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View Full Version : Special needs and TAGteach/ operant conditioning



Jeninok
02-08-2012, 04:18 PM
Had anyone used the methods of TAGteach, or structured operant Conditioning with their little ones, whether they are special needs or not?


We are going to start officially homeschooling next Wednesday, we had planned on Friday being my son's last day, but he wants to stay for the Valentine's Day party, which is fine with me.

A lot of our focus is going to be on undoing bad habits, trying to reinforce good ones while building back on the basics he has missed. I plan on also focusing on removing a lot of the anxiety involved in anything to do with school.

My plan for handwriting, which never became automatic for him, as he still forms his letters using random starting and ending points, is to use the same clicker and operant conditioning method I use with the dogs. I think either pennies or poker chips will be used for rewards.

I am hoping it will help us break it down into tiny parts, and then build back up to whole letters, connections of letters and eventually sentences. All without anxiety or frustration, and the clicker will allow me to keep any of my own emotions out of re-teaching this.

The method has a ton of potential for behavior modification, and teaching all sorts of skills and knowledge without using any punishment or negativity. I know it works fantastically for my dogs, and while I have always tried to be positive and use positive reinforcement rather than aversives, I have never attempted it in such a structured way with my son.

dbmamaz
02-08-2012, 04:45 PM
I'll be honest, my first reaction to this is not a positive one, but it might help us to understand if you tell us how old your son is and what his special needs are. I can maybe see working on handwriting habits in a very conscious way like that, but not much else? And i have a really hard time imagining a child not resenting clicker training, but again i know all kids are different. But aside from specific deficits, often the focus of homeschooling is allowing each child to unfold at his own pace, rather than expecting him to develop certain skills at the 'average' or 'acceptable' age

Resaj
02-08-2012, 05:46 PM
I'll be honest, my first reaction to this is not a positive one, but it might help us to understand if you tell us how old your son is and what his special needs are. I can maybe see working on handwriting habits in a very conscious way like that, but not much else? And i have a really hard time imagining a child not resenting clicker training, but again i know all kids are different. But aside from specific deficits, often the focus of homeschooling is allowing each child to unfold at his own pace, rather than expecting him to develop certain skills at the 'average' or 'acceptable' age

A child is not a dog and has a depth of understanding deeper than even the smartest of breeds. For what it's worth I think there are probably much better ways to retrain handwriting habits. We have had a lot of success using Handwriting Without Tears. I have sat beside her page after page and given gentle reminders about where to start each letter. Singing cheery jingles..."if you are gonna make an m then it's gotta have a stem, where do you start the stem? At the top!" With lots of patience it can be done and without what I can only imagine would be a degrading experience for the child.

Resaj
02-08-2012, 05:48 PM
But the clicker worked great with my Jack Russell. :)

Accidental Homeschooler
02-08-2012, 05:57 PM
I second handwriting without tears. If you get the slate and practice with that it is almost impossible to start at the bottom or reverse letters. They also sell practice paper that has a shaded box for forming the letters with the starting dots marked. My dd is doing really well with it. She has a hard time generalizing from writing for writing to writing for her other subjects but we are getting there. I would suggest trying that first.

theWeedyRoad
02-08-2012, 07:57 PM
I'll be honest, my first reaction to this is not a positive one, but it might help us to understand if you tell us how old your son is and what his special needs are. I can maybe see working on handwriting habits in a very conscious way like that, but not much else? And i have a really hard time imagining a child not resenting clicker training, but again i know all kids are different. But aside from specific deficits, often the focus of homeschooling is allowing each child to unfold at his own pace, rather than expecting him to develop certain skills at the 'average' or 'acceptable' age

I agree with this.

It's really amazing what parental support, love, and gentle guidance will do.

I'm a limited treat trainer, and abhor the clicker for dogs though- it's not that I think it won't work (it obviously does) but that I really think lots of praise is THE way to go. But even if I was into the other stuff, kids definitely aren't dogs.

My kids do best with a solid explanation of what they are doing wrong and what I'd like to see in the future- I can't do that with my dogs because we don't speak the same language or think the same way. Kids need feedback, but not as instantaneously as a dog might- therefore no 'marker' necessary.

I also don't quite get not making emotion part of your homeschool- this is the child you adore, and you are homeschooling because you love him and want better for him. Meet him where he is at, and lead him to where you want him to go. I agree that we all need to NOT get frustrated (as much as we can) but education and learning doesn't have to be reduced to remote training, either. You can have fun, learn with him, enjoy the time you have and seeing the progress he makes.



I apologize if I seem harsh- I'm really not understanding where you are coming from, I think. My dd faced huge struggles with learning to read, and we celebrated the small successes together (and healed from ps together). She was so fragile from feeling dumb that I can't even imagine if she didn't have me there to let her cry and work through her anxiety- didn't have me there to tell her I love her and that I knew how hard she was trying even when she felt hopeless. I can't imagine removing myself from the teaching equation here at all. But I'm not in your situation, not homeschooling your child.

dbmamaz
02-08-2012, 08:14 PM
Ok, I went back and read your intro. I just want to talk a bit about my middle son.

He had extreme coordination problem for years, and horrible handwriting, and also writing was painful for him. I got him a program to learn to type the summer before he started in the gifted program in 4th grade. It was an amazing difference - if you asked him to write something, he'd write a few words. If he was able to type it, you'd get 4 sentences out of him. In middle school, the school had laptops for every kid, and it was in his IEP that any longer assignments would be typed.

I started homeschooling him in 8th grade. I didnt make him do much writing, but actually we worked on it the most in math - i had to start pushing him to write down every step on a different line. Believe it or not, his handwriting started to improve. I really think for some of these unusually wired kids, things just come later.

