Plants seek the light, kids with autism seek success, TAGteach delivers both

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autism, tagteach, applied behavior analysis

Plants grow towards the light

Why? So they can grow better, so that their cells produce more food for the plants to grow. This phenomenon is known as phototropism. Phototropism is so powerful that plants turn around completely to face the sun as the sun moves across the sky. Here is a cute 2-minute video  that shows phototropism in time-lapse photography.

Kids with autism need to grow too, but they need special help. They need help with understanding what to do, when to do it, and how long to do it. The best way for them to learn is with success. When they experience success, they turn towards the activities that deliver reinforcement, just as the plants turn toward the light.

Success is the “light” for kids with autism

For all of us, the feeling of success makes us feel good; it gives us a sense of accomplishment. When a learning experience is successful, the learner feels confident in performing a task and is eager to do more. We all want our kids with autism to experience success, confidence and enthusiasm for learning. How best to achieve this? How can we deliver success to our kids? TAGteach is ideal for this. In addition to the event marker (the tag or “click”), TAGteach has other protocols that make sure kids have a successful learning experience. Here is one of them: Start at the Point of Success.

Start at the Point of Success

This means you start working with a child at the level she is already performing. Here’s an example. Let’s say you want to teach a child to do a learning project at the table (a puzzle or a stack of blocks). Perhaps this child is wandering around the room, and is not capable of such a structured activity. Rather than urging her to sit down, the first tag point I would set for this child for is Walks Past Table. The child is already moving around the room, but at some point she will walk past the table. At that split second, I would tag and reinforce her.

She is nowhere near accomplishing the final goal of stacking blocks, but she is experiencing success near the table, so she spends more time there — she moves toward the reinforcement. First tag point accomplished with no stress for the child. The next important TAGteach protocol is to increase behavior by one small step at a time.

One Small Step at a Time

This child is now approaching the table more often, and as she does, she may actually look at the blocks. As soon as she performs Eyes On Blocks, I would tag and reinforce that great new behavior as often as she performs it. She will soon be spending more time near the table looking at blocks. After a while, she may swing a hand or arm near the blocks, so then I would tag and reinforce Hand/Arm Near Blocks. Now she is near the table, looking at the blocks, and perhaps thinking about picking one up. She’s almost ready to do the project, and she has learned all of these intermediate steps with success and reinforcement, no stress and no anxiety. The next tag points to reinforce lavishly would be Pick Up Block, Set Block On Pattern Page, and so forth.

The Child Responds to Positive Reinforcement

Just as plants turn to the light, this child’s experience of success and reinforcement turned her towards the table and the blocks. She followed the “light” of tags and reinforcement, and it gave her success and confidence. Soon she will be able to pick up a block and start learning new skills; with continued experiences of success, she will eagerly work with more blocks, and eventually transition to puzzles, shapes, numbers and letters.

TAGteach is a gentle, reinforcement-based approach to breaking down tasks into small steps, and reinforcing each small step as the child performs it. The child experiences success and reinforcement, gains trust in her environment, and can learn and grow.

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.

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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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