TAGteach for autism parents: An easy, effective and kind method for teaching your child

Okay, TAGteach. I’m a parent. What’s in it for me?


Answer: A better life

TAGteach is a way to improve your family’s home life and give you more opportunities to include your child with autism in everyday outings.

TAGteach is a way to teach and communicate with your child.

TAGteach is an easy, effective, low-cost and scientifically-based way for parents to increase their child’s functional skills.

TAGteach is great for parents. Here’s why.

autism, TAGteach, ABA, positive reinforcementYou already know 95% of what you need to know to use TAGteach!

You observe your child every day, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

You know your child.

You know your child’s needs and wants.

You are familiar with his setting.

You know his routines, triggers, limits and sensory profile.

You have a trained eye!

You are the expert on your family.

You know your family’s priorities.

You can apply your family’s values.

You can tailor everything precisely to your unique situation.

You have 95% of the knowledge you need to teach your child the behaviors he needs – the behaviors that will increase your family’s opportunities for a happier home life and participation in the community.

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

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.

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I want to use the clicker, but can’t get started. Part 2

young boy with stunned look on his faceA reader posed the question, “How did you feel before you took the first TAG step?

I felt nervous. But, before I took the first step I had already done the following: read about TAGteach, purchased a clicker and prepared a handful of candy treats. From an intellectual standpoint, I understood that marking and reinforcing a behavior would work in increasing that behavior. From a personal standpoint, I wasn’t sure how this was all going to work with my child in my living room.

The Tantrum

The first morning I had my clicker and treats and came downstairs, my son started to tantrum, for no apparent reason. With the clicker in my hand, I had to think about what to do. I knew I should not try to cajole him out of the tantrum. I knew I had to find something positive to mark and reinforce. But what? So, I watched him. Within a minute or two I realized the obvious: he was jumping and running around and screaming. What did I want? It flashed into my mind: Quiet Mouth and Still Feet.

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I want to use the clicker, but can’t get started. Part 3

boy jumping looking excitedA reader posed this question. “What was your first move with your son after you’d learned some concepts and methods? How would you advise families?

Think about behaviors you would like to see

After learning about concepts and methods, the next step was figuring out what behaviors I wanted. For autism parents, that is an amazing concept, to think that you can work on behaviors you would like to see in your child. There are two ways to go about TAGteach: with a specific behavior goal in mind, or general marking and reinforcing of any behaviors you like.

What family activities are stressful with your child?

I spent a lot of time in the beginning using TAGteach to reinforce and build Quiet Mouth behavior. I was also desperate to get out of the house and go for a walk in the neighborhood. Going anywhere with my son required extreme vigilance to make sure he didn’t dart into the street or into oncoming traffic. Going to the grocery story was also a stressful event that required lots of vigilance. Waiting in the line at the store was equally difficult. So my next projects were teaching Nice Walking, Going to the Grocery Story, and Waiting In Line. I worked on these behaviors because I wanted to get out, go for a walk and buy food without all the stress and trauma we usually experienced.

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