Autism Resource blog:
Life Skills

Parent Support University: Week 23

Sep 2, 2021
task analysis
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Speaker 1 (00:02):

Hello AnswersNow, family and friends. It's your friendly neighborhood BCBA, Adam Dreyfus co-founder and chief science officer of AnswersNow, what is AnswersNow? Well, we are an app and a web based platform that connects parents and BCBA is directly together. The reason that we exist is because my co-founder and I grew increasingly frustrated about how cut out of all of the interventions parents were, I run a big school, he ran an in-home service, and these are parents that have a pretty good deal, right? Their kids go to a specialized school, or they have some highly trained people coming into their home. And yet they still felt super isolated overwhelmed and just stressed out. And we thought, well, imagine all the parents out there that don't have any of this. So we developed this app about four years ago.

Speaker 1 (00:52):

This service to connect you caregivers and parents directly to BCBAs so they can help answer your questions about a wide range of things. What are we doing here during the pandemic? Well, this is our parent support university, one of the barriers to entry to a board certified behavior analyst BCBAs and sort of the knowledge they possess is the language that they use. It's very technical jargon-y is a good word to describe it. And so part of what this a PSU project is, parent support university project over the last several months is we're trying to demystify it. So today we're gonna be talking about task analysis. I'm going to see if Marianne could put the words, task analysis right here between my fingers. I'm not sure that's how it works. And it's a very specific procedure that is used to break behaviors down into little pieces.

Speaker 1 (01:45):

It's one of the ones that is actually somewhat exactly what it sounds like you're trying to analyze a task. Tasks can be anything. Usually it's things like hand washing sort of a routine kind of things brushing your teeth doing things at school, putting your things away, getting to school getting prepared for the day. So making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. So the term that they use is that when you have your task, that is analyzed, it is broken down into little pieces. So think brushing your teeth I've seen a bunch of different task analyses for brushing your teeth. You usually run between 12 and 18 steps from turn on the water to put the toothpaste on the toothbrush, all the little steps that you need. And why is this necessary? Because folks on the spectrum, boys and girls diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, don't learn by watching very well.

Speaker 1 (02:44):

That's a simple way of saying it. So most typically developing folks learn most of what they know through what we call observational learning. It's not going to be a term we cover in this PSU. But it is a very, and it is exactly what it sounds like. That's how we learn how to dance. That's how we learn, how to do all this. Most of the things that we do is we watch other people do them. And then we begin to try to do them and through practicing, you know, you don't look at Michael Jackson dancing and go, Oh, I can just do that. But what you do see is people practice, practice, practice, practice, and they emulate. And they ended up doing some, you know, some people can do it dance. Everybody's good as a Michael Jackson, I know upsetting the Michael Jackson fans out that.

Speaker 1 (03:31):

So yeah, we're going to talk about task analysis today. And how does that, what does, how does that work for you? It is not something that generally practitioners or teachers or whoever is working with your child. It's like, Hey, here, just do this thing, this task analysis for your kids. Usually something we either hand to them say, Hey, here's a, sometimes you'll see a strip with a series of little steps, like, for like brushing your teeth. So there'd be a little Velcro squares along the way, or putting your clothes away or cleaning up your room or helping with the dishes or whatever. So there's only a couple of steps to a task analysis. One is observing somebody who's really good at the thing doing it. So you get a really good idea. All right, that's how that's done. That's how you tie your shoes.

Speaker 1 (04:16):

That's how you bake a cake. That's how you parallel park. You know, you name it. You want to see somebody who's really good at it, do it. It can be you, and then you just break it down into little pieces. We call that a behavior chain. And one of the things I would like you to take out of today's parent's support university is that all behaviors are behavior chains pretty much, except if it's like a single behavior. Everything you do all day are behavior chains your work. You're getting dressed you're you don't think of it that way, but they're all linked together. And frankly, when there's little breaks in the chain, like little disruptions, it's a big deal, right? Really messes your day up. You're tying your shoes, bow break your through lace Oh behavior change program.

