Tuesday, December 22, 2009

TAGteach - dog training for special needs learners

TAGteach is a training methodology that uses the "clicker" operant conditioning approaches best known from dog training, together with positive reinforcement strategies, to teach special needs and other learners.

A Wikipedia article on Karen Pryor provides the best overview. I hadn't realized that the clicker training started out with BF Skinner in the 1930s. My primary exposure to Skinner came in the 1970s when he was terribly unfashionable, it's funny now to realize he pioneered many approaches I currently favor. He was wrong to think that humans were fully environmentally determined (seems silly now), but right that training humans is not much different from training birds, dogs, primates and dolphins.

I'm going to start following the TagTeach blog, though I do detect a few reddish flags. There's a bit too much confidence that this method solves all problems. Experienced special needs parents know there's no perfect solution to all learning and behavior problems, and that solutions come and go (often several times!).

That caveat aside, it looks like TagTeach includes some techniques here we can add to our repertoire. Consider one example from "Denise" ...
One of the many things "Robert" is working on is writing. His writing goal is to draw a vertical line....

My plan was to tag Robert for 1) touching the marker, 2) holding the marker, 3) holding the marker in a writing position, 4) touching the tip of the marker anywhere within the opening of the stencil, 5) moving the tip of the marker within the stencil, and then (hopefully, eventually), drawing a line within the stencil...

... he tried to take a juice container from the counter so I knew I had access to something he wanted.

So: I gave Robert a sip of juice and tagged him. Then I showed him the marker which he took and threw across the room. I tagged him as soon as he touched it, ignored the throw, and gave him a sip of juice...
This scenario illustrates the use of positive reinforcement (juice for Robert, treats for a dog), stepwise teaching (almost always a good idea) with victory at each step, extinction (ignore the thrown marker) and using the click to mark success and "stop the clock".

Nice example.

Thanks BK for the referral!

See also:

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