Published by TAGteach International TAGteach.com
Paperback, 130 pages
July 3, 2013
Retail price $16.99
About the Book
Exhausted, overwhelmed, isolated and without outside support, Martha knew that she and her husband were the only hope for reaching the mind and body of their non-verbal young son. As autism came into their lives, Martha met it head on with science and positive reinforcement. Her book describes step-by- step how she replaced difficult behaviors with calm behaviors and ended up with a happy, cooperative teenager.
Chaos to Calm describes how Martha Gabler discovered that effective solutions really did exist for the overwhelming behavior problems of her own non-verbal son with severe autism. When Douglas turned five, Martha realized that she and her family were basically on their own. During the “dreadful early years,” Doug’s behavior worsened. The family floundered. Daily, if not hourly or even more often, there were screaming, tantrums, self-stimulatory behaviors, “verbal stimming,” running off, and even self-injurious and destructive actions. Like many autism families, the Gablers were exhausted by lack of community understanding, by lack of help that they could afford, and perhaps worst of all, by night after night of severe sleep deprivation.
A chance reference in an email listserve lead Martha to TAGteach, a teaching system based on the structured delivery of positive reinforcement. TAGteach gave Martha the tools she needed to observe Douglas’s behaviors, break them down into manageable pieces, and reinforce his previously-rare positive actions – in fact, positive actions that sometimes lasted only a few seconds in the beginning, but which gave Martha the precious key she needed to unlock major improvements.
With a few basic rules and a commitment to practice them, Martha was able to apply step-by-step solutions to Doug’s disruptive behaviors. In TAGteach, Martha found a powerful supplement to other scientifically-based behavioral interventions, many of which required difficult-to-find behavioral experts whose costs would have taxed the family’s financial resources in the extreme. The result? A boy who was once wild and chaotic now has the skills that enable him to be a charming teenager who loves life and enjoys going places.
This book explains, step-by-step, how Martha taught Douglas to vocalize appropriately, go on walks, wait in line, go to the grocery store, ride a bike and many more skills that are normally taken for granted; however, for a child with autism, they do not come easily — if at all. Perhaps the most important skill was how to lie quietly in bed and go to sleep, so the other exhausted members of the Gabler family could themselves get some badly-needed sleep.
Martha uses simple language and engaging prose to explain how she achieved all this. The book is in turn heartbreaking, humorous and brutally honest. Every autism family seeks the light in an ocean of despair. Every autism mom, every autism dad, in fact every person who loves another person with autism, can use TAGteach with ease. This book shows you how.
Some Things that Parents will Learn from the Book
- How to observe your child
- How to use positive reinforcement to shape simple behaviors
- How to notice even tiny moments of desirable behavior
- How to break behaviors into tiny pieces
- How to add simple behaviors together to build complex behaviors
- How to communicate to your child “Yes!” without using words
- How to organize the child’s environment to maximize success
- How to arrange the day’s activities for maximum success
- How to stop tantrums, aggressive, destructive and self-injurious behaviors
- How to teach the child to go to bed, stay there and sleep
- How to manage and teach without force, threats or coercion
Martha Gabler lives in a suburb of Washington DC with her wonderful husband Eric and two sons. When the younger son was three years old, AUTISM entered their lives. The End. The Beginning.
Martha Gabler and her husband are the parents of two boys. The younger one, now 18 years old, was diagnosed at age 3 as having severe autism and being profoundly non-verbal. He had all the common difficult behaviors typical of children with autism, including self-injury and aggression. By sheer chance, she learned about TAGteach and realized instantly that this method for positive behavior change could be a huge help. This turned out to be the case. Her son is now a delightful, happy teen who loves life and loves going places. He still has autism, but life is much better for the family.
When my son was younger, during the time I think of as the dreadful early years, my son’s behavior consisted almost solely of running, screaming, making noises, hitting himself and sometimes others. I was desperate to do something as simple as go for a walk, go to the grocery store, or get a few hours of uninterrupted sleep. By the time Douglas was eight we were physically isolated, exhausted and frustrated.
As many autism families do, we met with massive bureaucratic and financial obstacles to get the scientifically-based, professional help that we required. I realized that we were on own and it was up to me to figure out a way to help Doug. I discovered a method called TAGteach about 10 years ago and found it to be a simple, inexpensive way for us to implement proven procedures to help Douglas be calm and confident and able to engage in normal family activities.
I wrote this book so that you too can benefit from my experience to work with your child at home during those times when a professional behavior therapist is not available.
Martha on the Radio
TAGteach: Using Positive Reinforcement to Transform My ASD Son’s Life. Autism Parenting Magazine. Issue 42. 2016.
Here are some sample comments from reviewers. Click here for more reviews.