Speaker 1 (05:03):

And I had another pair of shoes. This thinks this is terrible. We are absolutely creatures of habit and absolute behaviors. And most of us are behavior change starts with the alarm, wakes you up de de de de de de de de that's, the signal behavior chain one, let's begin our get out of bed, behavior chain, let's get out of bed. And we all have different routines, right? Put on some of your clothes, maybe, all right, now go to the bathroom behavior chain and they linked together. And that's, it's hard to imagine. Your day is like hundreds and hundreds of links, little chains, but it is. And for folks on the spectrum, they have a hard time with those chains and realizing like, you'll see a kid who's learned how to get dressed, but that link to go from getting dressed to, Hey, it's time to go to school.

Speaker 1 (05:53):

They'll just sometimes just stand there. So they need a prompt, like, Hey, it's time to go to school, whereas you and I will. Hey, once I'm dressed, I go, I linked that, that, that triggers my time to go to work chain. So whatever that is grabbed my keys grabbed my wallet. You name it. So a task analysis is just whatever the task is broken down into little pieces. And so there's usually three different ways that you can teach a task. That's been analyzed and broken down into little pieces. There's forward chaining, backward chaining, and total task. See, we're getting all jargony and goofy already. So forward chaining is kind of what it sounds like. You're going to start at step one and then make sure they can do that step before you begin to teach them on step two.

Speaker 1 (06:46):

So you work your way forward through the chain. So you teach step one through. There's a lot of different ways that you can do that. We've talked about. Most of them in the parents support university prompting, reinforcement time delay, and these are all things that we've addressed. These are strategies for teaching specific tasks. So you forward chain together. Like most things are forward chain or backward chain. You start backwards. So a good example of that is like laundry. You might start with the laundry being done, right? So you teach them, go to the dryer, take the clothes out, fold them. Then you teach them, you take the wet clothes, you put them into the dryer. Then you teach them, you pick up the clothes in the basket and you bring them to the washer and you put them in the washing machine.

Speaker 1 (07:32):

That's a backward chain. So you start with kind of the last thing that you want to do. And then you work with, with backward to, Hey, you just dropped your clothes on your floor. They need to go in the basket and that's the chain sorta forward. And then there's total tasks where you kind of teach it all at the same time. Most of the times that you were going to be working with somebody on the spectrum. If you have decided that a task analysis is the best way to go by teaching a specific behavior, you're going to use forward chaining and backward chaining, usually forward chaining, right? Like it's usually, I think of a recipe. You don't start with cake and then work your way backwards. You start with the ingredients and work your way up to a cake.

Speaker 1 (08:13):

So just a quick reminder, I am Adam Dreyfus, I'm the chief science officer of AnswersNow you're listening to our parents support university, which we're doing during the pandemic to teach you the, some sort of tips and tricks for the specific interventions that evidence-based practices, that BCBA is used to help your son or daughter or yourself learn new skills. You can find out more about us at It's a terrific website, Another thing that you should be very well, you should be aware of is trying to pick something that is not too hard and not too easy. So we're going to bring some friends in there's a wait a second. I'm over here. Oh, you're right. That's right. You guys were stop pushing, stop pushing. So we've got too hard, just right too easy. So you don't want to pick something that's too easy.

Speaker 1 (09:10):

So if you're going to teach like washing dishes too easy might be just turning on the water. Hey, that's not so easy. It's pretty easy. Most people can just turn on the water by the same token. You don't want to necessarily start with, we're going to clean all the dishes that were silverware, the China put it away. Yeah, I like that. That's nice and hard. That's where, that's why I like to do well. That's why you're too hard or just right. Like maybe we're gonna, we're gonna teach them how to wash four or five dishes and put them in the dishwasher. Yeah, man. Just right. That's what I like to do. So not too hard, not too easy. Think of teaching somebody how to use a computer. Too easy. Just push the on button. I mean like, everyone's got, gotta learn how to turn a computer on.

