There are a number of old school concepts in education that I don’t hear much about any more that I think still apply.  “Task analysis” is one of them.

With task analysis the idea is that any end point task that you want someone to master should be broken down into sub-tasks to help the person move along a continuum toward mastery of the skill.  Teaching cognitively impaired children to brush their teeth successfully is the classic example used to illustrate task analysis.  Most of us take brushing teeth for granted, thinking it’s no big deal.  We don’t tend to consider how many sub-tasks (e.g., taking cap off the tooth paste, squeezing the tube properly, holding the tooth brush in one hand, etc.) are involved to get to the end point.. 

Recently a mom talked to me about how her son was struggling in youth football.  There were the usual explanations offered – he isn’t paying attention or trying hard enough. For this child, there were other explanations.  He was simply too confused and overwhelmed on the field.  Sports like football can be quite confusing for a lot of kids. They have trouble with the sequences and the rapid decision making.  (In fact, some time ago I worked with a Division I college football player who could have made it to the pros if he had the ability to keep the play sequences straight.)

Another example came from Zoe, the daughter of a very dear friend of mine.  Zoe, a college student on the autism spectrum, wrote a blog recently explaining how she needs to create a flow chart to help her successfully leave her room and do all that is necessary to keep the steps straight (see Zoe’s blog at “>  and to see her flow chart).  Zoe reminds us that patience and understanding are essential and that we should not take someone’s capacity to manage every day tasks for granted.

My guess would be that if we task analyzed much of what we expect our children to master (like playing football, comprehending a story, making a sandwich or getting out the door in the morning), we’d see that there were many small steps involved that we may not have considered. 

Take away point – if you see your child struggling with a task, analyze the sub-tasks.  Try and break the task down and back it up.  Practice at easier levels and then lead up to mastery of the task.

I know my wife’s still trying to do that with me in terms of learning how to make the bed properly! 

Frankly, I don’t think she’s broken it down enough.