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Tackle Big Skills In Baby Steps

child lacing close-upTrying to teach Julie some of the targets we dished about in How To Foster Independence Skills  and How To Teach Your Young Child Self Care Skills with not much success? No sweat! The solution to the struggle: Task analysis and chaining. Some kiddos are unable to learn how to brush their teeth or put on their clothes when the skill is taught as a whole or in large pieces. This is when task analysis becomes a big help. It’s the process of breaking a complex skill into small components that are a lot easier for Julie to grasp and attain. Chaining is the act of sequentially teaching those baby steps. We swear by these techniques, having taught countless clients with developmental disorders how to care for themselves independently.

Task Analysis Tips
Before you teach Johnny to wash his hand in increments, be clear on the small steps involved. Watch someone do the targeted self-care skill a few times, then write down each component. For examples of task analysis checklists, check out our data sheets on dressing, tying shoes, brushing teeth and shaving. The resources at Behavior Advisor  may be helpful, too. Use your  list or our data sheets to keep track of Johnny’s progress on each step, moving on only when he can perform the current component independently.

Choices In Chaining
There are two ways to teach the baby steps you outlined during task analysis.

Forward Chaining: Start with the first component of the sequence and work on subsequent steps thereafter. This method is great when your kiddo already knows some of the steps of the skill. For instance, Julie can already brush part of her teeth, she just doesn’t do it as thoroughly as you would like.

Backward Chaining: Last goes first. You begin by teaching the final step of the sequence, then target the preceding parts one by one until Johnny is proficiently tying his shoes. This is usually our go-to, as students can access their reinforcer faster (i.e., being finished with the task), which makes the skill intrinsically reinforcing.

Read more in our post on How to Use Chaining with a Task Analysis!


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  1. Pingback: Behavioral Chaining in ABA - How to ABA

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