Hey, my kid just did something wonderful! Quick, how can I help him do more of that?

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autism, tagteach, applied behavior analysis


We’ve all experienced this. Your beautiful, lively child with autism has just done something wonderful. It was a beautiful moment–actually, it was a beautiful micro-second–and it was over in a flash.  But, during that flash you saw insight, connection, understanding or wisdom. Wow!

We want more

As parents, we savor these moments. We discuss them with our family and friends and speculate on what they mean. We’d love to see more of them. Did you know that you can bring about more of these heart-warming events? Yes, parents can bring about more of these moments, and even make them last longer. How? By using positive reinforcement and an acoustical support.

The acoustical support I’m talking about is something called TAGteach. TAGteach stands for Teaching with Acoustical Guidance, and it combines positive reinforcement with an event marker signal. The event marker is a sound, a “tag” or “click” made by a small plastic device called a “tagger.” The “tag” sound marks a behavior at the split second that a child performs that behavior. With a tagger, you can reinforce even a micro-second of wonderful reaction. When you tag a behavior and follow-up as soon as possible with positive reinforcement (a treat, token or item that the child likes), you will see more of that behavior.

Positive reinforcement increases even the smallest behavior

Why does this happen? The scientific laws of behavioral science are at work here. The most important law tells us that a behavior that is reinforced is a behavior that will occur again. So, if you tag and treat a child at the precise instant she is giving you that amazing flash of insight or understanding, you will see more of those flashes. When you reinforce a behavior you strengthen it. As the behavior gets stronger, it will happen more often and last longer.

Simple Steps

TAGteach makes this scientific procedure easy to do. Here are the steps:

  1. Get a tagger (or anything that makes a sharp click sound: a ballpoint pen or flashlight)
  2. Get some treats your child likes
  3. Watch your child
  4. The split second you see one of the beautiful moments, PRESS the tagger
  5. Then give the child a treat

You are teaching your child that you like and appreciate what he just did. Since he is a smart kid and likes treats and the experience of success, he will repeat that action to get more treats and success. Easy. With time and practice, you will see more of those great moments. TAGteach makes it easy to “catch” those wonderful micro-seconds. Catch them and reinforce them, and you will have many more great moments to enjoy!

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 reinforcementCheck out the TAGteach International website.

Join the free TAGteach listserve.

TAGteach taggers are available here.

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

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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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