems at school, making or keeping friends, and he has probably created an imaginary friend to make up for the lack of having any real friends. My child’s teachers and I have been coaching him on how to listen to his friends, to try to remember something about what each of them likes, and talk more with his friends about their favorite things. He has made wonderful progress over the past four years and, with daily encouragement, he continues to make an effort.

Another area that children with autism have trouble with is making eye contact with anyone. Our son would become extremely frustrated when we asked him to look at us, when we were talking to him. He would lash out at anyone who would try to console him, then, he would run out of the room screaming at the top of his lungs. It was very aggravating to watch my child as he struggled to communicate his wants and needs. During that particular time, he was overly obsessed with a red savings card from a local pharmacy and he would dig through my purse to find it. I creatively used it to help him focus on conversations, in school and on good behavior. He has improved remarkably and since graduated from that little red savings card to the intriguing world of collecting Pokemon trading cards. He eventually began to ask us for a trip to the store so he could have another package of Pokemon cards, in exchange for learning to self-regulate his behavior. It’s an amazing feeling to realize the child that was diagnosed with autism has been replaced with an older, much more mature version.

Read More

Parent tips: From total meltdowns to mild non-compliance: It’s all a challenge!

child having tantrum








By Diana Wolf, MA, BCBA, and Nick Chappell, MS, BCBA, Verbal Beginnings

Guest post reprinted with permission from

Have you ever been in a situation where no matter how many times you’ve told him to clean his room, he doesn’t listen? You have to repeat yourself so many times you eventually get tired of hearing yourself talk. Or are you stuck in the house and have to wait until someone stays with your child so you can get some grocery shopping done? You know that a trip to the grocery store with him will mean a public embarrassment to you, as he grabs everything in sight and throws a tantrum if he doesn’t get what he wants.
No matter how intense or mild the challenging behavior, it’s a challenge to make it go away. However, with the help of a professional and the steps below, it’s not an impossible task to accomplish.

Step 1: Identify the challenging behavior

A challenging behavior is anything that someone does that significantly interferes with his or her daily routine. It is also an action that may pose harm to self or others. To identify the behavior pinpoint specifically what it is that makes a routine difficult.  Do you stay home because going out in the community causes tantrums? Are you afraid of aggressive behavior when you end a fun activity? Once you identify the problem, it’s time to find out why it’s happening.

Read More