Children are constantly learning, and some need extra attention to help them develop essential skills for growth and independence.
Having a set structure or pattern to follow can help teach an autistic child daily living skills, like brushing their teeth or getting dressed. With a set task and the steps to complete it laid out before them, children are more likely to succeed.
Learning to adapt your teaching methods will not only help your child establish daily living skills but also build their confidence.
At Fast Track ABA, we specialize in helping you help your child. Keep reading to learn more about how powerful and compassionate ABA teaching methods like chaining can improve autistic children’s abilities to complete basic tasks.
What Is Chaining?
Chaining is a technique that can be used to build daily living skills one step at a time.
Complex skills can be a lot for a child to handle, so breaking those skills down into smaller, more digestible pieces makes them easier to understand.
This technique can be applied to many skills, like getting ready for the day, washing your hands, or making lunch. As an adult, these skills seem to come naturally, but to a child, they must be taught.
Rather than overwhelming them or giving them too much to process at once, chaining breaks down the big picture into easier steps to follow. Instead of one large task, they have several smaller ones to complete first to reach the end goal.
For example, getting dressed is more complex for an autistic child than just “put your clothes on.” There’s an order in which articles of clothing need to be put on, just like there’s an order to how hands are washed – you wouldn’t want to start with water, dry off your hands, then apply soap.
Why Chaining Is Helpful?
Chaining is a helpful process to teach an autistic child the order in which daily living skills are done.
Rather than giving them a big goal to be completed – which can be overwhelming and confusing – chaining provides step-by-step instructions for follow-through. One step at a time is enough to build a pattern.
For example, when helping your autistic child make a sandwich, you wouldn’t want to give the obscure end goal of “make a sandwich”. Instead, using chaining, you’d list the individual steps, like getting the bread and cheese out, then getting a plate, then assembling the sandwich one ingredient at a time.
To teach an autistic child one step at a time is to promote mastery over each step and encourage personal growth. Chaining is an excellent tool to use when your child can only complete a few steps on their own, or if they tend to forget steps or complete steps out of order.
Types of Chaining
Chaining can be beneficial to your child if they need help establishing patterns and completing daily tasks, like brushing their teeth. There are multiple types of chaining techniques to teach an autistic child daily living skills, and they all depend on how your child learns best.
Three primary varieties of the method include forward, backward, and total chaining. Each type relies on a certain amount of independent work from your child while balancing their needs and individual concerns.
Take a look below at the different methods that can be applied to help teach an autistic child daily life skills. Remember, practice makes all the difference – the key is to teach your child these skills in an adaptive and encouraging way so that they develop confidence over time.
1. Forward Chaining
With this method, your child completes the first step on their own. You can then supervise and prompt the next steps without doing them yourself. This offers comfort and assistance to the child as they learn the individual steps themselves (and slowly memorize them).
When you teach an autistic child, remember to be patient, keep a positive attitude, and listen to their needs. Some will need more help than others, and some will become frustrated with the process. Patience and understanding are key to helping them not only learn but apply each step to their daily lives.
This method is best if your child can complete most of the initial steps on their own but has trouble finishing the task. Your support encourages them to follow through on the first few steps and master them, eventually opening the door for them to master the last few steps as well.
It’s logical to work from the beginning to the end, which is why this approach works so well. Some children gain more confidence from completing the first steps on their own, especially when guided along by a supportive figure.
2. Backward Chaining
With this method, the last step is taught first. What this means is that you’ll begin to teach an autistic child the steps to a task by walking them through each one until the very end, then letting them complete the last part of the process independently.
Not all children will benefit from this style of chaining, but it’s a great way to provide immediate reinforcement for completing a step, as the process is complete and they can see the fruit of their efforts right away. Consistent encouragement is key to a successful mastery of daily life skills.
Once the child can complete the final step on their own, work backward from there to establish the second to last step. Then keep going, one step at a time, until the child has mastered every one.
If you’re working with a child who benefits from immediate reinforcement or praise, then backward chaining is likely to work well for them. It allows them to see the end result first so that they have a better understanding of what all the steps are leading towards.
By the time you start focusing on the first few steps, your child will already be somewhat familiar with them due to the repetition. This enables you to slowly take a more hands-off approach while your child embraces independence with their daily life skills.
3. Total Chaining
Some children need to be reminded of every step each time they approach a task. This may be because they have trouble remembering, or they may simply appreciate having a supportive figure walk them through every task that needs to be completed in order.
With total chaining, you’ll demonstrate every step every time you and your child approach a given task. Prompting is more common as the child works together with you to complete the task at hand, though the end goal is still for the child to complete the task independently.
When making a sandwich, prompts can be as simple as “Now, get the bread” or “Now, take one slice of cheese and put it on a slice of bread.” These directions guide the child and encourage them to follow through so that the task is completed and the end goal is reached.
It may seem discouraging to have to prompt and remind your child of each step, but it’s part of the learning process. Not every child takes to independence quickly, and a nurturing and supportive atmosphere will help them learn and grow in comfort.
Task analysis is a vital part of learning new skills, so it must be approached with care and attention.
When beginning to teach an autistic child a skill, start by writing it down clearly. This establishes the foundation on which to begin the task, as well as providing a visual guideline to follow.
The next step is to complete the task, and then write any subsequent tasks as they come. Doing so establishes a frame of reference for each part of the task that leads to the overall goal.
Let’s take brushing teeth as an example. List out steps like removing the cap from the toothpaste, applying the toothpaste to the brush, brushing front, back, top, and bottom teeth, spitting out the toothpaste, and rinsing the brush.
Each step is outlined to help your child analyze and understand the purpose of the process. You’ll want to identify what chaining method you’ll use as well, as it will determine how you approach the subject.
It’s important to determine how you’ll prompt your child to continue the process and how you’ll reinforce their learning. Being fully prepared will allow you to handle whatever comes your way and stick to a script that best supports your child.
Contact Fast Track ABA Today!
It can be confusing to figure out how to best support your child, especially when navigating how to teach daily life skills that we take for granted.
Utilizing a chaining method that connects relevant goals together in small, digestible pieces can make the entire process easier for everyone involved.
Whether your child requires more supervision, immediate reinforcement, or consistent repetition, Fast Track ABA has the tools to help them master daily life skills. Our caring and compassionate professionals can help design a learning strategy that works for both you and your child.
Contact us today to learn more about Fast Track ABA and the teaching techniques we use to help your child learn the skills they need to thrive!