TAGteacher Spotlight: Martha Gabler

Editor’s Note: We are thrilled to have Martha join our team of TAGteach Instructors as a Faculty Member. Martha has made a huge contribution to the development of TAGteach for autism.

By Martha Gabler MA, TAGteach Faculty

My name is Martha Gabler. My husband and I are the parents of two boys. The younger one, now 20 years old, was diagnosed at age 3 as having severe autism and being profoundly non-verbal. He had all the common difficult behaviors typical of children with autism, including self-injury and aggression.

By sheer chance, I learned about TAGteach and realized instantly that this method for positive behavior change could be a huge help for us. This turned out to be the case. My son is now a delightful, happy teen who loves life and loves going places. He still has autism, but life is much, much better for us all.

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More Than Just a Sticker: How TAGteach Prevents Kids from Being Punished by Rewards

There is a book called “Punished by Rewards” by Alfie Kohn. I saw the title and thought “how can that be?” and so I bought the book. Dr. Kohn explains how endless stickers and charts and ribbons and praise and approval to children for every single accomplishment no matter how small is creating children who cannot function without outside approval. They have no confidence in their own abilities and low self esteem because they judge themselves through the eyes of others. They are not self motivated and do not derive satisfaction from achievement for its own sake since they have been systematically trained to look to others for approval as a result of the frivolous doling out of rewards by parents, teachers and coaches. This is of course an over-simplification, since it is quite a long book with lots of scientific references, but you get the idea.

The Praise Junkie

Theresa McKeon (TAGteach cofounder and professional gymnastics coach) calls these kids “praise junkies”. They are the ones that always want the coach to look at them. They can’t work independently. They are not focused on learning, but are focused on what the coach (parent, teacher, etc) thinks. They require constant approval and encouragement. They may even misbehave in order to have the attention focused back on them if other children are getting in the way of this.

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Should We Pay Kids to Behave and Do Well at School?

By Karen Pryor (first published in 2010)

Last week TIME magazine ran a cover story about paying kids cash money to get better grades.
The objections to cash ‘rewards’ for schooling have been around for a long time and can lead to tremendous political uproar. There are moral objections—children should do what’s expected of them without reward. There are philosophical, theoretical, religious, and of course financial objections.

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Well, this fellow at Harvard, economist Roland Fryer Jr., decided the first thing to do was to find out if paying kids to do better in school actually worked or not. Forget all the existing studies and opinions. Forget those specific schools where reinforcers, large and small, are built into the system. According to TIME, Dr. Fryer “did something education researchers almost never do: he ran a randomized experiment.” (Just think about THAT for a minute. They opine stuff and put it into the schools and they don’t TEST it?)

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Show ‘Em the Money! What Kids Want Teachers and Parents to Know About Reinforcement

Parents, teachers and other adults need to realize that it is all very well to hope that an innate sense of moral obligation will cause Jimmy to clean his room or raise his hand in class, but if you want the job done easily and well, then you need to pay with currency that kids value.

What do kids really want for reinforcement? How can we possibly find out? Social worker Lynn Loar PhD decided to ask them. The simple answer  was candy, for one thing; money for another. But it’s more complicated than that, as these kids explain in an article published in the the Summer/Fall 2009 issue of the Latham Letter. The article is authored by Lynn Loar and five young co-authors.

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TAGteacher Tale: Spelling and writing, oh my! TAGteach saves the day

By Martha Gabler MA, TAGteach Faculty

TAGteach is so Versatile

Not only does TAGteach help with behavior, you can also use it to help kids overcome learning obstacles.

Here are two examples of how people used TAGteach to help kids who were unhappy about completing their spelling and writing assignments. These were quick, spur-of-the-moment interventions, but they created great outcomes.

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