Mrs. Heijnen, an educational professional who looks after Sanne and his peers in the group. During lunch time Sanne doesn’t like to wait for Mrs. Heijnen to serve other children and then spoon-feed her. In order to resolve this, Mrs. Heijnen uses a five-step spoon-feeding chain (forward chaining): 

  1. Sanne needs to pick up the spoon
  2. Sannne has to put the spoon into the bowl of food
  3. Sanne has to scoop the food onto the spoon
  4. Sanne has to lift the spoon (full of food) from the bowl
  5. Sanne has to put the food into her mouth

Of course what is also very helpful is that she has a spoonful of her most favourite food.

While the actual steps are taught, Mrs. Heijnen uses the Shaping process. 

Whenever the child is getting close to the steps that Mrs. Heijnen wants to see, Sanne gets a reward for any movement that they take. This is because Mrs. Heijnen and Sanne use the game ‘Hot and Cold’ during the shaping process. To make it even more exciting for Sanne, Mrs. Heijnen decides to introduce a prize. Every time Sanne and Mrs. Heijnen take a step towards the prize and says ‘hotter’ (reinforcing) meaning that Sanne is doing the step correctly. Every time Sanne and Mrs. Heijnen take a step away from the couch, they says ‘colder’ (not reinforcing), meaning that the child is not taking a good step. 

Mrs. Heijnen also is aware that in the beginning if Sanne touches the spoon, she might reward her with a praise. With time, this step might not be any longer good enough for Sanne to receive praise, only if the spoon is being picked up a little bit better. 

In this case study, an example of forward chaining is mentioned. If you would prefer to use backward chaining, you will begin with step 5. Both chaining approaches are relevant and good in this case study. To help you decide which method to use, you can visit the Chaining module.

To ensure success it is recommended that you take time to go through all steps and gradually reduce the amount of assistance. It is also important that you give instructions clearly and model the steps, as well as gradually reducing or delaying the rewards for completed steps.