TAGteach for autism — it’s not Harry Potter, it’s behavioral science!

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Zauberer mit magischen Kräften

When Hermione wants to pass through the locked door to the Chamber of Secrets, she waves her wand and cries out, “Alohamora!” In a flash the door opens. This is magic.

As autism parents, we don’t have magic wands. We do have taggers, small plastic boxes with a “magic button” that makes a click sound when pressed. TAGteach taggers, plus two facts, can help parents transform the behavior of their children with autism. With TAGteach it is easy to teach your child helpful skills like Safe Walking, Safe Car Trip Behavior, Going to the Grocery Store, and Sleeping. It’s also great for tantrum de-escalation.

TAGteach stands for Teaching with Acoustical Guidance. TAGteach is a teaching and communication method based on the scientific principles of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA).

The two facts are:

  • “Behavior” is “movement”
  • Positive Reinforcement Increases Behaviors (physical movements of the body)

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.

Let’s look at the difference between Harry Potter and TAGteach. With magic, here’s what Harry and his pals do:

  1. They wave their wands (action)
  2. Then something happens (event)

With TAGteach, here’s what autism parents can do:

  1. Wait for something good to happen (event)
  2. Then press the tagger (action)

The order is reversed. The wand makes something happen once. The tagger makes something good happen again. TAGteach is an excellent tool to help your child perform more great behaviors more often.

In order to help autism parents understand and apply these concepts, I have created a free online course that explains the basics of behavior science, how to observe your child and how to use reinforcement effectively.
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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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