Have you ever had a new recipe in front of you and started reading the list of ingredients and each step in the recipe? Some steps you may already be familiar with, some you may not. Some recipes are simple, and others more complex. Imagine if you tried making the new dish without the recipe. You may leave out an important ingredient, measure incorrectly, or miss a step.
Teaching a new or complex skill using an Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) method called chaining can be helpful to a learner who frequently misses steps, performs steps out of sequence, or completes the step incorrectly. In ABA, chaining is the process of connecting smaller individual behaviors in the correct order to complete a more complex behavior. This behavior chain allows a complex task to feel more achievable.
Children with AUTISM often have difficulty processing language and information, and it can be confusing when they’re told to do multiple things in a specific order. Using the process of chaining provides a “recipe” to follow, which clearly outlines the steps and expectations to complete tasks and can help children master multi-step directions.
ABA Chaining Overview
Most tasks can be broken down into basic teachable steps. For example, the task of “making the bed” can be broken down into specific steps:
- smoothing the fitted sheet
- pulling the top sheet up
- pulling up/arranging the blankets and
- fluffing up the pillows
ABA therapists use chaining to link all these smaller steps together to help the child complete a more complex task. There are three main approaches to chaining.
1. Forward Chaining
When teaching a complex skill using forward chaining, we want the child to learn to do the first step of the task independently. Then the first 2 steps and so on.
So, for example, if we are teaching the child to make the bed, we would start teaching how to smooth the fitted sheet first and prompt (cue) the remainder of the steps. Once the child can smooth the fitted sheet independently, we would teach him how to pull the top sheet up and provide prompts for the remainder of the steps. This process will continue until the child is able to complete all the steps to make the bed independently.
2. Backward Chaining
Backward chaining is the opposite of forward chaining. When teaching a skill using backward chaining, the therapist prompts all of the steps except the last one. Once the child can independently complete the last one, the therapist prompts all the steps except the 2 last ones and so on.
In our example of making the bed, the therapist would prompt all the steps and teach the child to fluff the pillow first. Once the child can fluff the pillow independently, the therapist would prompt all the steps except arranging the blankets and fluffing the pillow. This process will continue until the child can complete all the steps independently.
Backward chaining has a distinct advantage: It directly links the independent completion of a task to the immediate reward or reinforcement (“I made the bed!”)
3.. Total Task Chaining
With total task chaining, the adult walks the child throughout the entire tasks promoting independence as much as possible and providing prompts as needed.
Our Board Certified Behavior Analysts (BCBAs) and Registered Behavior Therapists (RBTs) are experts in autism and tailor therapy to the specific needs of your child. We utilize evidence-based ABA therapy to help children reach their full potential and to help families overcome autism-related challenges. Visit our website https://behaviorexchange.com/contact-form/ or Call 972.312.8733 to request an appointment with a behavior analyst near Plano, Frisco, and Prosper, Texas or Boulder, Colorado.