Take It Step-By-Step
Time to discuss the details of yet another Evidence-Based Practice (EBP) frequently used in Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) by Registered Behavior Technicians (RBTs). It’s called Task Analysis. The name might sound complex, but it is actually a rather simple strategy to understand. What Task Analysis entails, is breaking a skill down into sequentially ordered steps, so they can be taught one step at a time. Think of Task Analysis as creating an instruction manual to complete a task.
In our everyday lives, we complete long strings of behaviors in order to accomplish tasks without giving much thought to it. The act of brushing your teeth alone is comprised of a whopping 22 steps or more! Check it out…
- Get your toothbrush.
- Turn on the faucet.
- Get your toothbrush wet.
- Turn off the faucet.
- Get the toothpaste.
- Take the cap off the toothpaste.
- Squeeze the toothpaste on the toothbrush.
- Put the cap back on toothpaste.
- Brush the inside surfaces of your teeth on top and bottom.
- Brush the bitting surfaces of your teeth on top and bottom.
- Brush the outside surfaces of your teeth on top and bottom.
- Spit in the sink.
- Brush your tongue.
- Turn on the faucet.
- Rinse your toothbrush.
- Put the toothbrush away.
- Grab a cup.
- Fill the cup with water.
- Rinse your teeth with water.
- Spit the water out.
- Put the cup away.
- Turn off the faucet.
That’s a lot for an individual with autism to take in all at once. Students with autism learn best when they are given small teachable units of information to process one at a time.
Here are some things to remember when creating a Task Anaysis:
Consistency: Not everyone brushes their teeth in the same way, there is naturally going to be variations to the way a task is completed. The team, consisting of the Behavior Technicians, along with the parents of the child you’re working with, need to agree upon a set procedure for how a task will be performed and write the individual steps down clearly for all to follow.
Tailor-Made: We all have our strengths and weaknesses. When building a task analysis, it is important to consider the skill sets of the child you are working with, this way you know if you need to break steps down into very small sections or if you can group steps together. It will also give you an idea if the skill should be taught starting at the beginning or at the end, and what form of prompting should be used.
Do The Task Yourself: Completing the task yourself while you write your task analysis is very important. You’ll be surprised just how many steps you may leave out unknowingly if you don’t walk through the completion of the steps yourself.
Gobble Up These Fun Tips from ATCC!
Thanksgiving, a joyous occasion filled with festive foods, loving family and time reflecting on all the things we are grateful for in our lives. It’s also a wonderful opportunity to practice many life skills with individuals on the Autism Spectrum.
Thanksgiving usually brings together family and friends who may not see each other on a regular basis. This opens up an opportunity for an individual with autism to work on conversation exchanges with unfamiliar people. Prior to the big day, it’s a good idea for parents and behavior technicians to practice these skills using conversation scripts, which are pre-written sentences that give the learner the language to use in specific conversations. Details such as making eye contact and responding to greets are also important skills to include.
Critical thinking skills can be challenging for children with autism, so it’s always beneficial to practice them. A Thanksgiving themed critical thinking skill for beginners would be having an individual discuss the things, people and experiences that make them happy and thankful. Adding the question of why they are thankful for these things would take this skill a step further, and jotting down a list and categorizing them in order of importance could be an advanced level skill to teach.
Formal dining arrangements allow for students with autism to work on daily living skills such as setting the table, eating with a fork and placing a napkin in their lap while eating. It is also a good time for ABA therapists to work with their clients on manners such as saying, “please pass the gravy” and “pardon my reach.” Targets such as ‘setting the table’ can be taught using task analysis which involves breaking the skill down into individual steps. Then chaining can be used to teach each step, one at a time in sequencial order. For manners, the use of video modeling in which the child watches a video of themselves or others using good manners, would be a beneficial tool.
It’s also important to make accommodations and modify the environment so that individuals with autism are able to partake in festivities with as little stress as possible. An experienced Registered Behavior Technician (RBT) will be able to come up with suggestions of exactly how to do this.
What To Expect
Children with autism love predictability. If they are informed with what expect on Thanksgiving Day, their level of anxiety will be low and they will be better able to navigate through their environment. A social narrative that describes what a typical Thanksgiving Day at Auntie Betsy’s house looks like and explains appropriate ways to behave should be read many times prior to the event. This is an evidence based practice (EBP) that will allow a child to gain a sense of familiarity in preparation for the day to arrive.
Designating a quiet room or even an outdoor space where a child with autism can take a break from all the loud music and boisterous company many Thanksgiving events brings will also help to ease a child with anxiety or sensory sensitivities. A feeling of being overwhelmed can often times lead to extreme meltdowns, so it’s best to be proactive and take breaks at fixed intervals so everyone enjoys their Turkey Day!
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