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Children with autism often have difficulties learning new skills. That is why ABA therapists may introduce these skills through task analysis, a technique that breaks tasks down into smaller, easily manageable activities. Read more about task analysis and how it is used in ABA therapy.

What Is Task Analysis?

A task analysis is an ABA therapy method where complex tasks are broken down into a series of smaller steps that are easier to learn. By dividing the task into simpler activities, children with autism are less likely to feel overwhelmed by learning a new skill. The number of steps that the therapist implements will depend on the difficulty of the task, as well as the child’s level of functioning and individual needs.

How is task analysis implemented?

ABA therapists who use task analysis start by identifying the skills that need to be learned and breaking them down into smaller steps. The steps are linked via chaining, which means that each step must be completed before beginning the next one. It is important to ensure that the child has mastered all the discrete skills required to successfully complete the task before the task analysis technique is implemented. 


Task analysis can be done in three different ways: 


  • Forward chaining
  • Backward chaining
  • Total task chaining

Forward chaining

Forward chaining consists of teaching steps of a task in chronological order and reinforcing each step as it is mastered. This method can be used with children with autism who learn quickly and who have demonstrated independence in performing some parts of the task. 

Backward chaining

Backward chaining teaches a behavior starting with the last step. The therapist provides assistance with all the steps except for the last one and reinforcement is provided at the end of the sequence. This technique is typically used for children who are less likely to follow the task sequence unprompted and who try to insert other behaviors into the chain. 

Total task chaining

Total task chaining consists of teaching the steps of a task together and breaking down the problematic steps into simpler units. The child receives reinforcement only after having completed the entire sequence. This method is used for children who can learn complex tasks relatively quickly and who don’t require many trials. 


If the child makes many errors in performing individual steps through total task chaining, the therapist will go back to one of the other chaining techniques.

The Four Methods of Task Analysis

Task analysis is developed using one of the following four methods: 


  • Observe competent individuals as they perform the sequence of behaviors and document the steps.
  • Consult experts or professional organizations to validate the steps of a task in question.
  • Involve individuals who are teaching the skill to perform the task themselves and document the steps.
  • Perform the entire sequence by trial and error method where an initial task analysis is gradually refined.


Read on for some examples of task analysis in ABA therapy. 

Examples of Task Analysis

Understanding all the steps of a particular task can help the ABA therapist teach that task in a logical progression and identify any steps that may need additional instruction.

Putting on a coat

  • Take the coat and pick it up by the collar
  • Place the right arm in the right sleeve
  • Push the arm through until the hand comes out at the other end
  • Reach behind with the left hand
  • Place the left arm in the left sleeve hole
  • Push the arm through until the hand comes out at the other end
  • Zip or button the coat

Tying shoe laces

  • Take the laces in your hands
  • Cross the two laces
  • Make a bunny ear and hold it with one hand
  • Make another bunny ear and hold it with the other hand
  • Pull the knot tight

Brushing teeth

  • Pick up the toothbrush
  • Turn on the water tap
  • Rinse the toothbrush
  • Pick up the toothpaste tube
  • Place a dab of toothpaste on the toothbrush
  • Scrub the teeth gently
  • Spit the toothpaste into the sink
  • Rinse the toothbrush
  • Place the toothbrush back into the holder
  • Fill a rinsing cup with water
  • Rinse the mouth
  • Spit the water into the sink
  • Turn off the water tap

What Can Be Taught through Task Analysis?

Task analysis can be used for teaching a wide variety of behaviors in children with autism and in particular activities of daily living (ADLs). For children on the autism spectrum, these skills are essential for promoting independence and boosting self esteem.


Some of the activities that can be thought through task analysis include: 

  • Washing hands
  • Brushing teeth
  • Bathing 
  • Getting dressed 
  • Making the bed 
  • Preparing a meal
  • Getting on public transport 
  • Performing household chores  
  • Using a computer or tablet 
  • Playing a sport
  • Money management
  • Time management

Below, we list the main conditions that must be met in order to achieve a successful task analysis. 

Characteristics Vital to the Success of Task Analysis

There are three main characteristics that are essential to the success of task analysis: 


  • Consistency
  • Individualization
  • Systematic instruction


When using task analysis, it is important to ensure that the child is offered the same approach and reinforcement strategies in all learning situations, both at home, in school, and in other settings. In other words, each person working with the child should be able to demonstrate in exactly the same way how a given activity is performed. Consistency in task analysis prevents confusion and allows for quicker learning of new skills.


Task analysis needs to be customized to meet the specific needs of each child with autism. The task increments have to be adapted to the child’s age, communication skills, abilities, and level of functioning in order for the learning to be effective.

Systematic instruction

Because the steps of a task are learned chronologically, it is essential that the task analysis is done in a systematic, sequential order. The therapist must ensure that the child has properly learned all previous parts of the task before moving on to the next one. 

If you are ready to work with the best ABA therapy provider in New York, New Jersey or Indiana, give us a call at (732) 402-0297. Our dedicated team is ready to help and we will treat you like family.

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