Task Analysis: The Foundation for Successfully Teaching Life Skills

A Well Written Task Analysis Will Help Students Gain Independence

Woman helping a young boy put on a shirt
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A task analysis is a fundamental tool for teaching life skills. It is how a specific life skill task will be introduced and taught. The choice of forward or backward chaining will depend on how the task analysis is written.

A good task analysis consists of a written list of the discrete steps required to complete a task, such as brushing teeth, mopping a floor, or setting a table. The task analysis is not meant to be given to the child but is used by the teacher and staff supporting the student in learning the task in question.

Customize Task Analysis for Student Needs

Students with strong language and cognitive skills will need fewer steps in a task analysis than a student with a more disabling condition. Students with good skills could respond to the step "Pull pants up," while a student without strong language skills may need that task broken down into steps: 1) Grasp pants on the sides at the student's knees with thumbs inside the waistband. 2) Pull the elastic out so that it will go over the student's hips. 3) Remove thumbs from waistband. 4) Adjust if necessary.

A task analysis is also helpful as well for writing an IEP goal. When stating how performance will be measured, you can write: When given a task analysis of 10 steps for sweeping the floor, Robert will complete 8 of 10 steps (80%) with two or fewer prompts per step.

A task analysis needs to be written in a way that many adults, not just teachers but parents, classroom aides, and even typical peers, can understand it. It need not be great literature, but it does need to be explicit and use terms that will easily be understood by multiple people.   

Example Task Analysis: Brushing Teeth

  1. Student removes toothbrush from toothbrush case
  2. Student turns on water and wets bristles.
  3. Student unscrews toothpaste and squeezes 3/4 inches of paste onto bristles.
  4. Student opens mouth and brushes up and down on upper teeth.
  5. Student rinses his teeth with water from a cup.
  6. Student opens mouth and brushes up and down on lower teeth.
  7. Student rinses his teeth with water from a cup.
  8. Student brushes the tongue vigorously with toothpaste.
  9. Student replaces toothpaste cap and places toothpaste and brush in toothbrush case.

Example Task Analysis: Putting on a Tee Shirt

  1. Student chooses a shirt from the drawer. Student checks to be sure the label is inside.
  2. Student lays the shirt on the bed with the front down. Students checks to see that the label is near the student.
  3. Student slips hands into the two sides of the shirt to the shoulders.
  4. Student pulls head through the collar.  
  5. Student slides right and then left arm through the armholes.  

Keep in mind that, prior to setting goals for the task to be completed, it is advisable to test this task analysis using the child, to see if he or she is physically able to perform each part of the task. Different students have different skills.