The American Psychiatric Foundation defines Autism Spectrum Disorder as “A complex developmental condition that involves persistent challenges in social interaction, speech and nonverbal communication, and restricted/repetitive behaviors.” Since it is a spectrum of symptoms and challenges, the effects and severity of ASD vary uniquely from one person to the next.

It’s also worth noting that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that ASD is present in approximately 1 in 59 children. It tends to be more prevalent in boys than in girls, yet both genders benefit from the same ABA therapy techniques to help conquer their challenges and master important tasks.

Applied Behavioral Therapy is recognized as the “Gold Standard” for treating Autism Spectrum Disorder. It uses a combination of data-driven techniques to measure and improve an individual’s life skills and task mastery. This includes things like

The antecedent-behavior-consequence (ABC) method for Task Analysis.

This is a data-driven technique for developing appropriate skills while also decreasing maladaptive negative behaviors. Though there are important details to understand to help families support the progress of a child with ASK using Task Analysis thru ABC techniques.

What Is Task Analysis?

Task Analysis is often defined as the process of teaching complex activities through a thoughtfully designed series of simple steps that students can learn more easily. A growing body of research demonstrates that task analysis meets the criteria for data-driven practice by improving the adoption of appropriate behaviors and communication skills.

Many times, a task can be divided into smaller portions of time. To the point that a normal 20-minute activity may be broken into 5 four-minute segments. This type of approach is frequently associated with an ABA technique known as “Shaping” which teaches new behaviors by reinforcing the positive behavior without excessive repetition.

There are three important characteristics to this Task Analysis approach.


Many children with ASD have a support team with multiple individuals they interact with. If different people demonstrate a task in different ways it can leave the child feeling confused. Task analysis ensures that a single approach is presented and reinforced in all learning situations.


Every person with Autism Spectrum Disorder has unique strengths and weaknesses. Task Analysis can be customized to meet the student’s specific circumstances. For example, when teaching a child to remain in a group for 20 minutes through the shaping technique. This allows for the child’s support team member to customize the experience to the child’s own skill set.

Systematic Instruction

One common challenge faced by many children with ASD is dealing with the many variables that complicate learning. Fortunately, Task Analysis employs a “Discrete Trial Program” that is designed to divide activities into small steps which lead toward accomplishing the milestone set forth.

What Is The Difference Between Forward Chaining & Backward Chaining?

The term Forward Chaining and Backward Chaining refer to two different approaches to help teach a new complex skill to a child with ASD.

Forward Chaining

Forward Chaining calls on the child with ASD to learn the targeted task from the start of the task sequence and carry the process through each step of the task in the correct sequence of order. It is essentially a step-by-step approach, where each step is modeled by the instructor or therapist.

Backward Chaining

In contrast, Backward Chaining teaches a child with ASD the very last step of a particular task. By first having the student observe the instructor, they get the chance to process the steps. Then it escalates by having the child assist the instructor as reinforcement. Once the last step has been internalized the instructor moves to the second-to-last step of the task and continues backward in progression to the beginning of the process.

By starting out assisting, it helps remove some of the anxiety that children with ASD experience when learning a task.

Discrete Trial Instruction In Task Analysis

Discrete trial instruction is another highly effective technique used in the Task Analysis approach. It starts with the instructor giving the child with ASD a short, clear instruction. This includes providing a prompt to help them process and complete the task.

This method can be used by modeling as well as by target response to guide the child’s own responses. As the child progresses, the prompt is subtly removed. Once the child responds correctly, the instructor offers immediate positive feedback. If the child’s response is incorrect, the instructor patiently demonstrates or guides the student to perform the correct response.

What’s the Purpose of Task Analysis?

ABA therapy’s underlying goal is to help people with Autism Spectrum Disorder to learn the fundamental skills necessary to lead independent lives. Task analysis just is one of several approaches used by ABA therapists to fully understand and modify the individual’s behavior. Task Analysis has been shown to help children with ASD as well as adults to live their best possible life, though accomplishing critical skills and tasks.

There are several advantages of task analysis that make it effective at certain skill progressions. It can make it the preferred technique over other ABA approaches. This includes things like

  • Making it easier to adapt to the needs of each individual learner.
  • The ability to be applied in multiple settings, such as in classrooms, homes, and the community.
  • Teaching skills the individual will use in everyday life.
  • Versatile enough for one-on-one instruction as well as group settings.

Specific Skills That Benefit From Task Analysis

The overall versatility of Task Analysis gives it the ability to help individuals with ASD learn a wide range of skills. This includes things like:

  • Communication skills
  • Language skills
  • Social interaction
  • Basic Self-help skills
  • Personal hygiene
  • Play and relaxation activities
  • Motor skills
  • Academic skills

Task Analysis helps individuals with autism spectrum disorder to develop a better understanding of basic living skills through a guided process of focusing on mastering the basic steps of a more complex process. It can be methodically applied to nearly any process or life skill.

Once the steps have been properly identified and the step-by-step instructions have been applied. It can be used to create a customized approach to the needs and goals of the student.