Speaker 1 (09:58):

That's true. You're right. But that's pretty easy. And a lot of people know how to do that or too hard. Hey, why don't we start with the, you making your own webpage? Yeah, that's a good idea. Just teach them how to make their own webpage and then they can have people come in and give them likes and subscriptions. It's it's cool. I got my webpage captain America is awesome. Dot captain America. I got my own domain. Yeah. Okay. That's a little bit hard. Or how about turn on the computer? Start your favorite program and be able to play it. Oh, perfect. Not too easy. Not too hard. So I'd like to thank our friends, rocket Ironman, and captain America for helping us out with this. So yeah, we call it, I call it the three little bears analysis, right? A lot of times, and this is a little side note.

Speaker 1 (10:52):

So like I said, I run a school for about a hundred kids diagnosed with autism and frequently when we get new kids to our school, the problem isn't their autism. It isn't the, just their disability category it's that they have spent years, usually, either being asked to do things that are too easy, that they know how to do over and over and over touch your nose, touch your nose, touch your nose, touch your nose, touch your nose, tap the table, tap the table. What's your name? Count to three for years that they develop behaviors most of us would develop behaviors. If somebody asked us to do the same thing every day, I always, I give the example of, if somebody asks you your phone number every single day, you know, the first couple of times, you'd probably it, but after 5,000 times, but listen, man, the next time you asked me for my phone number, something really bad is going to happen. Cause I can't take it same token too hard. Right. I don't ask you for your phone number. I asked you for the math equation that would help us figure out how to get a satellite to land on the third moon of Jupiter. There actually is a math equation. It is knowable. Yeah. It's really hard though. Yeah, it is very, very, very difficult. And so if somebody asks you do that over and over, you would not like captain America, what everybody likes captain America. No, they don't not when everything's way too hard.

Speaker 1 (12:20):

I don't think that's true. Well, it is true. So we're looking for just right. Just right math level, just the right reading level. Just the right challenge. Not too easy, not too hard. So yeah, that is the basics of a task analysis. Almost anybody can do it. It's kind of fun to there's a, there's a great a game to teach kids how to write called writer immersion. And what it does is like you take two kids and you say, all right, kid one, I want you to write the directions for how to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich kid to here's all the ingredients to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. You have to follow the instructions that are written kid one, watches them, follow the instructions, but can't say anything. So kid two, if they get to a point where there's not a specific instruction on what to do next, they just have to stop and they hand it back over.

Speaker 1 (13:12):

And kid one has to keep writing the instructions over and over and over and over until kid two can do it without, with just reading the instructions. It's a wonderful, wonderful, wonderful tool to teach kids not only how to write better, but how to put themselves in someone else's shoes to assume the the role of the person who's reading, what it is that they're doing. Some kids get it pretty quickly. They're like, Oh, and they, they kind of read ahead to make sure that they've got all the instructions. Other kids will just fix the one thing that they didn't do. It's the same idea. It's a, you're breaking things down into little pieces. You're teaching someone how to do it. Piece by piece. Task analysis is a terrific tool. It's been used to help tens of thousands of kids learn all kinds of new skills.

Speaker 1 (13:54):

I highly encourage you if you've got a kid who really struggles with some of those things like morning routine being able to do their bathroom routine independently task analysis is the way to go. I'm going to end today telling you that this is not Adam's ideas about things where we pulled all this information from is the national professional development center NPDC about 10 years ago pulled together a list of all of the evidence-based practices that we know work. Not does Adam think they work? Not just captain America, they work? What, what are you talking about? Why is everybody talking about me now? We're not really talking about you. They just know they just work. And so that's what we're doing. We're working through the list of evidence-based practices. You can also find more about them at the affirm website, A F I R M.

Speaker 1 (14:43):

They've got these wonderful modules of everything I'm talking about, where you can learn about them for free. They take about an hour and a half, two hours to take each module, but it's free. Encourage you to check out our website, get answers Again, I'm Adam Dreyfus. I'm the chief science officer of AnswersNow one of the co-founders and I'm an owner of lots of strange stuffies as you can see, I'm the proud Papa of, of some kids. So I've got lots of stuff around here. I hope you and your family are staying safe in this very anxiety inducing time. And hope you check us out at

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