What Is Backward Chaining in ABA Therapy?

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Backward chaining is a type of ABA method that uses prompts or cues to help improve an individual’s communication skills. It targets the following three areas: social requests, body-related requests and physical capabilities.

Backward chaining is a type of ABA therapy. The therapist will use the child’s response to the first question to make the next question more complex and difficult.


Children with autism often need assistance in breaking down processes in everyday chores in order to understand the whole procedure. This might be linked to communication issues.

Because people on the autism spectrum interpret language literally, they often misinterpret body language, suggested information, and even speech tones. This may make it challenging for parents and caregivers to teach a kid with autism what seems to be a simple chore.

Task analysis is used in applied behavior analysis (ABA) treatment to break down everyday activities like food preparation and cleanliness. This method teaches extremely little parts of the work in a sequential sequence so that the individual may grasp each aspect of the task and accomplish it effectively.

Backward chaining is a method of teaching a task in which a therapist or teacher leads the kid through each stage of the activity until the last step, which the therapist then pushes the child to finish on their own. The youngster is awarded after they have completed that phase. The therapist will repeat the activity until the kid has completed the second to last step on their own, after which the child will finish the last step. The whole thing is rewarded.

The therapist continues this procedure by guiding the kid backwards through the process, chaining actions together, until the youngster has mastered the full activity.

How Does Behavior Chaining Work?

Applied behavior analysis (ABA) treatment is a research-based method for treating behavioral disorders. It’s a sort of treatment that’s been shown to help individuals with autism improve their socialization, learning, and communication. Autism is a developmental disease marked by difficulties understanding and communicating with others.

Subtext, sarcasm, body language, and facial expressions are all difficult for those with autism. They may struggle with information that is indicated or hinted at. Because they do not pick up on all of the elements of the process, children with autism may have difficulty learning certain skills.

Breaking down everyday chores like getting dressed, having a meal, or doing basic hygiene duties is one method ABA therapists may assist children with autism. This is referred to as task analysis.

The therapist breaks down a typical activity into the most basic components, often with the aid of their client, so that the whole procedure may be learnt entirely. Behavior chaining, or simply chaining, is the process of learning a task in incremental increments.

Behavior Chaining Types

In ABA treatment, there are two main mechanisms for chaining activities.

  • Forward chaining occurs when a youngster learns the first step and is rewarded for completing it successfully. Then students are rewarded for learning the second step in combination with the first. This method is repeated until the whole procedure has been mastered.

  • Backward chaining is when the kid and therapist work together to finish each stage of the process until the last step, which the therapist pushes the child to complete. The two then go backwards through the processes until the whole procedure is understood.

Although both forward and backward chaining are effective, many ABA therapists favor backward chaining because it enables their clients to witness the complete process from beginning to end. Before attempting to learn the work, the customer receives this summary of the procedure.

Backward Chaining for Task Learning

One approach of teaching tasks via task analysis is backward chaining. Because they interpret words literally, people with autism may have difficulty learning or finishing tasks. The individual may struggle to comprehend the whole assignment if stages are inferred, left out, or ambiguous.

For example, a kid with autism who is taught to make their bed may not learn how to tuck the sheets in, place pillowcases on their pillows, or put the fitted sheet around the mattress. While this may seem to be an easy procedure to deconstruct on your own, someone with autism may have challenges when important steps were mistakenly left out of the explanation.

Task analysis may be used to break down each step of making a bed into smaller parts and explicitly explain them so that the process makes sense. Backward chaining could work well for the explanation and learning portion of this procedure (chaining). The therapist works with the kid on each and every tiny step of making a bed, from beginning to end — for example, placing the final blanket on top of the bed or placing the pillows on top of the bed. The therapist instructs the youngster to execute the last step on their own. The youngster is then rewarded for finishing the last stage.

Backward chaining works backwards through the procedure, with the therapist pushing the kid to complete the step before the last one, and then the final step, with a reward for success. This practice is repeated, going backwards in time, until the youngster can successfully accomplish each stage of making the bed. After that, they will be awarded for their efforts.

The Importance of Backward Chaining & Task Analysis in ABA Therapy

ABA treatment relies heavily on task analysis. Almost every aspect of daily life may be broken down into smaller activities that are easier to comprehend and perform. This procedure is most often associated with hygiene or daily living skills, such as cooking, cleaning one’s teeth, dressing oneself, or completing other home tasks. It also aids desensitization, since many individuals with autism have difficulty with noisy surroundings such as restaurants or tactile sensations such as getting their hair cut.

Individuals will differ in the amount of stages involved in a process and the precise language used to explain it. Even if an older kid may not exhibit many autistic symptoms, a chore like getting dressed may need assistance. Backward chaining may assist them in seeing the full process through to the last step, which might be tying their shoes, putting on a coat, or anything similar. Backward chaining may allow persons with autism who have only partially learnt a task to refresh their comprehension and teach them how to finish each step completely.

Younger children with autism may still be developing these skills, so an ABA therapist may assist them while they learn hygiene, housework, and other self-care essentials. The kid’s parents may teach them how to brush their teeth, but if one or more steps are missed, the child may continually fail to put toothpaste back where it goes, wash their toothbrush, or brush their teeth for the proper length of time. Breaking down the stages and going through them backward chaining may assist the youngster in identifying areas where they may have missed knowledge, allowing them to learn the activity properly.

Many children with autism benefit from backward chaining.

Forward chaining begins with the first step, illustrates how to finish it, and rewards the kid before moving on to the next, but backward chaining demands the child’s whole attention to follow each step in the process. Backward chaining has been shown to be quite successful for many children with autism in studies, but it is critical that the therapist, teacher, or parent be engaged and attentive at all times.

The therapist or caregiver must begin the backward chaining process by doing each stage of the task with the kid, all the way to the final one. The task analysis that allows backward chaining may be dismantled by skipping phases in the process or failing to reward the youngster for finishing the very last step.

Backward chaining is still a beneficial method for many persons with autism who want to master everyday steps and live independently. The technique may also assist ABA therapists track their clients’ development and determine how well the whole treatment strategy is working.


Autism Spectrum Disorder Signs and Symptoms (Autumn of 2019). The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is a U.S. government agency that (CDC).

Chaining of behaviors. Science in Autism Treatment Association (ASAT).

Chaining in reverse. ScienceDirect.

The Role of Task Analysis in Chaining in Applied Behavior Analysis (2020). Indiana Institute on Disability and Community, Indiana Resource Center for Autism.

Technique of Backward Chaining Greater Glasgow and Clyde National Health Service (NHS).

Backward Chaining Can Help Your Child Become More Self-Reliant (April 2015). Philadelphia Children’s Hospital

Chaining. University of Nebraska-Nebraska Lincoln’s Autism Spectrum Disorders Network

Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) Therapy Task Analysis: Strategies and Examples Regis University.

An Evaluation of Forward and Backward Chaining Efficiency and Child Preference (Autumn 2011). The Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis is a publication dedicated to the study of human behavior.

In ABA therapy, there are two types of learning: forward chaining and backward chaining. Forward chaining is when a child learns the steps in order without any confusion. Backward chaining is when a child starts at one step and then moves on to another step. This process can be frustrating for children with autism because they may not know how to get back to where they started. Reference: forward and backward chaining aba.

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