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Backward Chaining: The Key to Teaching Your Child Complex Skills?

By Diana Fitts, The Sensory Toolbox You’re a frustrated parent who is running out of patience while watching your kiddo try over and over again to tie their shoes. No matter how many times you show them, there are just way too many steps that are far too hard to remember! Enter: backwards chaining! You […]

By Diana Fitts, The Sensory Toolbox

You’re a frustrated parent who is running out of patience while watching your kiddo try over and over again to tie their shoes. No matter how many times you show them, there are just way too many steps that are far too hard to remember!

Enter: backwards chaining! You may be thinking, “Um, that sounds even more confusing…” But, wait. Bear with me here.

Backward chaining is a learning strategy that is based around breaking down a task into its individual parts and learning them backwards. After the kiddo learns the last step, they learn the second to last step. After they learn each step, they “chain” it to the one following. Is the name making more sense now?

Now, you may have a few questions, so let’s run through them

–Why are we doing this backward?

When you’re trying to learn a task, it can be really demoralizing. You try over and over again, yet you always fail. It’s extremely challenging for kids to maintain motivation for learning when they know they’re going to fail.

Backward chaining gives us the chance to let kids always end a task with a win. While you may help them with steps 1-6, they independently complete step 7 and feel proud of the accomplishment.

–How do I do this?

Start by breaking up a task into all of its parts. Let’s look at all of the parts of “hand washing,” for example.

Start by helping your child with steps 1-6 and let them try to complete step 7 on their own. Continue in this way until they are independently and successfully completing step 7.

Next, help your child with steps 1-5 and let them try to complete steps 6-7 on their own.

Continue in this manner until your child is independently and successfully completing all steps on their own. At any point, if they forget the order of the steps, or complete them incorrectly, start the chain again from that point.

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