“I completely enjoyed this book. It was an engaging and easy read with the appropriate amount of personal testimonial and practical generalization. I wish I could have read it years ago. Parents and practitioners alike will benefit from reading this book regardless if your child is high functioning or severe. After reading, you’ll know that all those other books you read on autism, sensory processing disorder, auditory processing disorder, apraxia, etc. were mostly a big waste of time and money. Don’t let your child’s doctor or other professional convince you that nothing can be done. It’s not true and this book proves it.”
Aimee Taylor – Autism Parent
“The Chaos to Calm manuscript is excellent. I think her book will be very helpful to parents for the following reasons: (1) it addresses the most common problems and needs of parents of children with autism (2) it is written in a very direct and logical manner, and (3) it is a HOW-TO book – I think that her directions and explanations lend themselves to being understood and used by parents. I would definitely suggest other parents read it.”
Mae Barker, PhD, BCBA-D
Senior Behavior Analyst
Florida Autism Consultants and Educational Services
“Effective interventions require thoughtfulness, innovation, and compassion. Gabler’s book provides parents with all three. TAGteach is a robust intervention worthy of the children who need it. I strongly recommend Chaos to Calm for those serious about learning practical uses of TAGteach.”
Rick Kubina, PhD
Professor, Special Education Program, The Pennsylvania State University
“The author, Martha Gabler, has the heart of a tiger, the instincts of a Mamma Bear protecting and nurturing her cub, and the mind of an applied logician. Empowered with well-tested and highly generalizable concepts and teaching tools, she crafted a comprehensive and progressive curriculum for her son, delivered with technical expertise. What could easily have been a sterile account of a ‘behavioral program for a child with severe autism,’ is a book filled with wisdom, humor, commonsense, and a mother’s love. I haven’t read a book so simultaneously moving, inspiring, and just plain smart in a long time. It could, and should, be the model for a new approach to assisting families, and will also be of much use to teachers and clinicians.”
Martin Kozloff, PhD
Watson Distinguished Professor
Watson College of Education
University of North Carolina Wilmington
Author of ‘Reaching the Autistic Child’ and many other books
Autism Society Professional Advisor
“This remarkable book is something that any ABA person would be proud to offer parents. TAGteach has an important future in the treatment of autism and other developmental delays and this parent has shown the way. I will be recommending the book to both parents and ABA therapists.”
Joseph Morrow, PhD, BCBA-D
President, Applied Behavior Consultants
Professor of Psychology and Behavior Analysis (Emeritus)
California State University, Sacramento
Licensed Psychologist, State of California
Sample Interview Questions
1. Why did you decide to write this book?
2. What is TAGteach?
3. How is TAGteach different?
4. What are some common problems of autism that your book addresses?
5. How does your book help parents deal with these problems?
6. You say that this method you use is based on positive reinforcement. What happens if the child misbehaves?
7. What is the best thing for parents to start with?
8. What do parents need to be able to get started?
9. Your son did not use words or understand words at first. How did you let him know what you wanted him to do?
10. How old should a child be to be able to start teaching using TAGteach?
11. How is your son doing now?
Some Q & A
Question #1: Why did you decide to write this book?
When my son was younger, during the time I think of the dreadful early years, his behavior consisted almost solely of running, screaming, making noises hitting himself and sometimes others. I was desperate to do something as simple as go for a walk, go to the playground, and get a few hours of uninterrupted sleep. By the time Doug was eight we were physically isolated, exhausted and frustrated. As many autism families do, we met with massive bureaucratic and financial obstacles to get the scientifically-based, professional help that we required. I realized that we were on own and it was up to me to figure out a way to help Doug. I discovered a method called TAGteach, about 8 years ago and found it to be a simple, inexpensive way for us to implement proven procedures to help Doug be calm and confident and able to engage in normal family activities. I wanted to share my experience and protocols with other autism parents so that they too can work with their children at home during those times when a professional behavior is therapist not available.
Question 2: What is TAGteach and How is it Different?
So, what is TAGteach? TAGteach stands for Teaching with Acoustical Guidance.
At its heart, it is a communication method, a way to let a person know that he or she has done something right. TAGteach is based on the science of Applied Behavior Analysis, or ABA, which is familiar to many autism parents. With Applied Behavior Analysis you use positive reinforcement to increase desired behaviors. It is a gentle and effective way to teach a child, and it is highly recommended for children with autism. There is no punishment with a positive behavior approach. What TAGteach does is add in an acoustical signal, a click, a flash of light, or a hand clap, to “mark” the behavior that will earn the positive reinforcement. The click or mark provides very specific information to the child about what will earn the reinforcement. It’s a communication method. It tells your child: “You did this right. Now you are getting a reward.” Or, technically speaking, a reinforcer. Once your child knows WHAT to do, he will do that thing more often to get more rewards. That is how you start to build good behaviors.
TAGteach also provides a framework for parents to use in thinking about their child’s behavior and coming up with a plan to increase positive behaviors in tiny increments.
Question #3: What is a common problem that autism families face that you addressed with this method?
