Using the Teaching Strategy Task Analysis to Support People with Autism

People with autism benefit with repetitive instruction to learn skills. The teaching strategy, task analysis, is an effective way to take an observable skill and break it into steps for instruction. This article provides examples and lists resources.



**It’s sort of like a checklist!

What is Autism?


The authors of Learners on the Autism Spectrum: Preparing Highly Qualified Educators define autism as a neurodevelopmental disorder where certain regions of the brain are underdeveloped and some may be overdeveloped. This affects an individual with needs in the areas of socialization, language, restricted range of interests, and stereotypical behaviors such as hand flapping and rocking. There may also be trouble with memory.




As a result, these people might rely heavily on routines.


It all depends. We are unique and have to respect that.


Unique learning characteristics


Another interesting characteristic of autism is that there can be deficits in memory and learning.


This is due to the development of the brain.


A person’s deficits in their language region might hinder their ability to comprehend spoken language.


For a teacher, direct support professional, or supported employment coach, giving only verbal directions in a lesson can overwhelm a person with autism, resulting in anxiety attacks and not learning.
Using visual supports alone or in combination with verbal instructions will help them master the material.




A visual support is an effective teaching strategy.


Trouble with memory


People with autism can have trouble with short term memory. Although it is vast demonstrated that learning is possible, it might take a significant amount of time to master the material.


With this in mind, people with autism benefit from repeated instruction from a teacher.


Practice makes perfect.


Task Analysis:


A task is an activity that can be broken down into steps.



Sort of like a recipe.


 The length of the steps depend upon the ability of the person.


With a task analysis, the instructor is able to teach a person each step necessary to complete a large task. Teaching requires something called prompting; we’ll cover that in a later post.


The beauty of this is… you can do this with any observable skill!


For example:

Step 1: Rinse the dishes quickly with cold water to get off any extra food scraps.

Step 2: Drop  dish soap in the dish bucket

Step 3: Go to the sink and fill the dish bucket with warm water

Step 4: Pick up the glass put it in the water. Wash the dish with your cloth.

Step 5: Place the glass on the towel at the side of the dish bucket.

Step 6: Place any silverware in the dish bucket and wash it with your wet dish cloth. Rinse the soaps suds off and place it on the towel.

Step 7: Wash are the plates. Place a plate in the dish water and wash it with your dish cloth. Rinse the soaps suds off and place it on the towel

Step 8: When dishes dry, place in the cupboards.


Remember this:

Each person is unique. We all have our preferred learning styles.




They will have their own strengths, needs, and interests.


We need to provided individualized instruction to help them learn.


Now task analysis is just one teaching strategy. It is a piece of a large picture called Systematic Instuction aka Errorless Learning.


For some great in depth knowledge, Teaching Students with Moderate and Severe Disabilities is an exceptional read that can be applied to helping people live in the community, work, or with living in a house.


Here are some free resources for all professionals, parents, employers, and community members:


1: Autism Focused Intervention Resources & Modules (AFIRM)

2: National Professional Development Center on Autism Spectrum Disorder (NPDC)


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