Task Analysis and Chaining

written by FCPG on October 17, 2019 in FCPG Tips and Why ABA? with no comments

What is task analysis?

Task analysis involves breaking complex tasks into simpler steps. This can be done by observing someone complete a task, consulting experts, or performing the skill yourself and documenting each step. It is important to consider the age and abilities of the person who will be learning the skill, in order to develop an appropriate task analysis.

Here is an example of a task analysis for washing hands:

  1. Turn on tap
  2. Put hands under water
  3. Get soap
  4. Rub hands
  5. Rinse hands
  6. Turn off tap
  7. Dry hands

What is chaining?

After the task analysis has been done, chaining procedures will be used to teach the skill. There are different types of chaining procedures, some of which are better for teaching different skills or for diverse learners.

  • Forward chaining: when you teach the sequence starting with the first step; this means that the second step will not be targeted until the first step has been mastered.
    • For example, your child must learn to turn on the tap before being expected to put their hands under the water, so this first step will be targeted and use prompt fading. After they have mastered turning on the tap, they will learn to put their hands under the water independently.
  • Backward chaining: when you teach the sequence starting with the last step. The learner must master the last step before the previous step will be formally taught.
    • For example, your child would first learn to independently dry their hands, before we taught them to turn off the tap. After mastering drying hands, they will learn to turn off the tap independently.
  • Total task chaining: occurs when the entire skill is taught, and the learner is given support for only challenging steps.
    • For example, if it was challenging for your child to turn on the tap and get soap, but they were able to do the other steps, these specific steps would be taught using a prompt fading system.

What about reinforcement?

Just with teaching any skill, reinforcement is key! Within a chain of behaviours, each step acts as a cue for the next behaviour (i.e., turning on the tap cues the individual to put their hands under the water) and a reinforcer for the previous behaviour (i.e., putting their hands under the water reinforces turning on the tap).

We also want to reinforce the completion of the chain, making sure to praise them for completing the target steps and provide access to something they love!

What behaviours can task analysis and chaining be used for?

Most complex, multi-step behaviours can be task analyzed and chained. Some examples include:

  • Brushing teeth
  • Getting dressed
  • Riding a bike
  • Making the bed
  • Making breakfast
  • Packing a backpack


As Board Certified Behaviour Analysts, we use task analysis and chaining when working with your child and we can teach you to do the same! Reach out to your consulting team to learn more about this teaching strategy.