TAGteach How-to: 3 resources you can use to change the “invisible” environment of a child with autism into a “growth” environment

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The word “environment,” has been a top subject in the news for decades. We know about natural environments like forests and rivers, and urban environments with streets and buildings. These are tangible, visible environments. But tangible objects are not the only features of an environment.

External factors

Included in every environment are external factors influencing the life and activities of plants, animals and people. These factors are elements that cannot be seen, and include things like knowledge, resources and skills. For a child with autism, the most important environment is this “invisible” environment.

What is the invisible environment of a child with autism?

This environment is made up of all the interactions and consequences that the child experiences each day. The impact of this environment on the future growth and development of the child is enormous. A supportive environment with access to knowledge, resources and skills can help both the child and the family learn important skills. A chaotic environment will help neither the child nor the parents, and may cause damage. Children with autism may display various challenging and dysfunctional behaviors.  Everyday life can be hard for them due to the communication deficits and sensory issues that are part of the autism condition.

Teaching a child with autism is a challenging task that requires teams of specialists from multiple disciplines, yet most of us do not have access to such teams due to financial and bureaucratic obstacles. So how can parents help their children with autism and provide a supportive learning environment?

TAGteach provides 3 resources

TAGteach is a simple, easy and inexpensive way to add in these invisible factors so important for creating a scientifically-sound, supportive and positive learning environment. Knowledge of TAGteach gives the parents a remarkable resource for increasing functional skills in their children with autism.

1. Knowledge:  TAGteach and Positive Reinforcement

TAGteach stands for Teaching with Acoustical Guidance. TAGteach is a teaching and communication method based on the positive reinforcement principles of ABA (Applied Behavior Analysis). The most important scientific law of ABA states that a behavior that is reinforced is a behavior that will occur again. By reinforcing appropriate, functional behaviors, parents can teach a child to perform these behaviors more often and for longer periods of time. TAGteach combines an acoustical signal (a “tag” or click) with positive reinforcement to increase functional behaviors.

The acoustical signal or “tag” delivers precise, timely information to the child about what he or she has done that is correct. The “tag” means “success” to the child. With TAGteach, the desired behavior is broken down into small parts so the child can learn one small step at a time. Since TAGteach is easy for parents to learn and to do, the child experiences high levels of success and reinforcement. Consequently the child develops new skills with joy, and the entire family can go out and participate in life.

2. Resource: Parents’ Powerful Observational Skills

Oftentimes, parents’ detailed knowledge of their children is a neglected, unused resource. TAGteach taps into this amazing resource. By combining parents’ potent observational skills with the knowledge of how to mark and reinforce behaviors, parents learn how to increase their children’s functional skills. With the tagger, a small plastic device that makes a quick “click” sound, parents can “tag” and reinforce their children for any and all functional behaviors, no matter how fleeting those behaviors may be. Because of the laws of behavioral science, these behaviors that are reinforced are behaviors that will occur again. TAGteach makes it easy for parents or caregivers to add that supremely important external factor–positive reinforcement–into the invisible environment of a child with autism.

3. Skills: TAGteach Teaches the Child and The Parents

TAGteach not only helps parents to teach functional behaviors to their children, TAGteach, in and of itself, teaches parents about positive reinforcement. I use TAGteach all the time with my son. I always have a tagger in one pocket and a favored treat (the always useful fruit roll-up) in the other pocket. Every day I am armed and ready to deal with behaviors. Simply feeling that little plastic box in my pocket makes me think:

“Am I reinforcing productive behaviors?

Or am I reinforcing unwanted behaviors with attention or my emotional energy?

Am I thinking about what I want my child to and not what I don’t want him to do?

Am I tagging on time and handing over a reinforcer promptly?”

If the answer to any of these questions is “No,” then I know what I have to do: pull out the tagger and get busy. In the rush of family life, especially with young children, it is easy to get wrapped up in reacting to and trying to tamp down difficult behaviors. It is hard to think about positive behavior supports when your child is in the middle of a huge tantrum, the baby is crying, and you had to be somewhere ten minutes ago. The tagger in your pocket can change that dynamic. When the child starts to tantrum, turn your attention away, but start tagging and reinforcing any moments of Quiet Mouth, Both Feet On The Floor or any other functional behavior that the child displays. After only a few episodes like this, I learned that it was just a matter of time and perseverance before my son calmed down.

I found that this focus on positive actions of my child empowered me. With TAGteach, I was able to manage difficult behaviors and teach new skills. When tagging and reinforcing became a habit, life became much better for all of us. TAGteach, with just a little plastic tagger and a fruit roll-up, changed my son’s environment from a chaotic one to a highly supportive one where he learned and thrived.

The Whole Family Benefits

TAGteach gives a child a child with autism the wonderful experience of success, along with positive feelings, and the ability to learn. TAGteach gives the parents confidence and skill in supporting their child and helping him or her learn valuable skills. Put all these things together and you can create a wonderful “growth” environment for a family facing autism.

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, help, tagteach, ABA, positive reinforcement, applied behavior analysis

For more information see www.tagteach.com.

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TAGteach taggers are available here.

See Martha’s book about TAGteach for Autism or ask a question (with no obligation).

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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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