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How to help your child follow directions



Simple rules make it easier for young children or kids with learning differences to move forward

help your child follow directions


Whether your child has special needs or is still developing communication skills, understanding and carrying out directions can be more of a challenge than adults realize. If you're having trouble getting your child to respond to instructions, try these tips from Amanda Morin, author and former early intervention specialist.

Get your child's attention. Make sure your child is paying attention by telling them to look towards you because you need them to listen. It's even easier for them if you move to where they can see you.

Reduce distractions. It will be hard for your child to focus on what you're saying if they're preoccupied with something else. Turn off the TV or ask them to put down the book or video game. At the same time, model the behavior you want by giving them your full attention as you speak.

Don't raise your voice. You may have the urge to speak loudly for emphasis, but they're likely to be distracted by having to process a louder tone and what it implies. Speak quietly and calmly.

Pause after you speak. Teachers and educational TV shows use “wait time,” a three- to seven-second pause to allow kids to absorb information that's just been delivered. If your child doesn't respond after the pause, then you can repeat the directions.

Verify comprehension. Ask your child to repeat back the instructions to make sure the meaning got through. This step also gives the child a chance to ask questions and allows you to clarify if something got lost.

Be direct. Often parents ask children do something “Would you please...?”, which makes them think they have a choice. It's better to tell them: “Please do this.”

Simplify. A list of instructions may be hard to keep straight. You can deliver one request at a time, number the steps (not more than four), or associate one action with another (“When you do X, don't forget to do Y.”)

Be specific. “Clean up your room” may not mean the same thing to your child as it does to you. Or they may not even know where to start. “Put your toys in the bins and hang up your clothes” is likely to get better results.

Use visuals. If language processing is difficult, it may help if you point to what you're talking about. Or you can demonstrate the behavior you're looking for, and then ask your child to take over the activity.



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