Do you find yourself saying the same things over and over to get your child to complete daily routines? Go wash your hands, don’t forget the soap! Did you brush your teeth? Did you use toothpaste?

What if you could use visual supports, either pictures or just written lists, to lessen the amount of time you spend ‘nagging’ each day?

A task analysis involves breaking a complex skill into smaller, teachable units, the product of which is a series of sequentially ordered steps or tasks.  (Cooper, Heron, & Heward, 2007)

More simply, in a task analysis you break down all the steps in order for the routine or activity. Instead of saying them out loud over and over and over and over every day, you write them out or draw them out (hello, clip art).

Hang this visual up where the activity takes place. Don’t put  the tooth brushing task analysis in the child’s bedroom- put it at the sink where they actually brush their teeth.

Just hanging up a pretty picture isn’t going to instantly make your child more independent- you have to teach them to use it. Talk through it first and discuss each step and what comes next. Then practice using it together. Don’t say your normal reminders- just point to each step as your child completes it and praise for each step completed correctly.

Once they are able to do all steps on their own- give lots of praise and positive reinforcement to increase that independent behavior in the future!

What types of routines do you do every day that involve nagging on your part? Could you break them down into the component steps and try using a visual task analysis?

Some examples:

  • Brushing teeth
  • Getting dressed
  • Morning routine before pre-school, daycare, school, etc.
  • Taking a bath (supervised, of course)
  • Going potty
  • Making a phone call
  • Setting up a certain activity or game
  • Making yourself a snack
  • Changing baby’s diaper so Mommy can have a break…one can dream, right?

Before you go spending time trying to remember all the steps and finding images to go with a routine- try google images! Search for ‘visual task analysis _____ ‘ insert your routine. Or try the search terms ‘visual schedule _____’ routine name.

Research is cool!
Bailey, Donald B., and Mark Wolery. Teaching infants and preschoolers with disabilities. Prentice Hall, 1992.
Cooper, J., Heron, T., & Heward, W. (2007). Basic Concepts. In Applied Behavior Analysis(2nd ed., pp 437-438). Columbus: Pearson.

Looking for some more behavior strategies for moms? Parenting with Science: Behavior Analysis Saves Mom’s Sanity is available now!