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Task Analysis & Chaining

Sometimes entire task presentation is overwhelming. Think of preparing a 5 course meal for a crowd of 200, building a car engine or completing a physics problem. Yikes! If we break down the entire skill into tiny, more manageable parts, it makes the entire task feel less taxing on us all.

Oftentimes, our kids also feel overwhelmed completing tasks that feel extreme to them, too. Examples such as hand washing, toothbrushing, face washing, loading/unloading dishwashers, making the bed, taking a bath or shower, taking out the garbage, cleaning the bathroom and navigating the school cafeteria line can all be daunting tasks to them.

Task Analysis = a list of written out steps that contain all of the components necessary to complete the task. 

When writing a task analysis, we try to break the skill down into very specific steps, to create manageable steps. A task analysis often goes hand in hand with chaining. 

Chaining = a set of teaching procedures used to teach a task analysis.


When using chaining, we teach skills in 1 of 3 ways until the entire sequence of a task analysis is mastered. We use the following teaching procedures: forwards chaining, backwards chaining or entire task presentation.

Forward chaining: Using this type of teaching procedure, the first step is taught first, and then the second step, the third step and continues until the entire sequence is able to be performed independently.

Backward chaining: In this teaching procedure, we focus on teaching the last step of the sequence first and then moving backwards through the sequence with the learner performing the last steps independently.

Total task presentation: This is actually a type of forward chaining procedure. What makes this different is that the child is being taught to complete all of the steps throughout the entire task analysis on each presentation.

Choosing which procedure to use is based on the number of steps the learner can complete either partially or independently now. Each task analysis is individualized specifically to each child, so what one child may be able to complete in 8 steps, another is able to complete in 100. Revisions to task analysis should be made depending on the child's progress.

Below is an example of a task analysis of teaching a learner to turn on the Wii.

1) Find remote

2) Press power button on remote for TV

3) Press channel 3

4) Walk to Wii

5) Press power button on Wii

6) Go to shelf

7) Pick out game

8) Take game out of case

9) Press Wii game into Wii

10) Put case on shelf

11) Sit on couch

12) Play!