Chaining is an instructional strategy grounded in applied behavior analysis (ABA) theory. Chaining is based on task analysis, in which individual steps are recognized as requirements for task mastery.

Chaining breaks a task down into small steps and then teaches each step within the sequence by itself. For example, a child learning to wash his/her hands independently may start with learning to turn on the faucet. Once this initial skill is learned, the next step may be getting his/her hands, etc. This technique is helpful in assisting children to learn a routine task that is repetitive, such as using the bathroom, brushing teeth, putting on clothes and shoes, or completing a work task.


Video Demonstration Strategy

Credits: Amanda Arnold Elementary, Manhattan KS

How To Use

To use chaining you first have to determine the steps of a task.  This process is called a task analysis.  

How to Determine the Steps of a Task

(Task Analysis)

Watch someone complete the task

Write down the steps of the task

Have someone else perform the task using the steps you have written

Make adjustments to the steps as needed

Present the task to the student or watch the skill performance in the natural setting

Take data on student performance with each step of the task

Based on data, decide which chaining techniques to use


When To Use

There are two major types of chaining techniques:

Forward chaining. The forward chaining technique moves a child from the first part of the task to the end. In short, each step must be mastered before the next step in the skill series is added.

The steps in forward chaining: 

1.The teacher teaches the child the first step in the chain.
2.When the first step is learned, the teacher adds the second step. The child is learning the second step in the routine and attaching it to the first step.
3.The third step is taught in conjunction with the first two steps once the child is able to demonstrate the first two steps.

Backward chaining. The backward chaining technique involves the same process as forward chaining, except in reverse. That is, the teaching process moves from the last step of the task to the beginning. This technique is used when it is easier to teach a child a task from the last step than from the beginning. The teacher provides the child assistance throughout the process until the last step. 

The steps in backward chaining:

1.The student is encouraged to complete the last step independently.
2.When the last step is mastered, the teacher provides assistance until the child is able to perform the step before the last one.
3.The student completes more and more ending steps independently until he masters all steps and is able to complete the task without assistance.



  • Total Task Presentation Total Task Presentation is when the student attempts all steps of the chain. The steps in total task presentation: 1. Present the entire task to the student 2. The Student Continues until every step is mastered. 3. Prompting is provided as needed for each step 4. Reinforcement is then provided upon completing the last step of the analysis


Putting on a Coat
Total Task Presentation Example
Putting on coat
•-Locate his coat from the hooks in the hall
•Bring the coat inside the classroom
•Lay the coat down on the floor
•Make sure the zipper/buttons are facing up
•Locate the top of the coat
•Stand with the tips of your toes touching the top of the coat
•Squat down
•Place your arms out in front of you, palms facing down
•Slide one hand part way into the sleeve on the same side
•Slide your other hand part way into the other empty sleeve
•Leaving your hands in the sleeves, slowly start to stand up
•Raise your arms, with the coat, slowly in front of you
•“Flip” the coat over your head
•Slide your hands the rest of the way through the sleeves.


Chaining is a behavioral strategy used to teach students with autism complex behaviors by breaking them down into smaller sequential steps. One of two methods, forward chaining and backward chaining, is selected based on the nature of the task or the skill levels of the child.

Data Collection
Each step of the task is marked with the level of prompting needed to complete the task. The goal is complete independence
Levels of Prompting-
• I – Independently
• V – Verbal/signed prompt
• M – Modeled prompt
• T – Touch Cue
• PP- Partial Physical prompt
• F – Full physical guidance
Check on prompting page to be consistent with wording

Target: Texas Autism Resource Guide for Effective Teaching
TSLAT. (n.d.). Retrieved August 29, 2016, from 

National Professional Development Center on ASD
Autism PDC. (n.d.). Retrieved August 29, 2016, from