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Life Skills and Chores That Are a Good Fit for a Task Analysis

teen dusting furniture next to a task analysis

At a Glance

In this post, let's take a closer look at some of the categories of life skills and chores that contain tasks well-suited for a task analysis.

Provide examples and non-examples of ideas that may be ideal for task analysis as well as those that may be too complex off-hand.

Share resources to support you along the way of making your own task analysis.

If you follow our blog you may have seen our post last week covering the basics of the task analysis tool: what it is, what it is not, and when it is best used. 


This week we wanted to take a closer look at some of the categories of life skills and chores that contain tasks well suited for a task analysis, as well as a couple examples of ideas that might be too complex or contain too many variables for a task analysis to work. 


If you have your own experiences you’d like to share regarding task analysis or have questions about how to put one together we’d love to hear from you! Just drop us a line at hello@autismgrownup.com, and we’ll take a closer look at some potential task analysis candidates.


One important reminder: just because a task or set of tasks is too complex for a task analysis tool to be helpful does not mean it is not worth practicing or pursuing! It just might require breaking down into smaller or more specific definable tasks or use of a different tool entirely to practice effectively!

Personal Hygiene

Personal hygiene is a life skill area where there are lots of tasks with defined steps that can be repeated and consistently achieve the same result. 


Things might get a little too complex if a particular routine is somewhat fidgety or requires considerable personal judgment (for example, a hair routine intended to achieve a specific look rather than one simply meant to ensure hair is clean and healthy). 


Likewise, trying to stick an entire morning routine into a single task analysis is probably too much. Remember, it’s OK to have separate task analyses and work on them as much as our energy allows at a given time! 


Alternately, we do want to make sure we are covering entire tasks with our analyses so we are capturing a reasonable portion of a given person’s morning routine.

Good Task Analysis Candidates:

Brushing teeth, washing hands, taking a shower, brushing hair, shaving

Too Complex/Too Many Variables:

Using a curling iron to achieve a specific look, finding the right lotion for your skin

Meal Preparation

Meal preparation is a great example of a space where task analyses are possible but are likely to be very specific to the needs of the person using it. It’s not practical to make a task analysis covering the general topic of preparing dinner because there’s so many different types of dinners that people prepare! 


Alternately, making a task analysis covering how to prepare a specific meal that will be made regularly can be hugely helpful in building up independence skills and completing tasks with an eye toward kitchen hygiene and safety. 


As long as you can take the time to get specific, task analysis can be a big help in the kitchen!

Good Task Analysis Candidates:

Making a specific meal, boiling water, chopping a particular vegetable, cleaning before meal prep

Too Complex/Too Many Variables:

Hosting a dinner party, following a recipe, sorting groceries

Laundry

Laundry is another space that can be deceptively complex depending on the needs and preferences of the person using the task analysis. 


Sorting clothes, for example, may involve a completely different set of instructions for different people depending on the types of clothes they want to wear and how much they care about the longevity of their clothing.

Good Task Analysis Candidates:

Sorting clothes by color and fabric type, loading and operating the washing machine, transferring clothes to and operating the dryer, folding and putting away clean clothes

Too Complex/Too Many Variables:

Figuring out how to clean a recently purchased item of clothing, minimizing wear and tear

Money Management

Money management can be a little tricky in the sense that some of these tasks are open-ended and ongoing, but because the variables at play can be boiled down to income and expenditures it’s still possible to create a task analysis that is both straightforward and accounts for everything that could happen as part of the task.


Budgeting monthly expenses, for example, can be very open-ended and include lots of variables but the impact of the variables themselves is always on the budget, so a task analysis can still reasonably ask the person using it to add up their total expenses whatever those expenses may be. 


Trying to hit specific financial goals can be a lot trickier and represents the kind of open-endedness that we cannot always account for.

Good Task Analysis Candidates:

Counting and identifying various denominations of currency, making purchases and receiving correct change, budgeting monthly expenses, keeping track of income and expenses

Too Complex/Too Many Variables:

Managing a stock portfolio, saving up a certain amount of money (though in theory a budgeting task analysis could help you move toward this goal!)


Grocery Shopping

Grocery shopping can be a tricky set of tasks that can also be greatly helped by a task analysis once you know the needs of the person using the task analysis and in some cases the specifics of the store where the shopping is happening. 


Much like in the kitchen we might need to get specific about what meal we are preparing before we can approach a task analysis, here we might need to create a task analysis specific to a particular list of groceries and grocery store.

