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Task Analysis In ABA Therapy: Examples & Strategies

Task analysis is a process of teaching that divides complicated activities into sections involving easier steps for students to more easily take.

steven zauderer
Steven Zauderer
September 15, 2023
min read

What is Task Analysis in ABA?

According to the NPDC, task analysis is a process of teaching that divides complicated activities into sections involving easier steps for students to more easily take.

Studies show that task analysis meets the standards for practices that are based on lots of research and involve the adoption of good behaviors and skills involving communication by children between the years of preschool and middle school.

Task analysis activities typically fall under different sections.

The skill that's desired is further broken down into concrete steps that must be performed in a sequence of events, such as the right way for a child to clean themselves or maintain proper hygiene. 

These steps are connected through a process called chaining.

Chaining signifies the act of completing the last step as a response to begin working on the next step, and so on.

On the other hand, a task can be split up into smaller increments of time, whereby a 40-minute activity can be divided down into four ten-minute blocks. 

The idea is often linked to a term called shaping, or the teaching of novel behaviors through their reinforcement in approximations that occur at a successive rate.

There is consistency in task analysis. For example, if four people were to show a small child how to carry out an activity, like washing their hands, the child would probably be shown four variations of doing it, though the difference might be minimal. 

Every teacher showing the child their way has the potential to confuse the child about which method between them is the best. They may question whether or not someone else could show them a hand washing method that deviates from all four of the initial teachers.

Task analysis aims to avoid this by giving the child a single approach rather than several.

It's reinforced and presented in every learning environment they find themselves in. Then there's individualization. 

This is when every student has distinct strengths and weaknesses. Task procedures are customizable to stay up with the child's set of circumstances.

When a student, for instance, is told to stay with a group for 40 minutes through the practice of shaping, the tasks could be divided down by the abilities of the child.

Some kids would respond better with very small increments, such as none greater than five minutes. Systematic instruction is another category.

One thing that kids with autism have problems with is coping with all the different variations they come across, which may make learning harder.

Task analysis is reliant on discrete trial training programs that split up the activities they take part in into smaller pieces until they eventually succeed. 

When a student has learned about eight of ten steps needed in the process of tying their shoes, they have yet to finish their end goal. Of course, they may have mastered the fight eight steps, notwithstanding.

Forward Chaining

Forward chaining is dependent on children learning during the beginning of tasks in a more linear fashion, where step two cannot be undertaken until step one is successful. 

Every step is formulated by the instructor and then carried out by the child. Some of them will need additional help with this, such as prompting by the hand-over-hand method. This is quickly followed by fading out of the prompt since the student has shown better mastery of the task.

Backward chaining starts by teaching kids the final step in a series of tasks. They begin by checking what the teacher or therapist does, then viewing one child following along with the teacher.

Once the last part is understood by the children, though not mastered, the teacher then moves on to the step that's second from last. From there, the steps are down in a backward fashion.

Discrete Trial Instruction

Discrete trial instruction is when the teacher gives out short concise instructions, then provides a prompt to aid the children in their completion of the instruction, either by copying the target response or by mimicking the first student's response.


Modeling occurs when kids are shown an intended behavior and given instruction to copy it. It's shown to be useful in teaching kids better social skills where they must carry out decisions on their own.

What is the Purpose of Task Analysis?

The purpose of task analysis is to assist clients with autism in learning the core skills needed to help them carry on with an independent life. It's often done with children but has seen lots of success with older clients.

People in the field of ABA have described task analysis as a highly important attribute of the instructions carried out by behavioral technicians.

It's easy to work into different therapy sessions and is shown to meet the standards of individual clients. They can be applied in different environments, such as at home, in the neighborhood, and even in a school classroom. It's also helpful when applied to hands-on instruction given to a student, or in a group.

During the preparation for an ABA program for a client, therapists will start by looking over their skills, goals, and their individual preferences. 

This is usually for older students, not small children. Still, skills that are appropriate for their age during the first assessment can help set the framework for the student's final goals in treatment.

5 Steps of Tasks Analysis

Here are the five basic steps in task analysis:

  1. The detection of the targeted skill of a patient.
  2. Listening to the prerequisite skill of the patient and the tools needed for them to teach it to other people.
  3. Diving the skill into smaller increments.
  4. Verifying that the task is analyzed in its entirety.
  5. Deciding on how the skill is being taught to students or a group.

Examples of Task Analysis

Below are brief examples of task analysis:

  • A child learning how to put on their shoes. The steps needed might be complicated at first, but become easier once they're broken down.
  • A student takes out clothing from a washing machine, adds it to the drying, then folds it when finished. The steps could be split between steps or time, beginning with the student properly setting the washer and ending when the shirts are folded in a certain way.
  • A child with autism is taught how to eat cereal, steps that involve getting the cereal from the pantry, acquiring a bowl and spoon, taking the milk from the refrigerator, and preparing the meal.
steven zauderer

CEO of CrossRiverTherapy - a national ABA therapy company based in the USA.

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