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Back to School Series: Following Directions

Updated: Apr 28, 2022

Whether your child is back in school in-person, remote, or hybrid, following directions is an important skill needed to succeed in the classroom! If you are noticing your child is having difficulties with following directions, try out some of these strategies!

Try to determine where and when your child is having difficulties.

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It can be challenging to determine if your child is having difficulties with his/her attention or comprehending the language of the direction. A fun way to “test” this out is with a game at home. Give your child 1-3 step directions to do around the house ("Bring me a piece of paper and then do a jumping jack") and then for fun have them give you a direction to do around the house as well. If you notice this is easy, but similar instructions are hard at school ("get a pencil and then go back to your seat"), your child could be having difficulty attending to the instructions. If this is the case, try providing your child with repetitions or teaching him the self-advocacy skills needed to ask for someone to “say it again." If you find following directions is difficult for your child even during fun and engaging games, it is likely that they are having difficulty processing and digesting the language of the instruction you gave them. This is okay! Try breaking longer instructions up into a few shorter, more manageable chunks. This can be done by eliminating some of the steps (i.e. “go get your shoes and then put on your backpack” becomes “go get your shoes” and once she has completed that “put on your backpack”). It can also be done by reducing the number of modifiers in the directions (“put your blue folder next to the filing cabinet on the counter” becomes “put your folder on the counter”).

Both children with difficulty attending to instructions and those with difficulty comprehending them can benefit from visuals! Use a visual schedule to help support the instructions of daily routines. Having your child repeat back important instructions to you (“say it”) also ensures that she has comprehended the directions before you ask her to “do it” (“get your iPad from the couch and plug it into the charger," now you say it!).

Looking for more tips and tricks? Speech and language therapy services at the Boston Ability Center can help! Contact us to speak with a clinician and learn hour our team of SLPs can help support your child's development.

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