For some individuals with special needs, learning a new self-help skill can be challenging. With a task analysis, this tool helps to break down and teach the complex skill into multiple simple steps. Before using a task analysis, here are 6 strategies that will assist for a successful implementation:
- Break down and review the skill
- Create a visual support
- Determine the best chaining procedure to teach the skill
- Teach by using least to most assistance
- Provide praise and reward as you practice
- Use the task analysis naturally and consistently
1. Break Down and Review the Skill
When you have a skill you want to teach, you will first break down the skill into multiple simple steps. For example, for one of my clients it was determined that we would work on using a washing machine. Once we have created the list of steps, we acted out those steps to check if the list we made was correct or if we needed to add additional steps. When you have the list of steps complete, you can then create a visual support for the task analysis.
2. Create a Visual Support
Depending on the individual’s age, you can design the visual support as a written or picture format. Based on the skill being taught, I have learned that if you plan to use a picture format it is best to use pictures of the individual completing each step. It is also helpful to lament the visual support in order to continuously use it. After completing the design of the visual support, you will then determine how to teach the skill.
3. Determine the Best Chaining Procedure to Teach the Skill
To teach the task analysis, you will determine the chaining procedure to utilize when teaching the multiple steps. There are three types of chaining procedures:
- Total Task
With total task chaining, the individual does each step of the skill and is provided assistance when they are stuck on a step. In this chaining procedure, reinforcement is provided after completing the last step. To see how total task chaining is presented, please click here for a video example.
With forward chaining, the individual will be taught each step one at a time. In this teaching procedure, the first step of the skill will be taught, and the remaining steps will be done by the caregiver. In this chaining procedure, reinforcement is delivered after the individual performs the first step. To see how forward chaining is presented, please click here for a video example.
With backward chaining, the final step of the task analysis is taught to the individual. For this chaining procedure, the caregiver will complete the beginning steps of the task analysis and teach the individual the final step. In this chaining procedure, reinforcement is provided when the individual performs the final step. To see how backward chaining is presented, please click here for a video example.
Before we proceed to the next step, an important note to remember is that during the initial implementation of the chaining procedure be sure to verbally state the steps as you teach the individual. Once the individual becomes accustom to the steps, you will then use the prompt hierarchy.
4. Teach by Using Least to Most Assistance
A prompt hierarchy is the level of assistance provided to an individual. With a task analysis, it is best to use least to most assistance to teach the steps and then decrease that assistance as the individual completes the steps independently. A way I learned to follow the prompt hierarchy for least to most assistance was using this rule:
Tell is the verbal prompt. This means you will verbally state what the next step is. With one of my clients, for example, when he was stuck on a step for pulling down his shirt, the parent stated the step, “We pull the shirt down.” When my client remained unsure, the parent proceeded to the next step: Show. And he did it!
Show is the model/gesture prompt. This means you will model or point to the next step the individual will need to do. When my client remained unsure with the verbal prompt the parent proceeded to lightly tug the shirt in a downward motion and said, “We pull down like this”. When my client remained unsure, the parent proceeded to use the next step: Do.
Do is the physical prompt. This means you will use hand-over-hand to guide the individual on how to complete the next step. For my client, when he remained unsure with the gesture prompt, the parent proceeded to hold my client’s hands, place his hands on the spot to pull down the shirt, and then tugged the shirt down. Once my client completed pulling down the shirt, the parent stated, “Like that, that’s how we pull our shirt down.”
5. Provide Praise and a Reward as You Practice
When using a task analysis, it is important to provide social praise to support the individual’s cooperation for practicing the skill and when they independently accomplish the targeted step. With social praise, be sure to be specific on what the individual has completed. For example, instead of only stating, “Good job” to my client the parent was more specific and stated, “Good job you finished putting on your shirt.” When my client completed a targeted step independently, the parent combined their specific social praise with a reward (their favorite chip). Based on the chaining procedure utilized, you can use this combination of reinforcement to increase the individual’s motivation to practice the skill.
6. Use the Task Analysis Naturally and Consistently
When you implement a task analysis, be sure to use this tool during natural opportunities. With one of my other clients, for example, he was learning how to take a shower and the parent would bring out his visual task analysis every time he takes a shower. With the visual task analysis, it is best to use it consistently in order to not cause confusion if there are different people teaching the same skill to the individual.