Individuals on the autism spectrum have strengths in visual processing and visual search skills compared to neurotypical individuals.
By visually presenting information and breaking it down into smaller chunks, such as directions about what to do or what will happen next into, individuals with
ASD are more likely to process information more easily and quickly.
This strategy is referred to as task analysis.
This post shares what task analyses are and how you can use them.
Task analysis is an evidence-based practice for individuals on the autism spectrum.
You can get more in-depth training about how to use them with Autism Focused Intervention Resources & Modules (AFIRM), a free resource offered by the National Professional Development Center (NPDC) on Autism Spectrum Disorder at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Task analysis is one of 27 identified evidence-based practices.
Related reading: Autism Evidence-Based Practices
In the definition provided by AFIRM, task analysis is the process of teaching a step-by-step process of a skill or behavior.
Over time the learner can become more independent in completing that skill or behavior.
Some examples where task analysis has been used include getting dressed, doing laundry, and other daily living skills.
Task analysis is helpful for learning new skills and behaviors, especially when they are complex and have multiple components.
A task analysis can be used to break down each step and teach them as what is referred to as chained behaviors.
Chained behaviors are a set of skills and behaviors that consist of multiple steps such as tying shoes, grocery shopping, and cooking.
There three ways you can use a task analysis to break down a skill or behavior: (1) forward chaining, (2) backward chaining, and (3) total task presentation.
The first step in a chain is taught first.
As that step is mastered, then the next step is taught to the learner.
For example, when teaching how to do laundry, getting clothes out of the hamper would be taught and reinforced before teaching how to get the laundry soap.
The final step in a chain is taught first.
As that step is mastered, then the previous step is taught.
For example, when teaching how to do laundry, folding clean clothes would be taught and reinforced before teaching how to get them out of the dryer.
Every step of the chain is taught and paired with reinforcer.
In the laundry example, each step of doing laundry would be prompted and reinforced throughout the whole step-by-step process.
The final reinforcer would be the most effective one and given at the completion of the task.
As you may have noticed, task analysis, uses a couple other processes that are also evidence-based, like prompting and reinforcement.
You could also use visual supports and social narratives.
Task analysis can be used to address a variety of needs and goals, including the following:
Increase self-help skills
Enhance asking for help
Increase academic, motor, and adaptive skills
Increase daily living skills
Minimize adult support
Task analyses are used by families and a variety of professionals including teachers, special educators, paraprofessionals, and therapists.
There are a number of resources available on the AFIRM website to help you with planning the specific type of task analysis you’re interested in.
Here is the step-by-step process of selecting and using a task analysis.
Identify the event/activity/behavior that your child could benefit from a task analysis for
Identify the type of task analysis
Create the task analysis based on:
Your child’s characteristics (examples: how much do they read? What reinforcers will you use?)
Teach your child how to use the task analysis
Use the task analysis consistently (use each time they are in that activity)
Take notes & monitor how the task analysis is used (you can jot down a few notes each time it’s used to see how long it is used, how many prompts you gave)