Good Task Analysis Candidates:

Comparing prices of specific items, locating items in a particular store, locating specific items in a new store, making a shopping list, paying at the checkout

Too Complex/Too Many Variables:

Finding the best deals, finding replacements when an item is sold out

Using Public Transportation

The way you approach public transportation is likely to vary based on the services available where you live, what you use public transportation for, and how reliably you can count on a given service to be available at a given time. 


When considering whether to create a task analysis, a great way to make a judgment call on its viability is to consider how a given public transportation route might change day to day and whether those variations fit into the specific steps laid out in the analysis. For example, if the bus is late sometimes that may still fit into an analysis that involves some amount of waiting. 


Alternately, if scheduling changes sometimes require going on a different route the viability of that analysis may depend on how straightforward it is to identify those situations and adjust accordingly. As a general rule if it starts to feel like it’s getting too complex for you to write then it’s probably too complex to follow as well!

Good Task Analysis Candidates:

Reading a bus/train schedule, planning a route and transfers, purchasing a ticket/fare card, following safety procedures and etiquette

Too Complex/Too Many Variables:

Dealing with unruly passengers, choosing where to sit

Time Management

The most helpful way to consider time management in the context of a task analysis is that we need to establish a framework for time management that the person using this tool will find helpful.


Once we have a shared understanding of how we are using time management and what goals we hope it will accomplish, it can be practical to set up a task analysis around carrying out those specific steps. The more open-ended we get, the harder it is to break down into manageable discrete steps.

Good Task Analysis Candidates:

Creating a daily/weekly schedule, prioritizing tasks, using a calendar or digital planner, blocking off time for different activities

Too Complex/Too Many Variables:

Breaking a goal down into smaller tasks, managing time overrun, getting motivated to start on time

Cleaning and Organizing

Cleaning and organizing is a great example of an area where we need to define what we collectively think of as clean and organized and then select the list of tasks necessary to achieve that goal. 


Oftentimes the tasks themselves are a great place for a task analysis that can get specific based on a given person’s living situation and organizational needs. 


The main time you might run the risk of making an analysis that’s too complex is if you go too big picture. 


One good hint that we may be going a little too broad is if we feel the need to start applying value judgment to a given task instead of straightforwardly describing it (ie “Making sure room is properly tidy” instead of “Putting all the items in the room in their designated places”).

Good Task Analysis Candidates:

Making the bed, sweeping or vacuuming floors, sorting and organizing belongings, cleaning and maintaining common areas

Too Complex/Too Many Variables:

Staying tidy, impressing your guests, preventing odor buildup

Communication Skills

Communication skills are a tricky space for task analysis. Conversation by its nature is extremely open ended and there isn’t any telling how the person you are talking to might respond. 


Task analyses centered around communication skills should therefore strongly focus on the person using the analysis and also be able to account for the fact that people may not respond predictably to a given question, phrase, or situation. 


Still there are framings in which a task analysis could be helpful, especially when it comes to establishing a routine with specific people who are aware that a task analysis is being used.

Good Task Analysis Candidates:

Initiating a conversation, active listening and identifying times to respond, problem solving, expressing needs, expressing your point of view

Too Complex/Too Many Variables:

Have a socially acceptable conversation, make people feel comfortable, resolving a conflict

Self-Advocacy

Self-advocacy is another space where there can be a considerable number of variables, but also an area that is much more centered on the individual using the task analysis. 


As such with the right amount of individualizing we can create some helpful and predictable task analyses for several different aspects of self-advocacy, while still bearing in mind that it’s not always practical to create task analyses where some steps are dependent on variable outside input.

Good Task Analysis Candidates:

Identifying personal needs and goals, requesting support, addressing authority figures, seeking help or resources

Too Complex/Too Many Variables:

Ensuring you receive the accommodation you need, pushing back against skeptical people, explaining needs to an unhelpful authority figure

Conclusion

We hope this post has started to get some gears turning regarding situations in your own life or the life of the person you are supporting where a task analysis could be a helpful tool. When in doubt about whether a task analysis is the right choice, it doesn’t hurt to try and see how things go. 


If you still aren’t sure about the best situations to use a task analysis you can still check out our initial blog post on the topic and when in doubt, trust your judgment and/or the judgment of the person who will ultimately be using it. 


Until next week, may all of your task analyses be specific and repeatable!

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