Want to avoid emotional overload? Use TAGteach!

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autism, ABA, TAGteach, applied behavior analysis

Kids with autism tend to be super-sensory!

They often report that they experience sounds, sights and movements at very intense levels. This intensity can overload their systems, cause them emotional distress, and be an impediment to learning new skills.

We are all like this to some extent: we experience emotions and we broadcast our emotions — through our body language and especially through our voices. Probably everyone has had the experience of calling a friend on the phone and, from the tone of voice when the person answers, being able to tell instantly how that person is feeling.

Did you know? The human voice conveys emotion!

Intentionally or not, the human voice conveys a lot of information – often too much information! Karen Pryor, noted behavioral scientist, wrote a powerful description of this phenomenon. “…Please note that the human voice is a very poor marker signal . . . too long, too slow, too variable, carrying too many confounding messages (your sex, age, your mood, your health, etc.) . . .”

Emotional Information Can Be Overwhelming

So when we talk to a child with autism, we are not only using words that the child may not understand, but we are also inflicting the burden of our emotional and physical states on a super-sensitive and possibly apprehensive learner. Now the child has to try to understand the task and cope with lots of emotional information, including his own emotional reactions to the speaker. “Oh no! She’s upset. What did I do wrong?”

The speaker may be upset about something that has absolutely nothing to do with the child, but the child will not know that. The child may react with emotion or behavior that seems out of line to the speaker, and then the speaker will react to that. It’s easy to see how this invisible chain of emotional reactions has the potential to spiral into a misunderstanding or tantrum.

TAGteach Eliminates the Emotional Overload

TAGteach is a powerful tool for getting rid of the pesky, distracting emotional information embedded in the human voice, and replacing it with an easy-to-understand and joyful message — a message of success and confidence. TAGteach uses an acoustical signal (a “tag” or click) to tell a learner when he has done something right. The procedure is as follows: The moment the learner performs the desired task, the instructor presses the tagger to make the sound, then immediately hands over a reinforcer (a treat, candy or token).

The “Tag” Means Success

The child learns that the tag sound means success! He did something right, plus he’s getting a treat. The sound becomes very pleasant and the child learns to look forward to it. The child can learn more efficiently because there are no conflicting messages. There is no confusing language, no upsetting emotional undertones, no self-doubt or worry. The child can feel safe and focus his energy on one thing at a time. He can relax, learn and grow. From the child’s point of view, this is wonderful!

Out With Emotional Overload, In With Confidence

It’s easy to get rid of the confusion, doubt and emotion that can bedevil the learning process for a child with autism. Use TAGteach to deliver these facts: “You did it right.” “That’s it!” “Wow, you understand.” “You are getting a reward.” “You learned something important.” “I’m happy about you!”

We can respect a child’s emotional and sensory needs and create a joyful, confidence-building learning environment — with TAGteach!

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, applied behavior analysis, clickersCheck out the TAGteach International website.

Join the free TAGteach listserve.

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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