Meeting Point: Latest From Lovaas

March 07

Meeting Point: Latest From Lovaas

Task Completion - On the Road to Independence

Many children with autism learn task completion activities quickly and easily. Such activities can serve as the foundation of activity schedules, free play time, and provide other opportunities for independence. Because they are successful, many parents have asked for as many task completion ideas as here's a list!

A few things to keep in mind when deciding on task completion ideas:

A child's interest

Look for new and creative ways to incorporate activities or materials a child likes. For example, if a child likes Thomas the Tank Engine but can't complete difficult puzzles, buy Thomas the Tank Engine stickers and put them on an easier shape puzzle (don't forget to put the same stickers on both the puzzle piece and where it fits!).


If an activity appears too difficult, look for ways to decrease the complexity of it. If a child learns to complete an activity and appears to enjoy it, look for ways to increase the complexity of the activity. For example, if a child likes to put train tracks together, try teaching him to put the train tracks together based on numbered pieces or by looking at a photo/diagram of a train track.

Length of Time

If the activity takes a long time to complete, you may need to shorten it at first and gradually increase how long it takes to complete it. For example, only put out a few pegs to put in a Lite Bright board rather than having a child complete an entire picture.

Clear Beginning and End

All task completion activities should have a clear beginning and end. It's one of the reasons task completion activities can be so successful for children with autism.


Many activities can be turned into task completion activities with a little creativity. Don't decide against using a preferred activity, just because the activity in its current form isn't a task completion activity.

Task Completion Ideas

  1. Puzzles
  2. Stringing beads
  3. Shape sorter
  4. Mr. Potato Head
  5. Lincoln Logs (build a house)
  6. Small train set (put together track)
  7. Connect Four (placing the tokens in the slots)
  8. Oreo Matching Middles game
  9. Perfection game
  10. Cooties game
  11. A magnetic shape board (matching geometric shapes to a model to create a picture)
  12. Peg board (put all the pegs in or take them all out)
  13. Ikea Ball (magnetic pieces that snap into place to a center magnet to form a ball)
  14. Block Tower
  15. Ring Stacker
  16. Sorting tasks
  17. Nesting Cups
  18. Putting pennies in a piggy bank
  19. Plastic Snap or 'pop' beads
  20. View Master (Put in three different disks. Child must use each disk and slide the View Master button at least one time with each disk.)
  21. Tinker Toys or K-Nex (Put 5-8 pieces in a box-child has to attach them all together)
  22. Blocks (Look at a picture and copy the block structure)
  23. Folder Matching Games
  24. Play dough (Make a "go" and "stop" bin, child uses each material in the "go" bin at least once before putting it in the "stop" bin.)
  25. Sticker Books
  26. Paint with Water worksheets (Put a single piece of paper, with a brush and an empty water cup in a bin. Child has to take out all items, go to put water in the cup, and then use the brush to wet the picture so that the color in the worksheets comes out).
  27. Lite Brite Game (Only for children who will not put the pieces in their mouth or engage in 'sifting' behavior with the pegs). Put a small number of pegs in a cup. Child must push all of the pegs into the game. For older children, have them follow the rules of color correspondence with the pegs).
  28. Fasteners Box (Put a few fastener tasks into a bin - a zipper task, a button task and a velcro task).
  29. Coloring (A single sheet of paper and 5 markers are put into a bin. The child has to take out paper and use each of the markers before she can put them back into the bin.)
  30. Cutting
  31. Tangrams (shapes that make a picture)
  32. Lacing Cards
  33. Lotto Matching Games
  34. Gluing (Use a piece of paper, glue, and 5-10 items that the child must glue down on paper - buttons, paper cut-outs, colored pasta, large sequins, etc).
  35. 3-D stacking puzzles
  36. Nuts and bolts (a possible fine motor activity, especially for children who like shiny objects).
  37. Remove objects from TheraPutty (another fine motor task idea)
  38. Balls (Take a large plastic container and make a hole in the top just large enough to push tennis balls through. Get a variety of ball (tennis, fun squishy balls, etc) for the child to work on putting into the bucket as well as working on fine motor control, as the hole should be cut so pressure must be induced to get the balls inside).
  39. Advanced Sorting (Get a small plastic drawer set with 3 drawers. Place an item in each drawer and then have many matches of these items in the task box. The child needs to sort the items into the correct drawer.)
  40. Advanced Matching (Take photo copy pictures (all on one sheet) of 4-6 items that are flat - comb, fork, CD, tiny book etc. Have the child match the objects to these "shadow pictures.")
  41. Egg Matching (Take an egg container and get the plastic Easter eggs. Color in the bottom of each egg hole in the egg container and then match the colored Easter eggs.)
  42. Flowers (Get a plastic vase and plastic flowers for the child to put together a flower arrangement. Sounds funny, but one child I know loves this one!)
  43. Lego structures (build using a picture or model)
  44. Baseball card match
  45. Dominos (for older children with more fine motor control to stand them up then knock down as reinforcement when complete)
  46. Whose nose? (a game where you match the correct nose to the correct animal)
  47. Any of the numerous shape stackers or wooden toys that are made by the Melissa and Doug company (they have a lot)
  48. Bowling set (set up pins and knock them down)
  49. Slice a tennis ball open. Add eyes to it so it looks like a mouth. Have the child feed it buttons or coins.
  50. Make a sun using a yellow plastic plate with dots around it. Have the child clip clothespins to it.

Special thanks to Skye Pardini, Michelle McGrellis and Mary Kutch, staff members at the Lovaas Institute who helped in the compilation of this list.

Do you have an experience with a creative format to typical programming? Share them with us here

The names of all children in this newsletter have been changed in respect for family confidentiality.

From the Editor

We're delighted at the feedback we've received so far concerning our efforts to provide a newsletter that serves as a meeting point for families and teachers who wish to dialogue with us about practical ideas based on the Lovaas Model of Applied Behavior Analysis. Below are some of the comments we received for our inaugural edition. We will continue to publish some of the letters in future issues of our newsletter. Letters will remain anonymous unless you tell us how you want to be identified (part or all of: first name, last name, city, state).

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Given the right conditions, ordinary sights and sounds often assume extraordinary significance - a knock on the door, for example.

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