Task Oriented Approach vs. Process Oriented Approach

This section discusses the methods involved in a task orientated approach and a process orientated approach to teaching skills.

Task Oriented Approach

The aim of this teaching approach is to help the child/ young person improve their performance on a specific activity by teaching specific tasks step by step. The tasks selected by the teacher prior to the lesson are geared towards the individual’s level of learning. The aim is that the individual will achieve independence in a single task very quickly.

There are many benefits to using a task oriented approach, for example:

  • Rapid progress may be seen in the specific tasks addressed.
  • Easily applied to those who are visual learners.
  • Is a logical and sequential approach which appeals to those with autism.

However, as the skills are taught for each discrete task it is more challenging for the child/ young person to generalise these skills to other situations, therefore each task should be taught individually.

Backward Chaining vs. Forward Chaining

Chaining involves breaking the desired task into small steps, this process is known as creating a ‘task analysis’ (see examples pictured below).  Each step is then taught separately to assist the child/ young person in achieving the desired skill. This is a very helpful teaching technique when a child/ young person needs to learn a routine task which is repetitive for example toileting, getting dressed or undressed, brushing teeth or making a sandwich.

Forward Chaining

This involves teaching the steps involved in the task from beginning to end. The teacher will start with the first step and when it is learned moves onto the second by adding it on to the routine already started and so the process continues until they can complete the task independently.  This video explains the process. (Please do not share this video)


Backward Chaining

This technique follows the same principle as forward chaining but begins at the final step of the skill rather than the first. For example, if you were teaching the skill of toileting (as shown right) you would prompt and assist the child throughout the process until it was time to flush the toilet. When they had mastered this step, you would then provide help in the acquisition of the step before the last which in this example would be pulling up their trousers or skirt. This video explains the process. (Please do not share this video)


Autism Training Solutions: Chaining and Task Analysis (Please click on the link to view)

(Please do not share this video)

For additional reading, click on these links.

Advantages of Backward and Forward Chaining

Forward Chaining Backward Chaining
Tends to be a more logical process as you work though the steps in order from the beginning. The individual will experience a sense of achievement as they always have the opportunity to complete the task.
In some cases, for example tying laces, brushing teeth and washing hands the easier steps are the initial ones and help therefore will be provided for the more challenging steps until they are mastered independently. It is easier to visualise the end result as they start by completing the final step and work backwards. For example, when getting dressed they will know how they should look when they are ready for school in their uniform.
A visual task analysis can be created whether in picture or word form and the individual can follow it independently. It creates a link between the most work (last step) and the biggest reinforcer (what is achieved e.g. eating the toast if the task was to make toast.

Process Oriented Approach

This teaching approach aims to teach a range of prerequisite and foundational skills such as play, turn taking, nonverbal communication, language and conversation. For this to be effective the environment must be conducive to supporting the child’s growth and development. As with the task oriented approach the teacher or therapist may select the target skills, although where possible involving the child or young person in selecting the materials to be used may help encourage/motivate them to undertake the task at hand and results in more effective results (Cihak, D.F., (2011). Comparing Pictorial and Video Modelling Activities Schedules During Transitions for Students with Autism Spectrum Disorders. Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders, 5, pp. 433 – 441). If the child/ young person is given the opportunity to take ownership for their own learning the teacher can then seek to further develop the lesson using the child’s experience and attempts to interact. Although it can take longer to master the desired skills, it is expected that the child/ young person will be able to complete a range of different tasks using the acquired skill.

For further reading click here.

For additional reading about visual aids: Kidder, J.E. and McDonnell, A.P. (2015). Visual Aids for Positive Behaviour Support of Young Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders. YOUNG EXCEPTIONAL CHILDREN, DOI: 10.1177/1096250615586029 http://yec.sagepub.com.