It can be really helpful to separate handwriting from producing work. My older son still types almost everything, and I still do a lot of my younger son's writing for him - i write longer answers on his lab sheets for him, and every friday for english, he dictates stories to me and I type them. He is working a year below his level in english (but a year above in math) and is only now able to write sentences - and its getting better, but I really think that not pushing, but offering and waiting until they are ready to do it without crying - thats how we get them to move forward without losing their confidence.

Jeninok
02-08-2012, 09:19 PM
I certainly don't want to take all emotion out of homeschooling, but I know for me personally this is one area that he and he and I both tend to get frustrated easily, if only because we have been working on it for several years together without any real change.

We tried handwriting without tears, there were tears. He reacted to it as just another work sheet of misery.

We worked on the capital cursive D tonight because he was asking me about it, and was trying to start with the bigger loop on the top, which doesn't work at all.

I didn't use the clicker, but I started him with just the straight line down from the top, with me saying "yep" and setting a lego in front of him, each time he did it, then we added a straight line down with the little back loop, same process with each new element.

By the end of it we had 1 line of very consistent Ds that had all been started from the right point and ended in the right place with the loop on top.

Start to finish 3 minutes maybe, and by the time he was done he had a small pile of legos to play with.

These are actually already his legos of which he has ten million and always wants more, but he has no clue what he has, and never really thinks play with them unless I get them out and put them in front of him.

Jeninok
02-08-2012, 09:25 PM
I totally agree with lots of praise, and love, and talking about what we want next time and all of that, we do a ton of it, in every aspect of life. That is the whole reason we are pulling him out and homeschooling.

He is the one who is saying he wants to work on his letters and writing and to get better at cursive, because it is way easier for him than print, but he gets confused and mixed up and then doesn't want to do anymore or will end up stomping off because I have reminded him to start the letter different next time.

I am also totally keeping handwriting out of any sort of production work, if the answer is right it is right, and really I am not worried about neatness in this, but rather finding a way to help him get automatic when he writes, so that he isn't having to think of how to make each letter of every word.

dbmamaz
02-08-2012, 09:40 PM
See, if he's asking for it - that makes all the difference in the world! any reward that motivates is great, esp if its HIS goal.

Jeninok
02-08-2012, 09:57 PM
We have been having lots of talks about what he wants to work on, where he thinks things are hardest for him and trying to figure out how to make it easier.

He has told me that he wants to fix his letters, so that he doesn't get mixed up connecting them. That he wants to go back and re learn how to do some math, but without all the confusing mental math procedures they do at school.

He wants to do more science, but not just the boring vocabulary stuff.

And learn more about history, but the whole story, not just dates and names that he can't remember anyway.

We have agreed that we will do math, and some handwriting and grammar work everyday, but it won't be a bunch of painful worksheets and busywork.

Then we will have lots of time for exploration of interesting subjects, and hands on projects. We have agreed on a no screens rule until after dinner, unless it is some kind of learning game, or an agreed upon documentary.

Staysee34
02-08-2012, 10:58 PM
When my oldest daughter was in Kindergarten (17 in PS), they taught cursive before print. As confusing as I thought it might be to read print but write cursive, she did it and loved it. For each lower case letter, they were given a set of verbal instructions. Example: lower case "t", start at the base line, rock it up to the attic, retrace, bump the base line, shoot the tail. 12 years later , I called the same school that I've had nothing to do with since DD17 was a student there and asked for a copy of the cursive language they used. They weren't using it anymore but found a Title I teacher who still had a copy. They mailed it to me. In DD10's case, I know that saying the directions out loud while writing them will work but we're not doing it until next year. She insisted on practicing print this year. Anyway, if anyone reading this thread would like a copy of the lower case cursive language please let me know and I'll be more than happy to pass it along.

Jeninok
02-08-2012, 11:41 PM
I would love to find a new language, I avoid some of the more complicated ones like clockwise and such, but left/right and up and down or top and bottom are much harder to avoid, and haven't been very effective in getting it to "stick"

I try to talk him through each letter, but he also gets mad, and tells me if he has to hear me say start at the top one more time he might go crazy and then he gives up.

That was part of my reasoning in using the clicker, start with the first detail of each letter and build on that, which would let him practice and get a reinforcer without any words from me, and also remove the words when he goes the wrong way.

SunnyDays
02-17-2012, 01:14 AM
Are you committed to carrying on with your current type of handwriting? If he's having problems with loops and such, I wonder if another style might be better for him? Perhaps Getty Dubay Italic? Just a thought.

He sounds like he really wants some freedom to learn, which will be wonderful once you get rolling!! :)

Jeninok
02-17-2012, 02:22 AM
I have never heard of that, but it looks like it might be perfect!!!

What I really want is for him to be able to write legibly and quickly without having to think through each letter. We have actually cut down on a lot of the extra loops and such and I am just focused on starting at the right points, and having it on the line rather than floating or slanting down below the line. Really I don't care about cursive at all, but his print is really so bad that it doesn't even look like english.

This italic is actually really close to what I was trying to describe to him today, that most people end up with a simplified form of cursive with some breaks and substitutes with print lettesr in place of the more complicated cursive letters. I am going to track down some materials!

SunnyDays
02-17-2012, 02:58 PM
Here's a link that might help:

http://www.handwritingsuccess.com/italic-handwriting-series.php

Hopefully that will help you... handwriting is so subjective, and I'm with you... I have no regard for any particular style, only if it's legible and reasonably comfortable for them to use!