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Backward Chaining


Boy helping mother make bed
PhotoAlto/Eric Audras/PhotoAlto Agency RF Collections/Getty Images


Backward Chaining can have different definitions for different fields, but when teaching life skills to children with special needs, it refers to breaking down the steps of a task and teaching them in reverse order. This gives the child an experience of success and completion with every attempt. Instead of the child starting at the beginning and getting lost somewhere through, with the adult having to complete the task, the adult does all but the last step and lets the child complete the work. Then the adult fades back, doing less and less while the child does more and more, always ending with the child performing the final step.

Alternate Spellings: Backwards Chaining, Backward-Chaining

Examples: To teach a child to make a bed, you might break down the steps as:

  1. Remove the pillow
  2. Pull up the top sheet
  3. Tuck in the top sheet
  4. Pull up the comforter
  5. Put the pillow back in place
To start, the parent would do steps one through four, allowing the child to put the pillow in place at the end. When that can be done reliably, the parent would do steps one through three, and the child would pull up the comforter and put the pillow in place. When the child becomes comfortable with each step, the step before it is introduced, always with the goal of having the child finish the task successfully.


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