I want to use the clicker, but I can’t get started. Part 1

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view from plane with door open, ready to parachuteA reader sent me the following question:

Imagine a person who has never parachuted out of an airplane. They stand at the door, but are almost paralyzed with fear. I think many families of children with autism may feel that way. They know they must do something right now, and they have some tools (teaching methods), but they are afraid to take the first step.

How did you feel before you took the first TAG step? What was your first move with your son after you’d learned some concepts and methods? How would you advise families?

Each of these questions is a perfectly natural question to ask, so I will take them in turn.

Common fears

As to being afraid to take the first step, for many families the first step might mean completely different things. The first step may be the decision to use TAGteach, or the decision to buy clickers and treats, or dealing with doubts and questions about this method. Information is the key to addressing these fears.

More information

Let’s talk about the fear of using TAGteach. If you are afraid of hurting or damaging your child in some way, you will not do so if you use TAGteach properly. TAGteach is based on the Science of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) and relies on the use of positive reinforcement to build desired behaviors, along with an event marker signal. With the marker signal (click) used in TAGteach, you provide specific information to your child that he has done something right; then you provide a treat (reinforcer) as a reward. Providing information and reinforcement to any child is a good thing. It is a scientifically-validated method of building desired behaviors. It will help your child learn and can eventually build up a mutually trusting and interactive relationship.

Communication and respect

Perhaps someone may fear that using a clicker to mark a behavior is demeaning to the child because it is similar to approaches used in animal training. When you use a marker signal to inform a child, especially one with the communication deficits so prevalent in autism, you are respecting that child’s needs. Many children with autism, even the ones who can speak, often cannot understand verbal requests and, even if they comprehend what is wanted, they cannot comply with the request. A single, well-timed click can convey more information to a child with autism that a long-winded speech. A single, well-timed click tells a child with autism, “You did something right. Now you are getting a reward.” A single click encourages a child to pay attention to his environment, “I’m going to watch out for that click and keep an eye on what I am doing because I get treats, attention and praise.” Many children with autism experience fear and insensitive, unreinforcing environments. With TAGteach you can transform a child’s environment to one that is informative, supportive, reinforcing and pleasant. This is not demeaning to the child. This is respectful of the child.

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.

autism, ABA, positive reinforcementFor more information visit the TAGteach website.

Join the free TAGteach Yahoo Group.

TAGteach taggers are 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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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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