Well, one common problem for many autism families is that their children with autism make lots of loud random noises. Many children engage in what we call “verbal stimming.” They buzz, drone, hum, beep, squeal or repeat words and phrases over and over. My son continually said, “Deeee, deee, deee,” all day long while running around the house. It is very tough for the family to live with that non-stop noise. The child often seems very agitated and has trouble calming himself.
Naturally, autism families would love for this behavior to stop. But how do you stop it or change it? The child is not doing this to be difficult or to annoy the family. He is doing it because he is experiencing some type of reinforcement, probably internal reinforcement, for this behavior.
Question #4: How does TAGteach fix this problem?
What I did when confronted with this problem was to look for another behavior to reinforce to replace the verbal stimming. With TAGteach I am supposed to think about behavior that I want to happen, as opposed to what I want to stop. There are two alternative behaviors to verbal stimming. One is Quiet Mouth, pretty easy to understand. The other behavior is when the child speaks an appropriate word, sound or phrase—something other than the verbal stim.
With TAGteach, my first step was to observe my son. The moment he had a split second of either Quiet Mouth or Saying An Appropriate Word/Sound, I “marked” the behavior by clicking or flashing a light. Immediately thereafter I handed him a treat, which is the reinforcer. The treat can be anything the child likes, candy, money or tokens for a special privilege, but it must be something the child prizes. This is not the time to hand over a chunk of broccoli.
Then, I settled back and waited for the next split second of Quiet Mouth or Saying An Appropriate Word. I kept marking and reinforcing all instances of the desired behavior and paid no attention to the verbal stimming—I just looked away. My smart, sensitive child with autism quickly caught on that his environment was changing. He was now experiencing lots of treats and attention for doing Quiet Mouth or Saying An Appropriate Word/Sound. As a logical being, he started producing more of those nice verbal behaviors.
The first time I tried to do this, it took eight minutes and it was actually funny. My son was sitting on a big bouncy ball in the living room yowling and screeching at the top of his lungs. I sat next to him and started marking (with the clicker) and reinforcing (with the candy pieces) every possible moment of Quiet Mouth, even if it was just a split second. Eight minutes later he was looking at me, in complete silence, with his lips pursed together as though to show me, “Look Ma! Quiet Mouth!” I have to tell you, I was amazed. But I was also thrilled. And encouraged – so this was even positive reinforcement for me to keep doing this!
Naturally, I had to keep reinforcing this on a daily basis, but that was easy to do. Now we have very little verbal stimming, and when it pops up, I just pull out the clicker and start marking Quiet Mouth or Appropriate Words.
Question # 5: What is that you wish for your listeners? What message do you want to leave with them?
Learn about and use the mark and reinforce procedures of TAGteach, I was able to teach my son a range of very useful behaviors relatively quickly, with ease, and with no financial cost, behaviors such as: Quiet Mouth, Safe Walking, Going to the Playground, Going to the Store, and Waiting In Line. My son, like most kids with autism, displays a variety of physical movements throughout the day, many of which are non-typical and not conducive to learning. However, buried in that whirlwind of chaos I learned how to spot physical movements that could be useful in building better behaviors. Some examples would be: Quiet Mouth, Both Feet OnFloor, Hands Still or Eye Contact. These movements were always very short and disappeared almost as soon as they appeared. But I was able to catch those fleeting moments. When you reinforce a behavior it occurs more often, so my son started to produce these good behaviors more often and for longer periods of time. TAGteach is a great way to mark and reinforce behaviors that are too fast and fluid to catch with words or just handing out a treat, because you mark the split second that the movement is happening. And a child with autism needs to know exactly what he is doing that is earning a reward.
Here’s an example. Let’s say I’m not using TAGteach and I see that my child has and I see that my child has Quiet Mouth for one or two seconds. By the time I walk over to him to praise him or hand out a candy, he is going to be doing something else, either yowling again or looking out the window or something else. So if I were to praise him and hand him a treat at that moment, he would not know that it was for the Quiet Mouth behavior he was displaying 6 seconds ago. It would be just one more random event in the confusing sensory world of a child with autism.
TAGteach gets around this confusion by communicating to the child exactly what he is doing that is good at precisely the split second he is doing it. It may seem difficult to understand, but remember, our kids with autism are super-sensory! They pick up on tiny nuances in their environment that would elude us—because we are so verbally oriented. Once I learned how to observe, mark and reinforce a positive behavior, I was able to build up all kinds of good behaviors. Our family life improved greatly, and we were able to get out and do a lot more. Now he is a big, strong, but well-behaved, teenager, and he is very sweet and affectionate. He is competent and cooperative in all kinds of settings, people enjoy working with him, and we can come and go as we please.
So TAGteach is an excellent teaching and behavior management method. I would recommend it to all autism families for their consideration. It is based on the science of Applied Behavior Analysis, it is effective, easy to learn, easy to do, and costs next to nothing. It’s a winner for a family dealing with the nightmares of autism. There is nothing else like it.